History 696:

Journal #2

Journal Entry #2 and Questions to think about for 4 October

        As you do the reading for next week's class, think about these questions. You should also post a Web journal commentary (ca. 300-500 words) on one of the questions.

1. Janet Murray lists four characteristics of digital environments that make them especially suggestive for new types of literary form: they are procedural, participatory, spatial, and encyclopedic. Lev Manovich, by contrast, suggests five "principles" of New Media. Do either of these schemas help us to imagine digital histories that are "expressive" and not merely "additive"? Do either of these schema describe history Web sites you have seen?

2.  Janet Murray celebrates "the core human desire to fix reality on one canvas, to express all of what we see in an integrated and shapely manner"and the possibilities of capturing "in cyberdrama something as true to the human condition, and as beautifully expressed as the life that Shakespeare captured on the Elizabethan stage." Do you agree with these goals and these possibilities? What might George Landow or Keith Jenkins say about this?

3 .In his introduction to The Postmodern History Reader, Keith Jenkins asks what "do (or would) postmodern histories look like?" How would you answer this "difficult" (as he concedes) question? Does the emergence of the Web make it easier to imagine what these "histories of the future" will look like?

4. One way to think about the connections between Landow's approach to hypertext for literature and literary studies and the subject of history is through the common thread of "narrative." More specifically, the common bond between literary and historical studies is what Randy Bass calls the relationship between "the story and the archive." What is suggested by Landow and other hypertext theorists is a fundamental shift in this relationship between "the story" (big historical narratives, narratives of events or historical moments) and "the archive" (the cultural and historical record drawn from in order to construct the narrative). What does hypertext, as a presentational and rhetorical tool, suggest for the practice of history and the telling of historical stories? Beyond access to materials, what does hypertext offer as a tool for changing the way historical stories get told? Are they differences in degree or in kind? Where do you see relevance in Landow's descriptions of hypertext (and networks) to the representation of multilinear and multivocal history?

5. For Janet Murray, the computer is the medium for the next generation of fiction. Do you agree? Is it also the medium for the next generation of historical writing?

6. One critic of Murray's book complains that "her utopianism colors all her arguments in this volume, leading her to ignore or play down the more disturbing consequences of technology while unabashedly embracing its possibilities." Do you agree? Why or why not?

7. Does William Cronon succeed in his "struggle to accommodate the lessons of critical theory without giving in to relativism?" Do you agree with his critique of postmodernism? Does the Web offer any ways to further the accommodation that Cronon seeks?

8. Lev Manovich says that "database and narrative are natural enemies." What does he mean? How can historians "merge database and narrative into a new form?"

9. Janet Murray is credited as "principal investigator" on the Bringing History Home project. Does it fulfill the prescriptions of her book?