by Lisa Vargo
The Anna Barbauld Web Page was initiated as a modest project funded by a research grant from the University of Saskatchewan President's SSHRC Fund. It is an ongoing collaborative venture on the part of an academic who is interested in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century British women writers, and a graduate student with much experience in web design. The purpose of the project is to take a small number of Anna Barbauld's poems and to investigate how the medium of hypertext might be used to place a work within its literary, historical, cultural, and political contexts. Above all, we wish to transcend the limitations of the printed page to explore a different sort of editing. While we intend the site to be of interest to those who want to know more about Anna Barbauld, we hope that the project might address some more general issues, including how the limits of what is possible to achieve in a printed edition might be extended. We wish to raise questions about how works are produced by one age and how they are received by subsequent eras. We would like to think that our work might be seen as complementary to the number of recent anthologies that include Barbauld's work and to William McCarthy and Elizabeth Kraft's authoritative edition, The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld.
Stuart Curran's influential essay "The I Altered" served as a clarion call to recover the work of romantic women poets, and the subsequent appearance of scholarly editions and anthologies devoted to their writing has made it possible to bring their work to the classroom. But it is the advent of hypertext that offers the most exciting means to respond to questions of how one may learn to read poetry by women writing in period of 1790 - 1830 after such long neglect. In a recent essay on hypertext and teaching Romantic women poets, Joel Haefner quotes from Barbauld's poem to Coleridge to initiate his discussion of "how hypertext might affect the study of romantic literature" (46). He argues that "hypertext tends to undermine the hegemony of the canon" and "replaces the paradigm of the writer-who-writes alone with a collaborative interaction among a writer, other writers, and readers. The cross-fertilization that was truly characteristic of the romantic era may be better illustrated with hypertextual links among authors, across texts, genres, and geography" (47). For Haefner hypertext is accessible to students, helps to contextualize works culturally, reinforces associationism and fragmentation, and creates a new learning community in the classroom (48). Haefner concludes, "it may be liberating and invigorating to find ourselves confronted with the digital text, in tangled mazes caught" (50).
It is our hope that the Barbauld web page project will continue and that we will be able to add more of Barbauld's work to the site. We would very much appreciate suggestions and feedback about our web site. Please send comments to Lisa Vargo or Allison Muri, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, SK, CA.
Curran, Stuart. "Romantic Poetry: The I Altered," Romanticism and Feminism. Ed. Anne K. Mellor (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988), 185-207.
Haefner, Joel. "'In Tangled Mazes Wrought': Hypertext and Teaching Romantic Women Poets," Approaches to Teaching British Women Poets of the Romantic Period. Ed. Stephen C. Behrendt and Harriet Kramer Linkin. (New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1997), 45-50.
McCarthy, William and Elizabeth Kraft, eds. The Poems of Anna Letitia Barbauld. Athens and London: U of Georgia P, 1994.