Literary Apps: Museums Without Walls?

281851582_979263862001_110606TheWastelandApp-4788967While web-based applications such as ‘Turning the Pages’ offer a good opportunity to access precious and rare manuscripts outside of formal, controlled environments, they do not necessarily provide a curated experience. In essence, they present single exhibits, individual manuscripts which do not have a narrative or interpretative shape. Yet, there is a growing trend in applications for tablet computers and other mobile devices, software that allows the user to explore a virtual exhibition of manuscripts and other material alongside original texts. These apps can be focused and curated, presenting an interpretative view of an author’s work and the archival materials surrounding its creation. Continue reading

Thoughts on Assembling a Literary Archive

A literary archive should not be viewed as a full and unadulterated view into the mind of the author. The act of assembling the archive, choosing what exactly is put into the archive, creates only a fractured, often stage-directed, image of authors and their work. A good example of this is the David Foster Wallace archive, assembled by Karen Green and Bonnie Nadell (his widow and agent respectively). The archive, as bought by the Harry Ransom Center, is carefully presented: there is little personal correspondence, no journals or other documents relating to Wallace’s intimate and private life. The archive concentrates on the work: typescripts, notebooks, rough drafts, the occasional scribbling of nascent ideas. Similarly, only items from Wallace’s library that he annotated were put into the archive, meaning only a slight fragment of Wallace’s literary life can be determined. Continue reading