I agree with many of the points that have been made about Wikisource and the possibilities associated with hypertexts and the digital libraries that contain these works. As McGann points out, hypertext allows scholars to make connections between texts, images, audio, and multiple other forms for the reader—an invaluable resource. The use of hypermedia is especially beneficial in terms of working on a project such as The Blake Archive that McGann discusses. According to McGann it would be difficult to create a “true critical edition of the works of Blake” because his work “operate[s] simultaneously in two media… an adequate critical edition would have to marry a complete facsimile edition of all copies of Blake within the structure of a critical edition.” The ability to create a work that could achieve this will undoubtedly benefit readings of Blake’s work.
Although creating a digital archive may be illuminating in terms of reading Blake, not all works are suited to appear in hypertext form. It is important not only to consider the possibilities of an open access library like Wikisource on a macro level but to also explore how digitizing a literary work could alter the way we read each work within it.
One digital humanities project that complicates the reading process is The In Memoriam Web, which Landow discusses. According to Landow Tennyson’s poem, an “antilinear poetry of fragments” succeeds in “lead[ing] the reader of In Memoriam from grief and despair through doubt to hope and faith; but at each step stubborn, contrary emotions intrude.” Since one of the main strengths of the hypertext is its ability to link, I am wary of how this will affect the reader when engaging with a fragmented text like “In Memoriam.” Nevertheless, I am increasingly fearful of how linking to various aspects of the text, allusions, or other material will alter the way we read a highly fragmented Modernist text like “The Wasteland.” If Modernists are interested in coming to understand and making connections between fragments, a project like this could be a productive endeavor. Conversely, through a postmodern perspective, connecting these fragments could radically alter the reading of these works all together. Would creating a digitized version of a fractured Modernist text require us to redefine our understanding of the fragment?
It is important to remember that a library is made up of multiple different literary works that each require something different of their reader. With this in mind, bringing hypertexts of various literary works to the public could compromise the unique reading experience that accompanies each of their stories.