Deborah Yaffe

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Sharing scholarship

By Deborah Yaffe, Aug 4 2016 01:00PM

And here's the second addition this week to the category of Nifty Web Sites I Only Just Heard About: The 18th-Century Common, “a public space for sharing the research of scholars who study eighteenth-century cultures with nonacademic readers,” operated by Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Union College in upstate New York. (The site's name recalls the shared lands whose gradual fencing-off into private enclosures was one of the most controversial features of English life for centuries.)


I always find projects like these heartening: As the daughter, daughter-in-law, sister and wife of academics, I’m all in favor of throwing rope ladders down from the ivory tower. Sites like these are yet another place that Janeites can go to learn more about the history and culture that shaped our author, who lived more years of her short life in the eighteenth century than in the nineteenth.


The “Features” section of The 18th-Century Common consists of digests of scholarly research presented in an accessible form. Recent pieces have introduced readers to a new electronic archive of the work of poet Anne Finch, a blog on advertising in colonial America, and a web site offering an overview of the work of Regency cartoonist James Gillray.


The site’s considerably less prolific “Gazette” section provides context on tidbits of eighteenth-century culture that have found their way into the mainstream press – including the January 2013 bicentennial of Pride and Prejudice.


Perhaps that shortage of “Gazette” pieces explains why the site is eagerly seeking volunteers to write regularly. Sounds like they’re mostly after students or academics, but I know some non-academic Janeites who are as knowledgeable as any scholar. . .


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