EEBO's search limitations and advantages, compared to print resources

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2005

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Peer reviewed

Abstract

When literary studies started to go electronic about 10 to 15 years ago, everybody got excited about hypertext. George Landow even famously argued that by enhancing our power to flit like readerly butterflies from one thing to another, hypertext magnified the textual jouissance that French theorists such as Roland Barthes had identified as the essence of literary pleasure. This, we now know, was nonsense. The greatest hypertext imaginable is the Worldwide Web, and I defy anyone to extract jouissance from flitting amongst the myriad objects that a Google search throws up in response to a simple enquiry about, say, W. H. Auden's prosody. The big deal is not hypertext but the capacity to search large textual corpora, which is what projects such as EEBO give us. Unlike the printed Short Title Catalogue and W. W. Greg's Bibliography of English Printed Drama, an electronic corpus frees you from the vagaries of an author's index: you can have the computer do a brute force search through all the records, whether or not the author indexed them....

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Citation

Egan, G. (2005) EEBO's search limitations and advantages, compared to print resources. Invited 30-minute Talk for the Early English Books Online (EEBO) Promotional Event 'Using EEBO in Research and Teaching', Maughan Library - King's College London, 29 April

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Research Institute

Institute of English