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Dialogues: A New Feature in Interactive EMLS

Paul Dyck and Mathew Martin with R.G. Siemens
University of Alberta
Paul.Dyck@UAlberta.ca, mmartin@ualberta.ca, Ray.Siemens@UAlberta.ca

Dyck, Paul and Mathew Martin, with R.G. Siemens. "Dialogues: A New Feature in Interactive EMLS." Early Modern Literary Studies 4.2 (Septmber, 1998): 15.1-6 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/04-2/dyckdial.html>.

  1. Early Modern Literary Studies is pleased to introduce a new feature, Dialogues. For some time we have been considering ways to exploit more fully the interactivity made possible by the Internet within the bounds of the scholarly journal. In particular, we have wanted to facilitate discussions by specialists in our field, regardless of geographical location: focused, sustained interchange over issues central to our scholarly work. To this end, we have developed the Dialogues; their purpose is to complement the journal's existing features by offering a forum for open debate.[1]

  2. In our Dialogues, three or four established scholars will address a topic, proposed by the editors, concerning the study of early modern English literature. These papers will be posted in the journal, and the discussion will be opened to the general readership (the writers of these papers will be encouraged to continue their participation). Comments from readers will be moderated by the editors and posted so that they can be read together with the initial papers and other responses; readers coming to the Dialogue in progress will be able to read both the first papers and the responses to them before themselves engaging in the conversation. This asynchronous interaction will allow readers to participate at their convenience; responses are welcomed that range from one or two sentences to short essays. Each Dialogue will be closed to further discussion when, in the editors' estimation, there has been satisfactory opportunity for the full expression of the various points-of-view of the readership. At this time, the authors of the initial papers and selected writers of significant contributions will be invited to develop their pieces into full articles, which will then be published in the refereed section of the journal as a special issue. As well, the discussion itself will be archived for easy reference.

  3. The Dialogues will build on the foundation laid by the Virtual Seminar inaugurated in this journal by Luc Borot. The seminar's topic was Renaissance utopian literatures, focusing on More's Utopia. Its intended function was to allow the participation of anyone interested, thus creating a virtual seminar atmosphere among participants from around the world. The virtual seminar was an extension of an actual seminar being given in Montpellier; every week, someone from that seminar would post a short topic-oriented report to the group for response, and discussion on that topic (or one related to it) would follow for the week, until the next posting of this kind. A range of participants was involved, from graduate students to senior faculty, and the virtual seminar offered a convenient and immediate setting for such a gathering.

  4. The Dialogues share the general goals of the Virtual Seminar but they aim not to project an actual seminar experience but to capitalise on the strengths of the Internet by constructing an exchange native to it, not a "virtual experience," but rather one actual in its own right. We, like early modern scholars with the printing press, want to seize on the possibilities of the new medium for quick interaction and wide distribution, that is, to recover the spontaneity of early days of printing before editorial and publishing processes came to control strictly the manufacture and distribution of the scholarly artifact. (Erasmus, who himself lived above and worked for a printing shop, was limited in the speed of his replies to other scholars only by the time it took to produce and distribute the material text--no institutional delay was involved.)

  5. The topics covered will be broad enough to interest a wide range of scholars working in early modern studies and to allow the dialogues' major participants some room to maneuver, but will equally retain a sufficient degree of specificity to focus the discussion. The purpose of the Dialogues is to create a fast-paced yet structured forum in which scholars can discuss what they feel is of importance to the field now, and so the editors hope both to be responsive to our readership and to offer topics relevant to the current state of affairs in early modern studies.

  6. Our intent here is to bridge the divide between the process and the product of scholarly activity; between the interaction that takes place in conversations and correspondence, and the books and articles that appear from the somewhat mystified realm of publishing. Currently, this foregrounding of scholarly process does take place in our field in discussion groups such as SHAKSPER and FICINO, which have been widely successful in engaging a geographically diverse group in questions of common interest. While we hope to build on the generosity and collegiality that characterize these discussions, we also think the Dialogues feature will form its own niche in scholarly electronic communications, serving a purpose different from that of the discussion group. Primarily, the Dialogues differ from the discussion groups mentioned above in that, while the latter are general in concern, each Dialogue will take up a specific, highly focused issue. In correlation with this, the inquiry will begin both with a carefully developed question and with first responses provided by recognized experts in the area. This crafting of question and direction is intended to initiate and sustain a broad interaction with the sole purpose of exploring the set issue. Further, EMLS will play an active role in transforming this discussion-in-process into a scholarly product by publishing papers coming out of the discussion as a special issue.

[1] Special recognition must be made to the Editorial Board of EMLS and to Founding Editor R. G. Siemens, who first suggested this approach and who have provided guidance in its development

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1997-, R.G. Siemens (Editor, EMLS).
(PD 7 March 1999)