One really interesting thing about Victoriana in the digital age, beyond the fact that so many nearly forgotten texts are now easily and often freely available, is the record of reader responses available online. They pop up on blogs, BBC web-pages, and reviews on Amazon. I love reading these, especially when it comes to little known authors like Charlotte Yonge and Dinah Mulock Craik. There are some particularly nice comments about reading John Halifax in the twenty-first century here. It’s great to know that general readers are still reading these books, both in ancient print editions and new digital editions.
I’ve heard academics at conferences mention these online comments in an off-hand way, as in, “Christian homeschoolers are using the texts I’m analyzing to teach science, you can read the reviews on Amazon!” But I’ve yet to see anyone engage these comments in a serious way. I think it would be a fascinating example of reader response criticism to take on an article about these comments. In the pre-internet era, gauging the general reader’s response would have meant digging through diaries and letters (Andrew Elfenbein does some of this in Byron and the Victorians). Now, the comments of many readers on any particular work are neatly collected in two or three places.
Do you read the comments on the books and authors you’re working on online? Has anything interesting popped up? Would you consider engaging with these comments in a scholarly conference paper or article?