Research Exercise 2: reviews of Phoebe Junior

What did Victorian readers think of Phoebe Junior? And how would we go about finding the answer to this question? Ideally (perhaps) we would chat with some Victorian readers; since we can’t do this, we need to find written records of their responses. Two main kinds of response – the published reviews of professional readers, and the more casual mentions in memoirs, letters, and other manuscript documents of lay or everyday readers – will interest us, but this exercise will focus on the first type of evidence. (We will discuss in class possible problems with the “professional vs common” reader distinction, as well as the fact that the survival of any record of reading is almost always also evidence that the reader in question held a relatively high social position; records of the reading of working-class Victorians are notoriously difficult to find.)

In this research exercise, please locate four reviews of Phoebe Junior in their original Victorian form (print or electronic facsimile is fine, but not republished in a 20th c book please), print them, and read them. You shouldn’t have trouble finding several, so try to choose a mix of newpaper and magazine reviews found through different search methods.  (You WILL be able to find at least four within several of the individual databases listed below and on our Blackboard Library Resources site, but please don’t end your search with a single database.) Make sure that AT LEAST ONE comes from an on-the-bookshelf print source in McCabe.

After locating and reading the four reviews, please read them and write yourself some note describing the reviewers’ responses. Are they in agreement, or do they differ? What do they like, and what do they dislike?  Do they analyze and close read, or make generalizations? Or neither? Do they themselves refer to different kinds of readers and audiences? Think also about the style, genre, and rhetoric of this type of reviewing.  HOW do the reviewers go about saying what they say? What is distinctive? How do these reviews seem similar and/or different from contemporary book reviews?

How do we locate these reviews? Two approaches.

1.First, by finding a citation and then using the citation to locate an actual copy of the review.

Where do we locate such citations? Some ideas:

a.Online proprietary (paid-for) periodicals indexes (like Periodicals Index Online or 19th Century Masterfile, both via McCabe subject portal and accessible via our Blackboard Library Resources site), some of which also give you access to the full text of periodicals

b.Indexes of individual periodicals (such as the Athenaeum Index) – see the “periodicals” section of the Victorian Research Web for information on this:

c.Books and articles (For example, subject search “Phoebe Junior” in Tripod and/or

WorldCat, then get the book and use the table of contexts and/or index to find references to reviews.  Or search around in online free full-text repositories of digital texts like Google Book, Internet Archive, the HathiTrust digital library, etc to find scholars writing about or making reference to reviews; then look them up)

Once we have the citations in hand, how do we locate the reviews?

a.The appropriate volume in Tripod

b.Ordering the article via ILL

c. Microfilm (annoying but necessary)

d.Online fulltext archives of newspapers and magazines, whether individual or groups

Periodicals databases like 19th Century British Library Newspapers (via McCabe Subject Portal), 19th Century British Periodicals (only at Bryn Mawr) Historical Newspapers Online via McCabe Subject Portal), etc

e. Periodicals available on book digitization sites (Internet Archive, Google Book)

f.Individual full-text archives of periodicals available freely on the Web: Blackwood’s, etc (the Victorian Research Web will help with this, too)

2. In a second approach, we experiment with search terms in order to search directly for full-text reviews (essentially searching the citation and the full-text at the same time):

Periodicals archived in Google Book and Internet Archive (see LR on Blackboard site for links)

Periodicals databases like 19th Century British Library Newspapers, 19th Century British

Periodicals (only at Bryn Mawr) Historical Newspapers Online, etc

Individual full-text archives of periodicals: Blackwood’s, etc (see LR site for links)

3. A third approach: the non-electronic full-text search:

Locate McCabe library stacks containing British and American periodicals; pull the appropriate volumes and see if they contain indexes to reviews.

4. Another possible approach (which we won’t work with this time): tracing the responses of “common readers”:

The Reading Experience Database:]