English Poetry 1579-1830: The Spenserian Tradition in Hypertext

David Hill Radcliffe
Department of English
Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061

English Poetry 1579-1830: The Spenserian Tradition is an interactive database consisting of over 3000 poems and essays supplemented by 6000 author biographies, anecdotes, and critical remarks drawn from pre-1900 publications. Readers can find information on over 800 writers who imitated or criticized Spenser in the era when literature in English was constituted as "English Literature." The project includes imitations of Spenser's poems, imitations of those imitations, poems written in Spenserian stanzas and variants, and poems that mention Spenser. Since most ambitious poets and critics are on record about Spenser, the database contains biographies and critical remarks about the majority of writers in the present literary canon. But it also includes much ephemeral and topical material--periodical verse, school exercises, patronage poems--so that researchers can examine the literary system more broadly conceived, including hundreds of figures omitted in conventional anthologies, literary histories, and reference books.

Users can select records by keywords, genre, topic, bibliographic, or demographic criteria, and by personal associations. Once records are marked, users can compile bibliographies, display quantitative data on time lines, and tabulate demographic information according to a variety of specifications. One can look at what a given writer has to say about other writers in the database, and what other writers have to say about a given poet or critic. The project is scripted so that textual and biographical links can be made "on the fly," allowing users considerable flexibility in translating historical into hypertextual links.