I think of this course as “Digital Humanities Meets 19th Century Popular Culture,” for literary annuals played a significant but still largely undocumented role in the popular culture of early and mid-nineteenth century Britain and America.
Annuals circulated literature to a largely middle-class reading audience, and, for the first time, allowed ordinary people to own reproductions of major works of art. Within the pages of literary annuals, the short story blossomed as a genre. Many of these books were best sellers.
They typically contain poetry, short fiction and non-fiction prose by important literary figures, such as Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anna Letitia Barbauld, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Edgar Allan Poe, Walter Scott, Mary Shelley, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Alfred Lord Tennyson and William Wordsworth.
By modern standards, these books were extraordinarily expensive and, thus, were generally
given only on special occasions. They are a remarkable index to the popular literary
and artistic taste of their time and document the increasing economic importance of
the female reader and the influence she came to exert on the subject matter and style
of literature. In this course, we will read and discuss a selection of these literary
Students will play an important part in choosing literary annuals for digitizing and
writing introductions to some of these literary annuals for researchers throughout
the world. Using the unusually large and diverse collection in the Thomas Cooper Library
as our chief resource, students will conduct original research and will publish their
work in a digital archive, which they help to design, sponsored by USC Digital Collections.