Electronic Poe News #1

Forthcoming in Spring 1998 PSA Newsletter

Links checked February 2002
    The source cited for the reprint of "Abort, Retry, Ignore" in the Fall 1997 PSA Newsletter is "from somewhere in cyberspace." This lack of specificity may not strike us as strange for what is, after all, a widely-circulated parody of "The Raven" on the Internet. Yet we would surely react sharply upon encountering the counterpart citation, "from somewhere in print." Indeed, whether we call it cyberspace, the Internet, or the World Wide Web, the new electronic realm remains unfamiliar, exotic, and even frightening to most of us. This column dedicates itself to exploring this new academic terra incognita, suggesting opportunities and pointing out hazards that await Poe scholars. (Note: This article is available online with live hypertext links at http://newark.rutgers.edu/~ehrlich/poe/psa98a.html.)

First, some basics. If you have access to the Web from home or at work, you are ready to begin. (If you don't know how to connect to the Web, please ask someone who does.) The casual, random quality of much Web activity is suggested by the very names: a Web reader is called a browser and exploring is called surfing. In hope of discovering some structure on the Web, many beginners start with a popular index, such as Yahoo. Please ignore its improbable name and let it seriously search and sort the Web for you. To use Yahoo, fire up your computer, connect to the Internet, activate your Web browser, select File, select Open, type www.yahoo.com, and press Enter. In a few seconds you should see the Yahoo screen. Type Poe in the query box and click on Search. In a recent trial I quickly produced 145 hits.

These sample hits, which may seem to be somewhat randomly arranged, included individual Poe works, large text collections of his works, general Web sites specializing in Poe, hypertext editions of individual works, wider collections by genre (poetry, fiction, gothic, detective), historic sites, museums and societies, musical adaptations, secondary material, research aids, computer-aided manipulations, t-shirts, other merchandise, and personal comments. (We won't discuss references elicited to other Poes: Poe the singer, rock band, billiards parlor, car dealer, insurance agent, investment service, real estate broker, food inspector, plastics manufacturer, motorcycle accessories dealer, bait and fishing shop, or the computer in Virginia called poe.acc). Unlike library card catalogs, which use the Library of Congress, Dewey Decimal, or other standard systems of classification, Web page indexes treat everything on the same level, relying heavily on self-proclaimed titles and the first few words of each Web document. (Can you imagine books classified according to the words that begin the first paragraph?) Although electronic librarians are making progress in creating subject classifications, they have a formidable task indeed!

Yahoo courteously provides links to several competing indexes. In a recent test, there were many more Poe hits on the rival indexes (as shown) than on Yahoo itself: AltaVista (134,450), WebCrawler (1,178), HotBot (70,702), Lycos (N/A), Infoseek (25,135), Excite (21,168), Image Surfer (4) and DejaNews (3,511). Anyone pursing these matches would quickly discover that there is considerable redundancy of results among various indexes. They differ not only in the quantity of hits they produce but also in the quality and nature of those hits. Prolonged and repeated searching with various indexes continues to yield occasional interesting results. Because the Web is in vigorous flux, with old locations constantly expiring and new ones ceaselessly springing up, no electronic index can be more than a rough approximation of the whole. It is estimated that there are now some 320 million documents (called pages) on the Web, only a third of which have ever been indexed. This should cause no discomfort to those familiar with chaos theory.

Happily, there are several ways of improving the odds. One useful shortcut is to start a search not with an individual index, such as those mentioned above, but with a meta-index, such as MetaCrawler or ProFusion, harnessing together multiple search engines or indexes with but a single command. Although searching for Edgar Allan Poe should produce more specific results than Poe alone, unfortunately the misspelling Edgar Allen Poe often appears about as often on the Web as the correctly spelled name. Once the search process takes the researcher to a document known to contain Poe's name, it may often be close to hopeless to find the exact location by looking for poe when that request brings up countless instances of poem, poetry, and poetical (in such cases, try Edgar instead). Occasionally the global search of the whole Web for a distinctive or unique phrase will be unexpectedly rewarding: although searching for The House of Usher will produce many unwanted associations, borrowings, and adaptations, the search for soundless day produces only locations of the text of the tale.

Entrepreneurs constantly devise new Web indexes and search engines to cope with the unprecedented constitution of the Web. Several third generation Web indexes are beginning to appear. The Special Collection of www.northernlight.com contains articles and reviews published in several thousand journals since 1995 (in some cases since 1990), all proprietary texts hitherto not found on the Web but now available for the payment of a fee, currently about $1.00 per article. Another new index, www.sideclick.com [No longer available] , is heavily structured by subject affiliations, allowing one to drill down to material of interest -- and then to click sideways on links to material on similar subject classifications.















  Although Poe Studies/Dark Romanticism and the Edgar Allan Poe Views (formerly the PSA Newsletter) both maintain Web sites, there is as yet no full academic Poe site on the Web. Nevertheless, much useful information can be found in other places, such as these sites devoted to American Literature generally or the Nineteenth Century American Literature in particular:

[1] The best Web bibliography for 19th century American literature is Alan Liu's Voice of the Shuttle at UCSB.

[2] A shorter and more selective bibliography for American Literature is Jack Lynch's Literary Resources at Rutgers (formerly at Penn).

Although not intended for academic use, the following general starting points for Poe contain much usable material, often hidden deep beneath the surface:

[3] The strongest and richest general site for Poe is Peter Forrest's The House of Usher:

[4] Now specializing in non-academic commentaries and interpretations is: The Poe Decoder (formerly Qrisse's Page).

[5] If you have the patience to figure out and endure the graphics, there is useful material on : Gothic Net

To locate full electronic Poe texts on the Internet by title or author, use these search engines:

[6] A searchable index of 3,000 databases can be reached with The Internet Sleuth. [No longer available} Once in Isleuth, search in Bibliomania, Books OnLine, Internet Public Library, Online books, Project Gutenberg, and The English Server.

[7] About 6,000 texts (not revised since mid-1997) are on Book Stack [No longer available]

Once within the following collections of electronic texts, search for specific words or phrases (see local directions for simple and compound searching):

[8] University of Virginia: Electronic Text Center (ETC): Modern English Collection:

[9] University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative (HTI) Modern English Collection -- Simple Searches:

The standard archives containing Poe e-texts are Internet Wiretap, the Oxford Text Archive, Virginia Tech Eris Collection, University of Virginia Electronic Text Center (ETC), and University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative (HTI), each of which is described with live hypertext links in my [10] Poe Webliography:.

Within the last year the following noteworthy Poe electronic editions have been added to the Web:

[11] Go to the University of Michigan, Humanities Text Initiative, American Verse Collection and then browse down to Poe's name for Complete Poems, ed. J. H. Whitty (1911).

[12] Part of A Digitized Library of Southern Literature: Beginnings to 1920 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill contains Tales (Wiley & Putnam, 1845).

[13] Toronto has Eight poems from Representative Poetry, with textual notes by Ian Lancashire:

[14] The Gutenberg Project has Three Poe tales and one poem . Search for "Poe" in this general directory:

[15]Arthur Gordon Pym, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, and Tales (1845) will be included in an extensive edition of Early American Fiction now in preparation at the University of Virginia Library, to be released commercially on CD-ROM and partly on the Internet.

Heyward Ehrlich
Department of English
Rutgers University
Newark, N J 07102