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4. Online Discussion. Electronic Journals and Mailing Lists.

In general, international academic discussion takes place in conferences and in journals. The same applies for the Internet where scholarly debates exist in form of electronic journals and mailing lists, the so-called list servers. Owing to the facilities provided by the new medium, scholars are now able to expand their exchange of ideas from traditional discourse in journals and communication on annual meetings to ongoing, world-wide conversation.

4. 1. Electronic Journals

Electronic journals offer articles, book reviews, essays, and sometimes poems and short stories. Additionally, the user may find sections containing further literary resources. Many electronic magazines, however, require subscription and fees, or offer just a table of contents on a home page to advertise for registration, for example the journals of the Johns Hopkins University Press.319 There are also journals which supply parts of their contents to the online user in order to make him or her subscribe to the printed version, for example Connotations. A Journal for Critical Debate320 or The Literary Times.321 The main focus, therefore, is on those magazines which can be accessed freely and directly on the World Wide Web, for instance Erfurt Electronic Studies in English (EESE), Computers & Texts, and Romanticism on the Net.

Erfurt Electronic Studies in English (EESE)322
The journal is edited by Fritz-Wilhelm Neumann in Erfurt and is divided into two categories: resources and journal area. The Resources Area provides links to some of the most important sources dealing with English Literature and Linguistics, such as search engines, electronic library references, text analysis software, electronic fora, journals, English corpora, text archives, theatre resources, Shakespeare resources, Internet fiction and poetry, mailing lists and conferences, course syllabi, and general resources. The Journal Area supplies EESE's complete issues from 1995 until 1998 and is more interesting for the user because s/he has free access to articles from international literary scholars who contribute material on various academic subjects. Since 1997, EESE has developed a multimedia dimension containing images, illustrations, and sounds. Some elements of hypertext's full potential are thus realised in EESE documents, for example in Hans Ulrich Mohr's article on "Gothicism in Postmodern Anglo-American Narratives and Media"323 or in Christiane Meierkord's essay dealing with "Lingua Franca English: Characteristics of successful non-native-/non-native-speaker discourse".324 The user can choose his or her way of reading these texts because the system supplies links to endnotes, tables, and sound files, which may be consulted before the main text. The annotations provide links back to the document. Navigation thus is very easy and convenient in EESE.

Computers & Texts325
The magazine which is edited by Michael Fraser at the CTI Centre for Textual Studies in Oxford deals with computer applications used in academic research and teaching. At the time of writing, six issues were available online.326 Previous editions are available in printed form. Articles by British and American scholars cover recent developments in computer technology - for instance CD-ROMs, hypertext systems, text analysis software, or textual databases - concerning literature in all languages, linguistics, theology, classics, philosophy, film and media studies, theatre arts and drama. The review section provides the user with critical essays regarding these programmes, and in some cases, representatives of organisations reply to the reviews, for instance in issue number 11.327 Most articles follow a linear structure, but some of the documents are supplied with images and links to annotations or further web pages. However, in contrast to EESE, there are no links back to the main text.

Romanticism On the Net328
The journal "is a Peer-reviewed, Electronic Journal devoted to Romantic Studies"329 and is maintained by Michael Eberle-Sinatra. Members of the academic editorial board revise every submission. An accurate quality suitable for scholarly purposes is therefore established. Similar to a conventional journal, Romanticism On the Net offers articles and reviews. These documents are supplied with detailed bibliographical information at the beginning according to the MLA guidelines for citation of online resources, and represent reliable, quotable sources. The magazine uses hypertext's full potential by providing links to conferences, sites related to Romanticism, associations, and a forum where readers can submit contributions. The texts lack images but include links to annotations, so that the user can follow his or her own way of reading the documents. All notes provide links back to the main text which is thus very convenient to navigate.

Thomas Rommel believes that "electronic journals take on a traditional form: they assign an individual number to each issue, have a date and 'pages' or numbered paragraphs so they can be quoted like a traditional printed journal."330 The magazines under scrutiny have similar features. In contrast to traditional journals, academic discussion on the new medium is accomplished faster because of lower publication costs and periods. Nonetheless, there are not enough electronic magazines freely available on the Internet.

4. 2. Mailing Lists

Conferences and conference papers constitute an ideal basis for further research.331 Electronic conferences on mailing lists, the so-called list servers, offer new opportunities for academic debate. The exchange of ideas is quicker than in traditional meetings because most services provide an ongoing, informal and spontaneous discussion. People from all over the world participate in the conversations at relatively low costs. Scholars from countries such as China, Poland, or Russia, who did not have the possibility to attend Western conferences are now integrated into a world-wide academic community. The medium also "[s]hifts the balance of exchange from speaking to writing"332 and thus enables people who hesitate to speak in front of a group to share their knowledge with others. Some list servers even supply their members with a number of additional options, e.g. searching an internal archive for contributions, retrieving logbooks of previous discussions, and obtaining abstracts, articles, bibliographies, biographies, or papers from a fileserver. In order to search the server, one has to submit a SEARCH [listname][keyword] command and by sending an email containing GET [listname][filename], the requested information will automatically be returned. These systems therefore serve as new means of additional research since one has access to many unpublished contributions covering the same subject. A list of available material is usually sent to the user after subscription which is accomplished by the command SUBSCRIBE [listname][firstname lastname]. Many metapages provide a collection of mailing lists concerning various authors and areas of English Literature, for example William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, James Joyce, Utopian and Dystopian novels, or American literature.
List servers can be divided into two categories: moderated an non-moderated. A moderated list is maintained by an editor who decides which messages are posted on the server. A non-moderated list, on the other hand, is not supervised so that anything can be published there.

Moderated mailing lists

SHAKSPER is edited by Professor Hardy M. Cook at Bowie State University and was founded in 1990 by Ken Steele; Cook became editor in 1992.333 The service is called The Global Electronic Shakespeare Conference for international "researchers, instructors, students, and those who share their academic interests and concerns",334 which shows the academic character of the server. At the time of writing, the list consisted of nearly 1,500 members from all over the world.335 The service provides the opportunity for the formal exchange of ideas as well as informal discussion. Daily digests are organised by subjects including "Gender Studies, New Historicism, Computer Applications, Textual Studies, Rhetoric, Translation, Performance, Playhouses, and Film".336 The editor excludes offensive contributions and messages concerning the so-called "Authorship question".337 Announcements, calls for papers, and newsletters are included in the postings and distributed to the members. Additionally, the fileserver provides access to abstracts, members' biographies, bibliographies, a directory of Shakespeare institutes, logbooks of previous conferences, papers, and texts. These files can be retrieved by submitting the command GET SHAKSPER [filename] to the server. A list of files, which is sent to members after registration, is also available. All subscribers can search the system for topics (Search SHAKSPER [keyword]) previously discussed, so that SHAKSPER can be regarded as a source of additional research. The search option also allows Boolean search. Cook wants the service to be "a forum for serious academic discussion".338 Therefore, all potential members are required to send a short autobiography but an academic background is not necessary. The list consists mainly of scholars, however, but many non-academics contribute valuable material. SHAKSPER's academic character can be judged by the fact that excerpts of the debates are used in teaching and in papers.339 In order to investigate the academic value, Cook posted a number of questions to the members. Non-academics noticed that although scholars are very well familiar with Shakespeare and his works, they tend to be theoretical in postings which are sometimes rather specialised and of less common interest. Scholars, on the other hand, believed that the list and its debates are more useful than discussions in journals such as Shakespeare Quarterly, for instance.340 An Italian student regarded SHAKSPER as "a giant seminar",341 a statement which applies to many mailing lists dealing with English literature. Most of the respondents claimed to use material from SHAKSPER in classes, seminars, and as a source of research. Some contributions and submissions were even published in scholarly magazines. However, the most important conclusion which can be drawn from the answers is that the service exhibits cultural differences between countries and continents, for example between North America and Europe.342
Since SHAKSPER is a moderated list server, the structure of the debates shows linear features although several topics are discussed simultaneously. Each conference concerning a subject contains mailings which are to be read in a linear way in order to be able to follow the thread of the discussion. Topics are usually introduced by different members because there are so many subscribers, for example university teachers or students who want to solve a problem which occurred in the seminar room. Subjects may be discussed for one or two weeks, for instance the debate concerning Hamlet's age which started on February 26 and ended on March 8, 1999.343 Other topics, especially those dealing with characters or plays, e.g. Iago, Henry, or Taming of the Shrew, are considered for years. This kind of information can be obtained by using the search option and is interesting for researchers who want to collect material on particular subjects. Themes and style of the conferences vary from academic to less academic, for example postings dealing with job offers or the difference between DVD and laser disc players.344 Films based on Shakespeare's plays have found their way into the seminar room, and are thus part of the academic discussion. My Own Private Idaho, for instance, which is based on Henry IV, has been a topic for more than six years (December 12, 1992 until April 26, 1999). The most recent ongoing debate started on April 20, 1999.345 The traffic on the list is considerably high and questions and queries are answered within one or two days. SHAKSPER's outstanding academic value results from "its being a less formal medium than a print journal"346 and the quality of its members' contributions.

DICKNS-L is supervised by Professor Patrick McCarthy at the University of California, Santa Barbara. At the time of writing, 650 members were subscribed to the list.347 In contrast to SHAKSPER, postings are not grouped into conferences. Single messages are edited and posted to the server by the administrator. The activity on the list is very low. The reasons for this sporadic traffic are that many messages are answered by Patrick McCarthy individually, and many mails seem to be too special for common interest.348 Therefore, emails appear on the server after several days and many topics are not discussed. DICKNS-L, however, offers the possibilities to search for particular subjects, and to retrieve files including articles, bibliographies, and previous messages from the server which can be used as a database.349 Despite the low activity, the list server constitutes a helpful research tool for Dickens scholars.

Non-moderated mailing lists

J-JOYCE is administrated by Rhett Jones at the University of Utah. The service has been founded by "Karen Lawrence, president of the International James Joyce Foundation."350 The list is characterised by very lively discussions by 424 scholars and non-academics. The debates vary from academic to non-academic, and political events such as the Kosovo crisis are for instance included.351 The most popular themes, however, concern Joyce's Ulysses. Subjects are sometimes introduced by students who ask questions concerning Joyce's works which have been considered in the seminar room. The server does not offer advanced options such as a search engine or means for file retrieval, but an archive which allows keyword and Boolean search is made available on the World Wide Web.352 Most messages from 1997 are included.353 A negative aspect which seems to be a quite common phenomenon with non-moderated lists is the presence of so-called flamers, people who want to provoke the rest of the group by posting offensive messages which do not concern any topic. A person called 'mahan' disturbs the debates at regular intervals. J-JOYCE is less suitable for scholarly purposes since it does not provide such sophisticated options as can be found in SHAKSPER or in DICKNS-L. The style of the discussions is often not academic but interested researchers may, however, find acceptable topics.

AMLIT-20TH is dealing with twentieth century American literature. The list is maintained by Lawrence James Clark at Texas A&M University and resembles an electronic seminar. Many of the 55 members are students who attend Clark's classes. He also introduces most of the topics and asks to contribute essays and papers which are assessed afterwards. Topics are usually discussed for two or three weeks or more, for example the debate concerning F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which took place between March 5 and April 10, 1999. The administrator has created an archive holding all messages between February 2 and April 10, 1999. It can be accessed on the Internet.354 Additionally, the server offers a search option that allows to look for keywords of discussions, and the possibility to retrieve files stored on the fileserver.355 AMLIT-20TH is an active list but the style of the emails is very informal since the list is intended for students. 'Flamers', however, are not present.

UTOPIA-L is dealing with all subjects concerning Utopian and Dystopian literature. Postings include calls for papers and information about conferences. Academics and non-academics are responsible for lively debates. Topics are usually considered for one or two weeks. The systems provides a file retrieval function but no search option. Therefore, UTOPIA-L is less useful as research tool.

Non-moderated list servers have some typical common features: The style of the discussions is rather informal, many messages not related to a topic are published on the lists, for instance requests for unsubscribing, and 'flamers' may disturb the discussions. On the other hand, these lists are closer to hypertext's inherent potential and the Internet's initial status as a democratic and free medium because everybody can add contributions. The structure of the postings is non-linear because the mails are in no particular order and not sorted according to subjects. The advantages of moderated lists are the exclusion of irrelevant material and the lack of 'flamers' whose messages are not accepted by the editor. The structure of the debates is linear since the contributions are arranged by topic. Many services resemble a giant seminar, and in case the lists provide adequate means, they represent an extraordinary source for additional research, especially advanced systems such as SHAKSPER which is the most academic discussion group.

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319 For a list of the journals published by The Johns Hopkins University Press, see
321 The Literary Times.
322 Fritz-Wilhelm Neumann (ed.), Erfurt Electronic Studies in English (EESE).
323 See Hans Ulrich Mohr, "Gothicism in Postmodern Anglo-American Narratives and Media." In: EESE 4/97.
324 See Christiane Meierkord, "Lingua France English: Characteristics of successful non-native-/non-native-speaker discourse." In: EESE 7/98.
325 Michael Fraser (ed.), Computers & Texts.
326 Ibid.: "The issues available online (...) contain the fulltext of articles and reviews available in the print edition. Everything on our Web site is freely available to anyone with a Web browser." Email dated May 10, 1999.
327 Ibid., cf. the discussion concerning Chadwyck-Healey's English Poetry Full-Text Database in Computers & Texts 11 (1996).
328 Michael Eberle-Sinatra (ed.), Romanticism on the Net.
329 Ibid.
330 Rommel, p. 109.
331 Ibid., cf. p. 106 f.
332 Landow, p. 129.
333 Cf. Hardy M. Cook, "The Politics of an Academic Discussion Group" (1997). The file is available from the fileserver and is called SAA1997 SHAKSPER.
334 L-Soft list server at Bowie State University (1.8c) []. File: SHAKSPER ANNOUNCE. Available from the fileserver.
335 Cf. ibid.
336 L-Soft list server at Bowie State University (1.8c) []. Subject: "How to Subscribe to SHAKSPER". Note: This email is sent automatically to potential subscribers.
337 Ibid.
338 Hardy M. Cook, cf. Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 8.0001.
339 Cf. ibid.
340 Ibid., cf. "The Politics of an Academic Discussion Group."
341 Ibid.
342 Cf. ibid.
343 Ibid., cf. Shakespeare Electronic Conference, SHK 10.0325 ff.
344 Ibid., cf. SHK 10.0397, SHK 10.0412, and SHK 10.0419.
345 Ibid., cf. SHK 10.0694, "Who Chooseth Me".
346 Ibid., "The Politics of an Academic Discussion Group."
347 Patrick McCarthy, cf. email dated May 10, 1999.
348 Ibid., cf. email dated May 17, 1999. Subject: Re: Dickens list.
349 Ibid., cf. email dated May 17, 1999. Subject: Searching DICKNS-L.
351 Cf. J-JOYCE [], March 25, 1999. Subject: Kosovo.
353 Edward B. Germain, cf. email dated May 6, 1999.
355 Lawrence James Clark, cf. email March 4, 1999. Subject: listserv commands.

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