Cover of Digital Victorians by Paul Fyfe
Digital Victorians
From Nineteenth-Century Media to Digital Humanities
Paul Fyfe

October 2024
294 pages.
from $30.00

Hardcover ISBN: 9781503639911
Paperback ISBN: 9781503640948


Excerpts and More

Perhaps no period better clarifies our current crisis of digital information than the nineteenth century. Self-aware about its own epochal telecommunications changes and awash in a flood of print, the nineteenth century confronted the consequences of its media shifts in ways that still define contemporary responses. In this authoritative new work, Paul Fyfe argues that writing about Victorian new media continues to shape reactions to digital change. Among its unexpected legacies are what we call digital humanities, characterized by the self-reflexiveness, disciplinary reconfigurations, and debates that have made us digital Victorians, so to speak, struggling again to resituate humanities practices amid another technological revolution.

Engaging with writers such as Thomas De Quincey, George Eliot, George du Maurier, Henry James, and Robert Louis Stevenson who confronted the new media of their day, Fyfe shows how we have inherited Victorian anxieties about quantitative and machine-driven reading, professional obsolescence in the face of new technology, and more—telling a longer history of how writers, readers, and scholars adapt to dramatically changing media ecologies, then and now. The result is a predigital history for the digital humanities through nineteenth-century encounters with telecommunication networks, privacy intrusions, quantitative reading methods, remediation, and their effects on literary professionals. As Fyfe demonstrates, well before computers, the Victorians were already digital.

About the author

Paul Fyfe is Associate Professor in the Department of English, North Carolina State University. He is the author of By Accident or Design: Writing the Victorian Metropolis (2015).

"Fyfe makes a powerful case for tracing the origins of digital humanities to Victorians' debates about information overload. Digital Victorians offers an important and innovative contribution to digital humanities as a field, to media history, and to Victorian literary studies."

—Jon Lawrence, University of Exeter

"This work offers an exciting new lens for understanding the Victorian era. Fyfe ranks among the leaders in bringing together Victorian studies and the digital humanities, and this work shows him at the top of his game."

—Adrian Wisnicki, University of Nebraska–Lincoln

"Full of elegant, surprising readings, Fyfe's book is required reading for anyone who is concerned about the material and epistemological stakes of how we know what we know about the past (and that should be all of us)."

—Meredith Martin, Princeton University