Daniel T. Kline
The Internet has become as important a tool for scholars as it
has for our students. We communicate via email with colleagues
the world over and search the World Wide Web for materials to
enrich our scholarship and teaching. Many colleges and universities
now offer online courses in which we seldom if ever see the faces
of our students, and integrated courseware packages like WebCT
and Blackboard have become a part of our pedagogical tool box.
I believe that as medievalists we are uniquely positioned to
take advantage of the burgeoning availability of materials on
the web and to integrate them into our teaching and scholarship,
for two specific reasons:
Since we study manuscript cultures, bordered
culturally as they are by the introduction of the printing press,
we can assess not only the social impact of the change in media
from manuscript to print in that more chronologically remote time,
but we can also evaluate the cultural effects of the move from
print into digital media on our own cultures.
Since the medieval period is in many ways visually
oriented toward different forms of representation (manuscript
images, statuary, stained glass, and other types of iconography),
the “visual hermeneutics” of the web offer another
avenue of comparison and contrast between the medieval and contemporary
Of course, there are a number of other reasons why scholars and
students of the Middle Ages find the web to be a compelling tool
for scholarship and teaching. The most important reason
must be that by putting materials on the web, students and scholars
allow others to access sources that were otherwise sequestered
away indistant libraries or limited to the lucky few who could
afford the time and travel to examine the sources themselves.
In the Web Spotlight feature of the Medieval Forum, I
will draw attention to a select number of related medieval sources
available on the web and offer succinct descriptions of their
worth and how they might be used by students and scholars. In
medieval studies we are lucky to have had dedicated scholars who
have been posting materials online since the Internet boom began
almost ten years ago.
Generally not offering much original content of their own, “portal
sites,” sometimes called “metapages,” most often
serve as entry points into web materials on a related subject
or offer collections of links to other online materials. Some
of the most important medieval portal sites include:
Developed by Martin Irvine and Deborah Everhart, Georgetown
has been online since 1994 and has not been surpassed for the
quality of its offerings. A new database driven search system
has been brought online at < http://labyrinth.georgetown.edu/>,
offering a variety of search options. Labyrinth offers materials
on the literature and culture of medieval Byzantium, England (Old
and Middle English periods), France, Germany, Iberia, Italy, and
Scandinavia as well as Latin literature and culture. Labyrinth
includes pedagogical resources and information on medieval studies
organizations, conferences, and journals. It’s a goldmine
of literary, historical, and cultural material.
ORB: Online Reference
Book for Medieval Studies < http://orb.rhodes.edu/>
comes out of Rhodes College and is edited by Laura V. Blanchard
and Carolyn Schriber. According to the ORB main page, “ORB
is an academic site, written and maintained by medieval scholars
for the benefit of their fellow instructors and serious students.
All articles have been judged by at least two peer reviewers.
Authors are held to high standards of accuracy, currency, and
relevance to the field of medieval studies.” ORB offers
a number of resources—the two most important being The
ORB Encyclopedia and The ORB Textbook Library,
while the peer review process used at ORB gives the sources within
Compiled by Beau A.C. Harbin (Catholic University of America)
NetSERF: Internet Connection for Medieval Studies
currently catalogs over 1700 links, easily organized and accessible
by subject heading or search engine.
Alan Liu’s Voice
of the Shuttle <http://vos.ucsb.edu/>
(UC Santa Barbara) is the humanities metapage par excellence. It is a great starting point not only for all things
medieval but for just about any other literary, historical, or
cultural studies topic you or your students might want to pursue.
The next Web Spotlight will discuss how to evaluate and document
web resources. Faculty and students must remember that online
sources must be assessed as critically and documented thoroughly,
just like print sources.
Daniel T. Kline
The Electronic Canterbury