The Digital Era

As noted in previous sections, at least one digital copy of Martineau’s travel text — albeit an earlier edition — is available online for public viewing. The text is fully accessible allows for nearly anyone to scan through the pages, indulging in Martineau’s prose and tracing her walks through the Lake District. In its reproduction in the digital era, it becomes particularly historical, engaging the reader as a snapshot of Lake District land, residents and culture and inviting one, even now, to explore these lands — no doubt changed by time — on a tour of their own.

Indeed, most significant of its digital format is the new avenues of accessibility into (and through) the text. It is represented in both scans of the actual book as well as in plain text, allowing the reader to form their own route through the Lake District using Martineau’s own words. This is both boon and bane, for while the text may be browsed more readily for the specifics of interested parties, it distorts the journey itself by disrupting the context inherent in the literary narrative as it becomes a work to be researched in lieu of enjoyed as a work of art representing the Lake District in Martineau’s era. Rather than simply skimmed or scanned, the travel guide is meant to be embraced as a tour in itself, either at home or in the District itself — with the literary elements functioning as a kind of poetry alongside the more practical aspects. When this is lost, the historical elements of the text become more prominent as parts of a database of names, places and things, and the narrative that lends the spirit of Martineau to the experience inevitably suffers.

Naturally, when the narrative suffers, we also lose the context that reinforces our experience as the stranger Martineau guides through the Lake District. Thus, it is my hope that this blog will serve as a way through which context might be provided more easily to the public, enlightening them to the strength of the work as something very literary and thus with great depths enjoyable in any period despite being aged travel literature from the Victorian era.

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