Do readers today understand works of Victorian fiction like Dracula the way readers in the nineteenth century did? It’s a question Linda Friday, a teaching assistant and sponsored Ph.D. candidate at England’s Edgehill University, has spent much of her academic career trying to answer.
“The contemporary reader’s understanding of a novel such as Dracula would have been different from ours,” Friday contends. “That perspective would have been influenced by the newspapers they were reading at the time, which is something lost to the modern reader who is unaware of the relationships between news items and the novel.”
Besides the complexity of such research, the limited supply of nineteenth century newspapers and periodicals housed in many university libraries can make it extremely difficult to determine what role the Victorian press had on novelists and readers of those novels. While Friday has been able to access some local archive material for her master’s and Ph.D. research, she says library access to a wide variety of Victorian press materials is hard to come by.
To improve access and better understand the influence Victorian news reports may have had on Gothic fiction of the nineteenth century, Edgehill University turned to Cengage Learning’s NewsVault, a cloud-based compilation of primary sources that offers access to 400 years of newspapers and periodicals, including those of the nineteenth century. The database helps users discover resources they might not have known existed and identify patterns and perspectives previously impossible to compare.
In addition to greater access, NewsVault can also help researchers like Friday better organize the massive troves of material they’re analyzing. Specifically, the database enables users to visualize materials in ways that allow them to make key connections they otherwise might not have made.
Discovering clues that may otherwise not be found without NewsVault helps researchers like Friday narrow search parameters, more quickly identify dead ends, or focus attention on previously unexplored areas of interest. Without access to the rare source material found in NewsVault, these nineteenth-century journalistic influences may go undiscovered and remain secret.