For researchers, database is a very useful “genre,” if it can be called that. As Ed Folsom (co-creator of the Walt Whitman Archives) mentioned, it provides a valuable source of information. The more databases that exist, the more educated as a public we can become, in theory. According to him, databases should be taken more seriously as part of both scholarly and popular culture, providing assistance to both pedagogy and to those who are casual readers. Folsom believes that database is its own, emerging genre, separate from “archives,” which are physical and reachable only by the few who have time to gather information there. Databases put information together in simple formats, where everything is available to everyone, everywhere.

Stalllybrass’ response to Folsom was one of my favorite articles to read, as he basically used the database argument to suggest that plagiarism is a misunderstood issue. According to him, There is no such thing as originality as we think of it. In fact, we’re all just repeating each other’s ideas and words in our own ways, as Shakespeare did deliberately. Stallybrass explained that databases have pros and cons – one of the pros being that they make information available and useful to all. However, he said that the cons include issues of plagiarism, monoculture, and information overload. I agree partially with this. He added that databases are everywhere. Thinking of them as just a single genre is incorrect, just as dissuading students from plagiarism is incorrect. Everyone borrows and learns from others. As teachers, we have to ask questions that are not likely to be plagiarized completely. Otherwise, we must accept that students will and should pull from other sources.

Jerome McGann (The Rossetti Archive) added to the discussion by saying that we have to understand our paper-based inheritance in order to understand older texts. Therefore, databases are lacking in this area, whereas archives are a better resource. He also covered this idea in Radiant Textuality, when he described poets’ original works, like those of Emily Dickinson, who pasted a stamp to one of her pages. Without a physical representation of the way the page actually looked, the reader or researcher is not getting the full picture.

Meredith McGill (an associate professor who uses the Walt Whitman Archives in her courses) explained that she does not believe database can be considered its own genre. In her view, it is simply a reconfiguring, or a “remediation of archives.”

Overall, I agree that there are some semantic issues regarding what databases are, and there are some places where “overinformation” may occur in database research. It is difficult at times to navigate databases. However, as more than one writer suggested, there are excellent archives in London and other major cities, where researchers can find incredible resources. Sadly, I do not often find myself in London and other locations where there are fantastic amounts of original documents. Sometimes I want information at my fingertips. This is not because I am lazy necessarily; it is because I am constantly seeking more. Databases feed this interest. Whether the movement to database can be considered its own genre is in a way a semantic debate, and one that I am still considering.

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