STALINIST BLOGGERS. Ah,...

STALINIST BLOGGERS. Ah, the great blogofascism debate of '06 returns. Josh Marshall makes this inadvertantly hilarious entry into the fray:

Actually did you know that TPM is related to Stalin by marriage? Little known fact. Actually not even sure if it's true. But it seemed to be from what I could tell. I'll look into it again.

Matt quite rightly notes that linking and excerpting are akin to editing, which reminded me that one point I'd been meaning to make about the blogs is that rather than being a totally new thing in the world, they actually reproduce some really central textual forms in Western history. Take, for example, the Elizabethan commonplace book. Created in an era where books were extremely expensive, such "common readers" were created by single or multiple authors, who would excerpt, by hand, quotations, pages, or stanzas from their favorite works into the books, under common headings. Sometimes these books would circulate in society, gathering reader comments in the margins. That's perhaps the literary form most similar to contemporary blogs. If I'm remembering my literary history correctly, common readers persisted into the 19th century and then pretty much died out, but the impulse behind them can still be found in most anthologies. Blogs are like quirky little anthologies of the present. The writer of this excellent piece, "Elizabethan Reading," (PDF) which is annoyingly password protected to prevent excerpting, makes the same point, linking Elizabethan reading strategies in which context, parallelism, and analogical reasoning predominate, to the contemporary techniques of the Internet. (Scroll down to page 4, paragraph 2.)

--Garance Franke-Ruta

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