Interactive Reading of the Spanish Silver Age Literature: Teaching and Research Promoted by the National Library of Spain and Mnemosine Digital
The National Library of Spain (BNE) and the research group on Spanish Silver Age Literature (LOEP) at the Complutense University of Madrid present “La Edad de Plata interactiva” (“The interactive Spanish Silver Age”), a collaborative project to enrich the Library’s digital collections and their use in teaching and research, exploring the resources that new digital technologies offer to the edition of texts in the field of cultural dissemination. The results of this research are inserted within the framework of eLITE-CM’s Project (H2015/HUM-3426).
This Project started with the question of whether today’s philology, supported by new digital technologies, could propose rereadings of certain authors and works that, for reasons which are not often strictly literary (such as gender, ideology, aesthetic rarity…), have fallen into oblivion or are not currently occupying the space that would correspond to them within literary historiography if the quality of their writings is taken into account. After the official canon of the Silver Age there is, indeed, another dimension of Spanish literature that must be discovered or rediscovered (Romero, 2014: 16).
In the context of this debate, lines of research have emerged precisely around the concept of rereading to propose innovative interpretations of the literary past. Among them, we want to highlight those referring to the critical review wich has been developed by Digital Humanities. The application of new technologies to humanistic analysis has undoubtedly revolutionized the way in which we read, interpret and interact with literary works. Over the last years, the concept of rereading has served to designate a process of critical textual revision that could eventually influence the formation of a new extended canon. Nevertheless, nowadays it serves to provide today’s readers and researchers a brand new form of access to authors and texts which were no longer read and now have been recovered.
Complutense’s research group La Otra Edad de Plata (LOEP) has witnessed all these methodological changes that are taking place in the humanities sphere as a result of the technological revolution. Furthermore, the aforementioned group intends to participate in the digital rereading of the Silver Age through the project eLITE-CM, with the aim of constructing textualities that can satisfy the digital natives. In addition, it allows to recover the voices of forgotten authors of this literary period. With this project we want to demonstrate our commitment to Research, Development and Innovation (R + D + i), including the Information and Communication Technologies for Development as one of the most significant challenges of our working group.
In response to these new reading habits that the Digital Revolution has brought to the current panorama, the LOEP group of research has had as objective within the project eLITE-CM the development of three collections of forgotten texts of the Silver Age, rescued through digitization and enriched by computer programs, with the intention of exploring new resources that hypertext offers to philologycal studies in the Digital Age (Sanz and Romero, 2007).
To achieve our goals, it has been taken into account that dematerialization of cultural heritage linked to digitization leads, necessarily, to new representations of cultural objects (Vinck, 2018: 73), which now overcome their physical limitations to become universally accessible through the Internet. This transformation, within the scope of text editing, implies a reconsideration of the book as a knowledge disseminator (Lucía Megías, 2012: 18) that now assumes characteristics such as transmediality or interactivity, which should be reinterpreted from an hermeneutic and phenomenological point of view, as part of a new perspective on the Reception theory linked to the field of Digital Humanities. Indeed, in terms of cultural dissemination, the enrichment of texts with images, sounds, concept maps, geolocators, hyperlinks, thematic transversality with other arts, etc. modifies the traditional concept of personal reading (understood as a unidirectional, silent and intimate situation), which now becomes interactive. If Bajtin (1975) considered that the literary work already constitutes a polyphony of voices, now the text enters into dialogue with the voices of the world that speak to us from the network.
With this regard, it has also been an objective of the project to expose and evaluate the research results of our interactive collections. Therefore, this new dialogue established between the readers and the literary work has been analyzed as well. For this, data has been collected, not only from the users of the National Library of Spain’s website, but also from a wide number of students that have used our editions within a context of meaningful teaching in the classroom. As a result of this practical experience, some theoretical reflections will be offered. The main one is that the benefits that digital reading brings to the user on a cognitive level follow the five principles of what can be called a smart reading: Simplicity, Motivation, Accessibility, Recycling and Transference to the global community. In this sense the smart reading entails an innovative way of learning within a close-knit community that reaches high levels of thinking and emotional engagement to access knowledge, according to Edward D. Hess and Katherine Ludwig (2017).
Taking this into consideration, “La Edad de Plata interactiva” has carried out three collections of interactive books from the Silver Age linked to different topics, which will allow readers to access knowledge about this period through points of view not so widely considered by canonical historiography: 1) The Modern Woman in the Silver Age Literature; 2) Children’s Literature in the Silver Age; 3) Madrid in the Silver Age Literature.
1) The “Modern Woman in the Silver Age” collection offers interactive editions of short stories, novels and essays written by modern Spanish women authors that, in most cases, were no longer read (except in the context of a very specialized criticism) and has been rescued and critically annotated for the general public thanks to technological resources. This collection is complemented with two monographs related to the topic of modern women, which allows users to access relevant information for the interpretation of the literary works and the historical period itself, carried out by specialists.
2) The “Children’s Literature” collection presents two stories that have been updated for today’s readers –most of them digital natives– in an interactive way. Both tales were originally published in Spain anonymously in 1923 by the publisher Calleja: Plague of dragons and Spoiled Summer. As a result of this research, our project discovered that the real author of these stories was the writer Edith Nesbit, one of the best English-language authors, considered a precursor of fantasy literature. In this collection we have implemented an audiobook system so that users can listen to the stories in a dramatized way. Readers will also be able to consult two magazines of additional information in which the historical context of the works have been studied and the evolution of dragon’s myth in the fantastic literature has been traced (Reina, 2018).
3) In “Madrid in the Silver Age Literature” collection, we have selected several works from this period in which the city of Madrid presents itself as a space of modernity. For this purpose we propound a new approach to the works of the novelist and journalist Andrés Carranque de Ríos (1902-1936), who represented through his writings the complexities of a world in transformation towards modernity. This collection is complemented with a geolocator through which readers can access several maps where the itineraries of the characters that appear in the texts have been traced, so that the different corners of Madrid during this historical period can be explored in a virtual way.
This work has been funded by the National Library of Spain and by the project itself, within the Program of Research and Development Activities among research groups of the Community of Madrid in Social Sciences and Humanities, co-financed at 50% with the European Social Fund. The result of the research has resulted in an interactive kiosk of the Silver Age of Spanish Literature hosted on the website of the National Library of Spain.
Links of interest
BNE interactive collections:
Silver Age Literature kiosk: