We all know how indispensable these text-bases have become to eighteenth-century research. The question many of us face from skeptical librarians controlling acquisitions budgets is whether these text-bases are crucial to undergraduate teaching. It seems to me that a strong case can be made that the existence of these text-bases changes the nature of what can be taught in the classroom. Whether we look at large century-spanning text-mining projects such as Matthew Wilkens’s study of parts of speech and allegory or the three very targeted assignments recently described by Laura Rosenthal, Eleanor Shevlin, and Dave Mazella on The Long Eighteenth, these text-bases make new kinds of assignments possible. Are these new kinds of assignments tied to a new kind of reading? Is there a new kind of learning that can now take place in the classroom, and if so, is it an important kind of learning?
Many of us mounting arguments on behalf of acquiring these text-bases would be interested in hearing readers’ responses to these questions. Have these text-bases become essential, or do they merely contribute to an alternative but no more important kind of learning experience than what the classroom offers without them?