Tuesday, April 8, 2008

RE3: Midsummer Night's Dream - A Puck By Any Other Name

Wow, Wikipedia!

So, because my dad was here for the last week, I was all, like, check out how smart I am with my question about Puck, and my digital version of Johnson's dictionary, and my online facsimilies of Shakespeare's Quartos and Folios, and my ancient Shakespeare Classics edition of Sources and Analogues of 'Midsummer Night's Dream' edited by Frank Sidgwick, and my cross-checking and attempted dating. Normally, I would have started with Wikipedia; oh, what a tangled web we compose, when we practice to bulldoze … others with our intelligence.

My students are nervous about using the online encyclopedia. So many teachers tell them that it is fallible and untrustworthy (like Encyclopedia Britannica didn't have errors?) and that they can't cite it in their papers so it's better not to use it. I take the opposite tack; it's a reasonable starting point from which one can go on to look at primary sources and corroborate Wikipedia information.

One of the questions I ask them is: how many of you use Wikipedia more than once a week? About 75% of the hands tend to go up. That's a lot of encyclopedia usage. I wonder if as many hands would have risen if a teacher asked the same question 25 years ago, about bound encyclopedias? Occasional errors in Wikipedia aside, I think we are raising a very informed generation. I'll try to get with the program.

Oh, and I love the word "wanderwort," John. Wikipedia has an entry on that, too.


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