Archiving Writers' Work in the Age of E-Mail

And to think Charkes Kinbote had to make do with John Shade’s index cards…

The influence of authors’ environments on their writing has always
interested scholars. Marcel Proust, for example, is known to have been
heavily influenced by the paintings he surrounded himself with when he
penned the novel Remembrance of Things Past, between 1909 and
1922. Imagine if Proust had been writing 100 years later, on a laptop:
What else we might be able to learn about his creative process.

The implications for scholarship are tremendous, Mr. Kirschenbaum
says. Take a great digital-era author: “You could potentially look at a
browser history, see that he visited a particular Web site on a
particular day and time,” he says. “And then if you were to go into the
draft of one of his manuscripts, you could see that draft was edited at
a particular day and hour, and you could establish a connection between
something he was looking at on the Web with something that he then
wrote.” — Steve Kolowich, Chronicle of Higher Education