Textual Studies and Digital Editing
ENG 501/FREN 551/C LIT 551
This course offers a hands-on exploration of the nature of texts, of the practice of editing in a digital environment using historical printed sources, and of issues related to interface, reading, and access. We’ll learn basics of digital text editing and encoding, including transcription in XML, using the widely-adopted guidelines of the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI), protocols for collaboration, along with some techniques for web publishing (XSLT, HTML and CSS). No prior experience with any of this is required or expected (if you have any questions or concerns about this, please do contact me at email@example.com).
Our texts will be drawn from the publishing world of the late 17th and early 18th centuries in France and England, shaped by the growing demand for nouveautés – new things, aimed at entertainment – as well as by a thirst for “news.” Joan DeJean has argued that a modern public took form in this context, prefiguring the “public sphere” of the late 18th century. The texts generated in this literary market were defined by temporality: these were short-lived works in the form of recueils [collections] of verse and stories, nascent periodicals, and quick reeditions, meant to reaffirm constantly a sense of new-ness. They present fascinating editorial puzzles. We’ll explore, theoretically and, in creating our own digital edition drawn from these writings, concretely, how best to address these questions of periodicity and volatility. We’ll also explore broader issues of reading, temporality and technology, which will impact decisions we make: how platforms (print vs. digital) and interface influence the amount of time, attention and focus one is willing to devote to a text. These questions, in turn, are connected to ongoing debates within the digital humanities over close vs. distant reading.
We’ll highlight extensive Anglo-French interconnections in the period. Students will have the opportunity to work either on a French or English text. It is not necessary to read French. We will be collaborating on the digital project with the class of Christophe Schuwey at Yale (Schuwey has been on the editorial team for a number of digital editions, including of the Nouvelles nouvelles of Jean Donneau de Visé. Donneau de Visé was the creator and editor of Le Mercure Galant, an influential periodical: http://www.unifr.ch/nouvellesnouvelles/tomeI.html).
This is a core course in the Textual and Digital Studies graduate certificate (http://depts.washington.edu/text/). We will thus complement our digital project with discussions and readings in the field of textual scholarship, starting with classic formulations in New Bibliography. We’ll look at a series of powerful critiques, emphasizing the “social text” and “material text,” as well as postcolonial, queer and feminist perspectives on editing. These critiques have reshaped and revitalized the field of textual studies, as have the opportunities for textual work which digital platforms have opened up. The rise to dominance of digital texts in our reading and scholarship has revalorized editorial work as a scholarly endeavor, and has required renewed reflection on what a text is, how it’s shaped by its publication processes, how it conveys or hides its history, and how it’s shaped by its reception (not to mention, what counts as scholarship; and what public(s) we seek to address). These issues will be paramount in the course.