Extending the Early Modern Textual Corpus and Organizing Major Digital Projects
For many scholars of early modern English, DH is equated with electronic editions. Following from the individual scholars’ use of ESTC and EEBO in week one, the second week will begin with a discussion of the challenges facing scholars who want to add to the electronic corpus through digital editions of printed and manuscript works. Working with material and electronic examples, the participants will learn the principles and challenges of editing texts electronically and the scope of knowledge and skill sets such projects require. Throughout the week, visiting faculty will address the practical issues of how a scholar collaboratively and realistically conceives a digital project and organizes its workflow. What can a single scholar undertake, and what kinds of projects require collaboration? Object lessons will be taken from major early modern projects currently underway that expand the set of data available to early modern textual scholars and the tools through which they are accessed.
On Monday morning, Professor Alan Galey (University of Toronto), Professor Julia Flanders (Brown University) and Dr. Heather Wolfe (the Folger Curator of Manuscripts) will introduce the theory and practical issues concerning editing in the digital realm. Professor Galey will begin by focusing on the concept of digital modeling. One question will be how the design of digital representations prompts users to think in new ways about books and digital technologies alike. Readings will include Willard McCarty’s seminal Humanities Computing (2005) and Johanna Drucker’s articles on visualization and speculative computing. Professor Flanders and Dr. Wolfe will further complicate the concept of modeling with examples of early modern manuscript materials showing their inherent complexity and heterogeneity. The diversity of editorial approaches and the vibrancy of debates about methods, prompted by the upsurge of interest in manuscript editing in the digital medium, will provide this discussion with additional readings including the TEI Manuscripts Special Interest Group’s “An Encoding Model for Genetic Editions,” and Jerome McGann’s “Marking Texts of Many Dimensions.”
In the afternoon, the visiting faculty will turn to specific digital projects that exemplify the challenges they have introduced. Professor Flanders will draw on two examples, The Devonshire Manuscript and the Henry III Fine Rolls Project, to demonstrate the complexity of digitizing the manuscript medium. Professor Galey will discuss his “Visualizing Variation” project funded by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and how it deals with material phenomena like marginalia. Dr. Wolfe will consider what an Early English Manuscripts Online, or EEMO, would look like. She will discuss with the participants why such a corpus is needed and how a collections-specific version at the Folger might be organized with the support of existing catalogue features.
All digital-edition projects obviously depend on text encoding. On Tuesday morning, Professors Flanders and Galey will introduce the participants to some of the underlying principles of the Text Encoding Initiative guidelines. They will trace the ways text encoding has developed in recent years. The focus will be on eXtensible Markup Language (XML), but the lesson will be that encoding is not simply the application of a technical skill or technology to a problem. Rather, it is an intellectual exercise that makes a virtue of the constraints of digital representation. Participants will gain a sense of how various technologies work in concert, as well as an idea of what level of expertise would be required to undertake certain types of digital editing projects and where they might obtain those skills.
In the Tuesday afternoon session, Dr. Wolfe will provide an introduction to the semi-diplomatic transcription of manuscripts. She will explain the standards currently governing manuscript transcription and describe the potential challenges that emerge for subsequent applications when transcriptions are converted to digital texts. Professor Flanders will join discussion on key questions that confront the scholarly community when editing manuscripts: to what extent, and in what circumstances, is it essential to model material characteristics of manuscript sources in a digital representation? Can manuscript materials be accommodated effectively within repository collections that also include printed materials, and do they require specialized forms of searching, document management, and access? How do different communities of users (documentary editors, literary scholars, genetic editors, curators, etc.) conceptualize the modeling and representation of manuscript materials differently? What kinds of research questions do electronic editions of manuscripts uniquely support? How might scholars represent digitally modeled manuscript materials to support interactions that depart from conventional reading practices?
On Wednesday morning, participants will find examples of manuscripts in the Folger collection that raise specific challenges for electronic editing. Some of these manuscripts will have appeared in early printed versions or in modern editions for participants who do not read early modern hands. A number will have been digitally captured in the Folger Luna Insight Database. In the afternoon, participants will present these manuscripts and early printed texts for discussion, considering especially those features which would be difficult to realize in electronic editions. Professor Galey, Professor Flanders, and Dr. Wolfe will help evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of specific examples. Following these examples, the larger discussion will revolve around questions of supplementing the corpus.
Following the demonstration of digital editions of individual works and the practical considerations behind them, on Thursday morning the participants will be introduced to a project on a much larger scale that is devoted to a single genre: “The Folger Digital Folio of Renaissance Drama for the 21st Century.” Known as F21, the planning phase of the project has recently been funded by the Mellon Foundation. An ambitious experiment, F21 starts from the texts established through EEBO-TCP to create interoperable digital editions of some 500 plays written by Shakespeare’s contemporaries. The organizers are Michael Witmore (Folger Shakespeare Library), Martin Mueller (Northwestern University), Neil Fraistat (the University of Maryland), and Katherine Rowe (Bryn Mawr College). Through corpus/text curation of TEI-XML transcriptions and the tagging of verse and prose, speaker labels, and stage directions, F21 will model large-scale crowd-sourcing on early modern plays that may be replicable with other humanities projects. The organizers will describe the project’s work plan, principals of selection, and production methodology.
Participants will explore the F21 project during the first part of the Thursday afternoon session individually or in small working groups. They will reconvene post-tea to ask questions of the F21 organizers, specifically concerning the inclusion of undergraduates as scholar-editors in digital projects.
On Friday morning members of the F21 team provide a broader overview of recent developments in the DH field. They will suggest networks that offer assistance and training in specific tools and applications. Professor Rowe will introduce the collaborations possible through DH Commons from her perspective as a Board Member, and discussion will feature the work of centerNet, an international network of digital humanities centers.
On Friday afternoon, participants will examine the protocols by which a given digital humanities center analyzes and evaluates digital projects. Folger professional staff will join the conversation. Participants will receive valuable advice about conceptualizing digital projects, whether large-scale and multi-institutional or more modest in scope, and how to avoid common planning and implementation pitfalls. The participants will discuss with each other possible applications of text encoding, digital editions, and the importance of networking and resource sharing in the collaborative DH world. After tea, readings for week three will be distributed, assignments set, and the Technical Assistant will support the installation of requisite software as needed. Work continues on the participants’ contributions to the final website project.