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Modelling Multidimensional Narratives and the Object Oriented Fox: What Lies Beyond Digitized Text in Textual Scholarship?

woensdag 14 november 2018
P.J. Veth
Nonnensteeg 1-3
2311 VJ Leiden

In the past decade I have been highly critical of digital scholarly editions. The core of my criticism is that most of these editions are merely mimicking scholarly print editions: they are for all that matters simply digitized books. They cannot be called true remediations of the book in a digital environment, because remediation implies a certain reflexive negotiation of how artefacts from one medium could and should be expressed differently in another medium—but no significant re-thinking or re-shaping seems to have taken place regarding the scholarly edition as a result of moving scholarly editorial work into digital environments. Instead the existing model of the physical book seems to completely and uncritically govern the prevalent form of digital scholarly editions. As a result the average digital scholarly edition of a medieval codex looks exactly like a 20th century print edition of a medieval codex and ignores almost all interesting epistemological aspects and analytic potential of its digital nature and environment.

There is a viable rationale for the current prevalent form of digitized editions in that one function of philology is to create an 'Archive' of historical texts. However, philology and textual scholarship are not solely defined by their archival function. As I will explain they are also concerned with the nature of text, text representation, interpretation, and text re-use. Text can—and does—exist in many more ways in digital environments than just as a digital mimesis of a printed text. Therefore I argue that textual scholars should be far more concerned than they currently are with these different ontological modes of text. In my own work I explore different ontological modes of digital text and try to determine their uses as means for and sites of textual scholarship. During these explorations I am confronted with such questions as "What is a computational edition?", "What does it mean to create an object oriented representation of a text?", "What would an edition that can be run like a computer program look like?", "Which verbs would textual scholars expect in a domain specific computer language for textual scholarship?", "What is a text regarded as a digital process rather than as a digital product?"

In my presentation, using the Middledutch epic "Van den Vos Reynaerde" as my stock example, I would like to expound a few possible answers to these questions. I would like to demonstrate a few forms that texts and textual scholarship might take as a result of a more fully articulated digital and computational remediation of both. Thus I hope to show that a more intimate embrace of digital and computational techniques by textual scholars results in a more pluriform understanding of text and text representation.

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