Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that maintaining my street creds in Digital Humanities, British Romanticism, Feminist studies, History of the Book/Textual Studies, and scholarly editing would be difficult at best. At the 1st Annual Nebraska Workshop, Alan Liu told me that after his major work in Romanticism, he had some issues with keeping all of his fingers and toes on the pulse of every major idea in all fields. (This is just prior to the publication of The Laws of Cool.) Because I’m at a teaching-focused university, I too have had some issues with keeping all of my interests engaged and intact. This blog solves some of these issues by visualizing (for me) all facets of my work.

Other than SHARP, Society for Textual Scholarship is one of my favorite conferences and organizations. The meetings are compact, typically in New York City, and packed full of accessible bibliographers, textuists, and historians. My dissertation chair, David Greetham, along with Speed Hill, initiated the organization to much success. This year, Matt Kirschenbaum took the helm as program chair and, with others, facilitated a move from New York City to College Park, Pennsylvania where the conference will become more techno-digi focused with a heavy helping of old school textual studies (and more). Matt suggested a new format — pre-conference seminars to give participants an extended setting to delve into current issues surrounding textual scholarship:

Andy Stauffer and Dana Wheeles will lead “How to do things with NINES”
Doug Reside will guide us through “Bit by Bit: Preservation of Floppy Disc Data”
I’ve taken on “Re-Defining the Scholarly Edition [in the Digital Age]”
Gabrielle Dean will focus on “Making Primary Sources Primary: Pedagogical Practices and Models”

Already, 20 participants have signed up for what is shaping up to be a heavy-hitters seminar of movers and shakers. Wisely, Matt K. counseled me to teach to the conflicts. The participants’ statements were varied and intriguing across the spectrum of professional experience. We’ve got a seminar wiki (password-protected) full of further readings and some new-to-print articles on the topic. My impetus for leading this seminar is the dynamic social edition proposed by Ray Siemens, et al at MLA 2011. I’ve also struggled mightily with my project, The Forget Me Not Archive, in its current artisanal HTML state.

Seminar Description:

In “The Rationale of Hypertext,” Jerry McGann urges literary scholars essentially to catch up with technology. At the same time he advocates for a new type of editorial practice that welcomes hypertext, hyperediting and hypermedia. In this 1997 article, McGann warns that “[t]o function in a ‘hyper’ mode, an editing project must use computerization as a means to secure freedom from the analytical limits of hard copy text” (15). Alan Liu suggests in “The Humanities: A Technical Profession,” that information technology is more than functional – it is allegorical, representational and, according to Liu, “our preeminent form of contemporary poiesis, or fictive making” (16). By positing that information technology represents both poiesis as well as capitalism, Liu calls for a combination of information technology and the Humanities under the same umbrella. After all, textual scholars have been the gatekeepers of the scholarly edition for centuries. Now that it has gone digital, what happens to those bibliographic and textual skills that are so important to creating an authentic scholarly edition? And, with all of our students being much more text-message-literate than research-oriented, this last fear is not so far off the mark.

The digital edition, for some scholars, is a medium that instills a fear of infection in much the same way that women were once thought to be contaminated by what they were reading – Matthew Lewis’ Gothic, lascivious and incestuous novel, The Monk, for instance, was thought to cause young women to believe that life was constantly full of excitement – when it really wasn’t. In much the same way, digital projects may threaten contamination of traditional print editions as well as scholarly standards. These projects even cause some to declare the end of the book while others mourn the loss of traditional archival work.

Even the frenzy to highlight, develop and employ the latest in technology trends can seem viral at times. At the 2006 Digital Textual Studies Symposium, Julia Flanders and others asked if technology drives intellectual fascination with digitally collating and interrogating texts. Or, if the literature was the impetus. In other words, are digital editions and text analysis tools proliferating because we’re interested in the technology or because we’re interested in the scholarly results? I don’t have an answer for that. Instead, I’d like to complicate the question about digital editions in another fashion: Have digital editions provided access to literature that would not normally be accepted for publication by a reputable university press? And, therefore, with this online publication, widens the canon even further? Or, are digital editions just as marginalized as some of the literature that these editions represent?

The most prominent digital scholarly editions (the MLA-award-winning Blake Archive, Whitman Archive, the Dickinson Archive) have been using digital tools to create more than mere hyperlinked editions; they use tools in a way that expands the humanistic inquiry. For instance, in the Dickinson Archive users are able to arrange Emily Dickinson’s poetry or transcribe her handwritten texts. The Blake Archive tags their images to facilitate searching through more than Blake’s poetry. The Whitman Archive is beta-testing mapping Whitman’s journeys in order to visualize the interplay between Whitman’s geographical wanderings along with his poetic meanderings. More recently, the NINES Collex tool allows users to create “exhibits,” or new forms of the scholarly edition. The Shakespeare Quarto Archive is the most dedicated revision of the scholarly edition in a digital medium – an archive that has been provided with substantial funding.

And, textuists haven’t been silent on this issue of re-defining the scholarly edition. Kenneth Price discusses calling digital editions “arsenals” to articulate all that a digital scholarly edition requires. The UVA Shape of Things to Come Symposium addressed digital archives and editions in the context of preservation and was perhaps the most comprehensive articulation of the issues. At the Modern Language Association’s January 2011 meeting, Ray Siemens, Meagan Timney, and Cara Leitch proposed the social digital edition (see readings for this article), a type of edition that relies on crowd-sourcing editorial interventions.

Some issues to address in this seminar: How can we set aside long-standing aesthetic biases against an author, literary genre or popular form with this new type of edition? Are digital projects epidemic or preserving what was really intended to be ephemeral? With the introduction of tools such as Collex, Monk, TaPOR, we might be closer to answering these questions. Then, there’s visualizations. How will scholarly digital editions incorporate tools that are constantly evolving, and evolving for the better? (See the latest volume of The Poetess Archive Journal.)


Instead of addressing issues of sustainability, funding, project management, born-digital materials or electronic literature, this seminar will focus on re-framing the definition, meaning and imperatives of the print scholarly edition in our current digital, scholarly world.


Though this seminar focuses on complicating the scholarly edition in the digital age, participation does not require advance knowledge of or participation in print or digital scholarly editions. Included in the readings are sample digital scholarly editions as well as introductory materials on scholarly editions (for those who are not familiar with the scholarly edition).

Readings on Scholarly Editions:

Greetham, David. Textual Scholarship: An Introduction. Garland, 1994.

Greetham, David ed. Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research. MLA, 1995.

MLA Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions

McGann, Jerome. The Textual Condition. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1991.

Tanselle, Thomas. A Rationale of Textual Criticism. Philadelphia: U Penn P, 1992.

Sample Scholarly Editions:

Reimanm Donald H. and Neil Fraistat. Complete Poetry of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Vol. 2. Johns Hopkins UP, 2004.

Taylor, Gary. Thomas Middleton: The Collected Works. Oxford UP, 2008.

Wolfson, Susan. Felicia Hemans: Selected Poems, Letters, Reception Materials. Princeton UP, 2001.

Readings on Digital Scholarly Editions:

“Archive.” The Blake Archive.

All articles in Digital Humanities Quarterly 3:3 (Spring 2009).

Buchanan, Sarah. “Accessioning the Digital Humanities: Report from the 1st Archival Education and Research Institute.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 4:1 (Summer 2010).

Cohen, Dan. “Eliminating the Power Cord,” UVA Shape of Things to Come Symposium.

Greenberg, Josh. “Notes from ‘The Shape of Things to Come.’”

Greetham, David. “Who’s In, Who’s Out: The Cultural Poetics of Archival Exclusion.” The Pleasures of Contamination. Indiana UP, 2010.

Manovich, Lev. “What is Visualization?The Poetess Archive Journal 2:1 (2010)

McGann, Jerome. “From Text to Work: The Emergence of Digital Tools and the Social Text.” Romanticism on the Net 41-42 (February-May 2006).

Nowviskie, Bethany. “COLLEX: Semantic Collections & Exhibits for the Remixable Web.” NINES (Nov 2005). (pdf)

Price, Kenneth. “Collaborative Work and the Conditions for American Literary Scholarship in a Digital Age.” The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age. Eds. Amy E. Earhart and Andrew Jewell. Ann Arbor: U Michigan P, 2010. (available to seminar participants only)

Saklofske, John. “NewRadial: Revisualizing the Blake Archive.” The Poetess Archive 2:1 (2010). (Added 2/16/11)

The Shape of Things to Come” Symposium papers, especially Greg Crane, Matt Kirschenbaum and Ray Siemens.

Siemens, Ray, et al. “Drawing Networks in the Devonshire Manuscript: Toward Visualizing a Writing Community’s Shared Apprenticeship, Social Valuation, and Self-Validation.” Digital Studies 1:1 (2009).

Smith, Martha Nell and Lara Vetter, “Emily Dickinson Writing a Poem.” The Classroom Electric: Teaching with the Archives.

Timney, Meagan, Cara Leitch, and Ray Siemens. “Opening the Gates: A New Model for Edition Production in a Time of Collaboration.” Electronic Textual Cultures Lab. (available to seminar participants only)

Whalen, Robert. “Enter Tagger: Encoding the Digital Temple.” Digital Studies 1:1 (2009).

Sample Large-Scale Digital Scholarly Editions/Archives :

Emily Dickinson’s Correspondences: A Born-Digital Textual Inquiry

The Shakespeare Quartos Archive

The Walt Whitman Archive

The William Blake Archive

Brown Women’s Writers Project

Sample Small-Scale Digital Scholarly Editions/Archives:

Forget Me Not Archive

The Poetess Archive

At The Circulating Library: A Database of Victorian Fiction, 1837-1901

Further Readings

The original reading list was coddled together based on my experiences with various types of digital archives and in no way represents a comprehensive list of digital archives or readings or even countries and organizations.  Below are readings and projects suggested by some of the participants. Please feel free to add your own. (Click “edit” above to make changes; then click “save” below to render your changes.)

Digital Projects

Dante’s Commedia and Monarchia

Parliament Rolls of Medieval England

New Testament editions being made at Birmingham and Munster: see http://www.iohannes.com/ and http://nttranscripts.uni-muenster.de/AnaServer?NTtranscripts+0+start.anv)

Van Gogh letters (Huygens Institute in the Netherlands)

Fine Rolls Project (Kings College London)

Jane Austen materials

Discovery project: brings together editions of Nietzche, Wittgenstein, and several others.

Codex Sinaiticus

Digital Dos Passos (prototype hypermedia archive around Dos Passos’ U.S.A. trilogy)