Chair of Digital Humanities
Diachronic Markup

Diachronic Markup

Diachronic Markup and Presentation Practices for Text Editions in Digital Research Environments

The US and German cooperation project “Diachronic Markup and Presentation Practices for Text Editions in Digital Research Environments” is situated in the Digital Humanities area of literary criticism and textual scholarship. Here, building digital research environments means not only establishing critically edited texts, but also re-establishing fully the mediating function of the scholarly edition through contextual knowledge. Critical editing means today, moreover, the opening up of a work in diachronic depth, that is: under perspectives of the genesis of its text. This by itself already offers rich textual and hermeneutic research opportunities under conditions of the digital medium and environment. Hermeneutic, that is interpretative, explorations of literary works furthermore demand putting them into the context of their text foundations, their intellectual origins and evolution. Through these contextualizations literary knowledge is both adduced and generated. Under this perspective, our project is conceived.

A research environment constructed over text foundations which are editorially validated and, where the document sources suggest and permit, genetically (diachronically) stratified, demands doubly functional markup, i.e. digitally encoding its textual substance and the editorial operations thereon as well as identifying and correlating all contextualizing knowledge content. The Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) in the most recent version of their “Guidelines for Electronic Text Encoding and Interchange” incorporates the foundations for diachronic markup. The present project intends to carry these forward through testing and improving them and thereby, as a first step of its work plan, establishing the best practices at the level of data structuring through markup. TEI’s significant P5 v2.0 extension necessitates, too, modules of presentation answering to the potential of diachronic markup. Here, standards of procedure and realization are as yet deficient. In the second phase of its work plan, our cooperation project, on the basis of pre-developed modules from its partner units, intends to map and prototypically implement facilities of presentation and visualization at the user interface level.

The project commits itself to delivering best-practice guidelines for establishing, and reusable building blocks for processing, diachronic markup. Relying as it can on the already existing comprehensively structured data of its sub-project units, the project now envisaged does not aim at developing generic software or tools for digital genetic editions. It proposes, rather, to deliver a significant milestone towards the design of software capable of multi-layered/multi-versional and dynamic visualization of, and user interaction with, material diachronically marked up. The improved diachronic data markup as well as building blocks for user-interface access and presentation that the project wishes paradigmatically to develop, and the guidelines for best-practices it proposes to provide as a result, will be useful to digital scholarly editing in general, to tasks of genetic digital editing in particular, and comprehensively for modularizing knowledge sites and research environments in the Digital Humanities disciplines.

To ensure generalization and applicability of the project results in broad compass, material from different textual genres, languages, and periods in literary history will be considered. Hence, the project brings together three sub-projects (or case studies). They focus on material from Goethe (Weimar classicism), Whitman (transcendentalism and realism), and James Joyce (with a small Virginia Woolf appendix) (modernism). In terms of subject interest, the project thus ranges from the 18th to the 20th century, covering English- and German-language literature in both poetry and prose. Specifically, the triple sub-project hub comprises the digital genetic edition of J.W. Goethe’s Faust, in progress in Frankfurt, the Walt Whitman Archive in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Critical and Synoptic Edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses in Munich, Germany, and a genetic as well as contextualizing exploration of Virginia Woolf’s unfinished biographical notes “Sketch of the Past”. The current structure of these comprehensively digitized sub-projects, and their convergences in methodology and research questions ensure rich synergies for the accomplishment of the precise, if strictly delimited, objectives of the present project proposal.

Project lead: Prof. Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken (Frankfurt), Prof. Brett Barney (Lincoln), Prof. Malte Rehbein (Passau)

Co-ordination: Prof. Hans Walter Gabler (München)

Sponsors: Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)

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