19.516 VR scholarly editions

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 07:11:30 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 516.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 07:03:51 +0000
         From: DrWender_at_aol.com
         Subject: VR- and otherwise embedded texts

In the thread "VR scholarly editions?" wrote Wendell Piez (05.11.05):

>Even codices (or perhaps especially codices, given a nice armchair)
>can support such an immersion, if the narrative is fluent and the
>argument clear. The modality disappears; we no longer see "the text"
>for "the text". Then the medium comes into its own. At that point, we
>no longer need to represent an old familiar medium in the new one: we
>represent directly whatever we want to represent. And this is, in
>fact, the trend we see in electronic editions.

Yes, a cheap copy of a bad Mark Twain edition surely can give a poor
boy much more pleasure than a scholarly edition to a student, poor or
rich. But where does this argument lead? To teaching kids how to
read? To convincing students that they should read some popular
edition before consulting a scholarly edition? We must distinguish
between the reading experience as such and scholarly efforts to
clarify a text's history. (Isn't that what we expect from an
'scholarly' edition, namely: an edition for use in the academic context?)

Going back to Willard's thought experiment, perhaps one could rather
call this a citation, not an edition of the work embedded in the VR
context. Fundamentally speaking, it seems to be the same case when
you try to identify the edition of some written work shown in a
Godard film. Or to answer the question: what edition of Goethe's
"Werther" was read by the protagonist in Plenzdorfs East German novel
"Die neuen Leiden des jungen W."? (It is a pre-war or post-war, f.e.
a GDR/Reclam Leipzig, edition? In any case it should be the second
version because going back to the original 'Sturm&Drang' version
comes into fashion only later on in West Germany.) The difference
between film and novel is here that Godard probably not has "faked"
an edition when he is showing a Dostoewsky novel, while it is easier
for the book author to "fake" a text which is somehow altered. (It is
of particular interest in this case that the pages of the book read
in the novel are consumed in the bathroom, and that everything cited
from G.'s "Werther" is (fictively, sure) transmitted only by the
tapes recorded by the protagonist. By the way: in the original
version, intended for transmission in the radio and printed in the
literary journal "Sinn und Form", the citations all are given in
capital letters without punctation, so that it is quite difficult, if
not impossible to trace back this text to the book used by the author.)

In conclusion for today: Reading experiences, I suppose, are not the
goal of scholarly efforts in textual criticism. Scholarly editions
address an academic audience, and they present a communication
*about* texts: the actual 'text of the work' embodied in such an
edition should then serve as a reference base for the scholarly
informations about (variant) texts and contexts.

Actually, I can not see the need for any another medium than the
written word itself, printed on paper or shown in a screen window. A
totally different question would be what could be called a 'scholarly
edition' of Ridley's film "Alien" or a future VR installation when
Spielberg was switching to the new medium...

Best regards,
Received on Tue Dec 20 2005 - 02:41:36 EST

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