19.530 VR scholarly editions

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2005 07:35:10 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 19, No. 530.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Wed, 28 Dec 2005 07:04:17 +0000
         From: Neven Jovanovic <neven.jovanovic_at_ffzg.hr>
         Subject: VR scholarly editions

Dear all,

It is important, and it perhaps should be stressed once again, that
Willard chose *scholarly* editions as basis for our thought experiment in
VR. In my discipline --- classical philology --- scholarly editions
consist mainly of a text and its apparatus, which is a list of all variant
readings an editor decided to include (from manuscripts, editions, other
editors; cf. an example at

It is true that editions of texts strive towards pure content, towards
something that enables us to forget the form, forget everything but the
"virtual reality" created by the text in our mind. But this applies, I
think, to *all other* editions but scholarly ones; these, with their
apparatus, strive in opposite direction. If use them seriously, i. e. as
scholarly editions, they will make immersion difficult. Surely, we can
concentrate on what we read "above the line", and disregard the footnotes
--- but do we then really use the edition for its main purpose? A
scholarly edition invites us to think about the variants (even when it
favorizes one reading over all other) --- otherwise the variants would not
be presented. Which means that a scholarly edition invites us to think
about the phenomenology of a text, if I use the term correctly.

Therefore, I would not agree with Herbert, when he writes:
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.

I think that a VR scholarly edition presents a new avatar of "the
scholarly informations about variant texts and contexts". Remember, the
apparatus as we know it was formed by *constraints* of the print medium,
constraints mostly in space available on a page, but also in typography
(each textual variant must be *translated* from its original script,
re-set into type of current edition; when Herbert says "the written word
itself", he simplifies --- is this word written or printed? if printed, in
what type? etc). An electronic text is not bound by such constraints.
What the printed apparatus necessarily *symbolizes*, a VR edition could
--- almost litteraly --- *embody*.

Of course, the main stumbling block remains: all this potential leads us
not to thinking about what is *in* the text, but about the text (and its
contexts) itself. Is this less worthy than thinking about contents?
Should this gap between texts and contents --- texts and its own VR ---
be somehow closed? Could VR help *here*?

Received on Wed Dec 28 2005 - 03:10:39 EST

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