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Humanist Archives: Jan. 30, 2019, 5:42 a.m. Humanist 32.399 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 399.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (19)

    [2]    From: Desmond  Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (25)

    [3]    From: Gabriel Egan 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate (31)

        Date: 2019-01-29 22:19:45+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate

Do you remeber Humanist 32.176: releasing the hares (resp. 173 "On

[quote] It is for this reason, or something like it, that I take what Ronald
Haentjens Dekker or David Birnbaum says about data structures for the
representation of text seriously, but not what some other scholars say
about that topic.  Jerome McGann has suggested indirectly that his
rejection of SGML and XML is analogous to quantum theory's rejection of
Newtonian physics.  But I have sought in vain in his work for any
alternative suggestion concrete enough to implement (let alone one that
works better for scholarly computing than SGML and XML).  I fear that
from where I sit, McGann's attitude towards SGML and XML looks much more
like the Flat Earth Society's rejection of Newtonian physics, or
creation scientsts' rejection of geology, than like quantum physics.

Greetings, Herbert

        Date: 2019-01-29 13:54:13+00:00
        From: Desmond  Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate

"Text is renditional" - what is that supposed to mean? Are you trying
to justify the fact that XML encoding blurs the distinction between
semantic and renditional aspects of markup? Because it sure as hell
does. But what are we going to do with the semantic aspects of markup,
exactly? Are we going to analyse marked-up texts of novels and
discover that the meaning of chapters is that they are composed of
paragraphs? Or that [author] tags in poems by Charles Harpur quite
often contain the words "Charles Harpur" Wow. Now sometimes in
newspapers the author is in a smallcaps font. Does that mean that we
are going to render all authors in smallcaps? Of course not. Where it
occurs we will add an extra smallcaps tag. So there is zero
renditional data in the  tag. We might as well delete all the
[author] tags because they are useless.

The only markup worth having IS renditional. You can't markup all
desirable semantic aspects of a text without spending $10,000 per page
and then no one could read it. So even then it is worthless. You're
better off marking up a text lightly with renditional features and
then extracting meaning with a concept mining tool or AI.

Desmond Schmidt
Queensland University of Technology

        Date: 2019-01-29 08:24:18+00:00
        From: Gabriel Egan 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.396: the McGann-Renear debate


Patrick Sahle wrote:

> Texts are not hierarchical -- markup languages are.

I would want to defend the claim by Allen H. Renear and
others that texts are indeed essentially hierarchical.
Teaching computational methods to English Literature students,
I would describe this insight, which we approach through
DeRose et al.'s essay "What is text, really?", as a revelation
to them.

Students repeatedly express astonishment that nobody had
told them about tree structures before, and once they learn
about them they see them everywhere. They do of course spot
that some literary texts resist hierarchies, and they take
that in their stride in the same way that they take some
poems violating the meters they are written in. The norm
is reinscribed as the norm by the very violations of it.

I'd be interested to hear Patrick Sahle expand on his remark
that "even character encoding conveys textual meaning by
renditional features".


Gabriel Egan

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