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Humanist Archives: Feb. 7, 2019, 6:20 a.m. Humanist 32.428 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 428.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Goethe's 'dirty trick' [Re: Humanist 32.423] (63)

    [2]    From: Desmond  Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate (42)

    [3]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate (52)

    [4]    From: Gabriel Egan 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate (66)

        Date: 2019-02-06 23:58:13+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Goethe's 'dirty trick' [Re: Humanist 32.423]


the experience of erroneous textual transmission - mistakes by authors, failures
in the communication between author and scribe, typesetting errors, etc, - has
always legitimated textual criticism. Though, one of my personal 'règles
d'airain' is to be cautious if an editor comes quickly out pointing to an
'error' on author's side because another experience in my academic life is the
observation that there are situations in which it is possible to show the
rationale behind a strange behavior. The rapidity with which Gabriel Egan came
back with the term 'error' after reading Matthew Bell's review cited in my week-
end posting was really surprising.

No, against the modern editions reviewed by Bell (including the one for which I
prepared the files delivered to the printing house) I prefer the status quo ante
as given by the first print (for this part of the text printed before Goethe's
death). I take the passage out of the reading text giben by "Faustedition" - a
really 'haute couture' luxury (Pierazzo) TEI/XML de luxe edition - but not as
shown on the screen but but adapted to rebuild the appearence of the first

Cf. http://www.faustedition.net/print/faust.30#lbefore_5150
For an image of the printed page see

A u s f o r d e r u n g.
Blickt hervor aus reichen Locken! --
Doch wir

R o s e n k n o s p e n.
halten uns
Glücklich wer uns frisch entdeckt

I think with the exception of the vertical white space before "Rosenknospem"
instead before the "Doch" line, that seems to be a pretty reasonably typeset
text. It can be understood in the following way: After the "Ausforderung" (to
come out of a placed behind the other plants; to be spoken resp. sung by actresses
figuring female gardeners) another group of singing actresses take over the
speech, coming out while beginning to sing in the hidden place.

To speak with Hugh Cayles: Such a representation of text can be seen as 'the
dramatic text itself' (what is spoken on the stage by allegoric and other
characters) along with an argument how to understand it. In other words: The
typesetting bears meaning. Surely, we can discuss if my understanding meets
that of the author; how to decide? But in the McGann/Renear-debate the question
was, IMHO, another: Can I express my argument in a formal OHCO designed
language? And I would answer NO.

So far for today resp. tonight. I'm old and eye-handicaped, I must take care of
my sanity.

If you'll respond please answer some questions: What kind of 'content object' is
the mdash after "Locken!" What's his meaning? Where to place in the tree?
Amd take a look in the mark-up done by "Faustedition".

Thank you in advance,

        Date: 2019-02-06 20:11:27+00:00
        From: Desmond  Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate

I'd like to thank Hugh and Gabriel for their contributions to this
thread. It piqued my curiosity to discover if there had been any
evolution of this old problem in the last 20 years. There has, though
not as much as I had hoped. "But, now that you've stated the whole of
your case more debate would be simply absurd". I simply beg to differ
with both of you, for the reasons already stated.

However, I agree with Peter that there is in general a tiresome
insistence that if the overlapping hierarchies problem could only be
solved then all our difficulties with XML would go away. He's right
that texts cannot be adequately modelled by a single stream of
characters with various markup trees in standoff format. It is what
was called OHCO-2 by Renear et al in 1992. I think this model comes
from computational linguists not textual scholars, and their view of
texts is understandably different.

What Peter appears to be saying is that the base-text to which the
markup applies might have different formulations (bits included or
omitted), each of which require markup. His model is not a lot
different from ours because textual variation internal to a document
can also result in alternate bits of text. But the way we deal with it
is rather different: our texts are non-linear documents composed of
fragments of text arranged in a PARTIAL order, where bits of text may
be in parallel to other bits OR in sequence. The markup then points to
ONE coherent text-stream picked out from this partial order. This
subdivides a complex problem into two parts using two separate
technologies. The "howling wind-storm" that Peter refers to is due I
think to trying to solve this problem using ONE technology that was
designed for another purpose altogether.

Desmond Schmidt
Queensland University of Technology

Dr Desmond Schmidt
Mobile: 0481915868 Work: +61-7-31384036

        Date: 2019-02-06 18:38:50+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate


I'll try to separate the themes, debating here the OHCO questions without taking
matter of the politics in the development of textual criticism and scholarly
editing in times of digital practices. (Neverthless: It would be wishable if
folks like the german TEI-project "Faustedition" would have the ears wide open
to what Peterr Robinson has to recommend.)

I really appreciate your well-reflected, pragmatic minded defense of real-world
editions in a world of imperfectness. But the question here, IMHO, is not:
Howgood or problematic is the world of text processing today? Instead,
inspired by Barbara Bordalejo's position paper, I would prefer to ask: In what
respect is this world really better than the one 20, 30 or 50 yeasearlier? And,
far more important perhaps: What wishable developments were blocked by the
adoption of industrial standards when the publishing industries was voting  for
the OHCO-way of text processing?

I'm looking for analogies. The world of programming languages was a bit better
after moving from BASIC to PASCAL in studying and practicing informatics. The
world of data base management systems was going into better times applying
relational algebra and non-redundant storage of  data. Analogously publishing
new written work was remarkably more effective and reliable after the
introduction of the SGML standard and its derivates, no question. But hold this
also for works of literary art? for the representation of pre-existing texts
standing in a long historical tradition?

Another question: Do anyone take it as historically contingent that SGML's
CONCUR concept newver  (so far I see) was implemented into a real life text
processing system? Do you mead it was superfluously conceived by Goldfarb?

you guess "the rise of markup languages has helped scholars of the stage to
think more clearly about what hierarchies really existed in the minds of early
modern dramatists as they worked and which hierarchies (such as the one Schmidt
invokes) are historically belated."
Don't see you the agreement with Desmond's suggestion: These hierarchies are *in
the mind* of someone, not on the page or on the stage. Leaving beside the
philosophical question what's 'real', perhaps we could agree in an analogy to
the databse world stating that hierarchies as descrebed in OHCO textual models
can be seen as 'views' on a certain textual data set?

Henry and Bill,
I don't understand what's the problem with pointer management in the
revision of text. Do you have never sorted an array of strings without moving
around any strings in the working storage? When I remember right the
implementation of a strong pointer concept was one of the great benefits moving
from PASCAL to C.

With kindly regards,

        Date: 2019-02-06 09:00:43+00:00
        From: Gabriel Egan 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.424: the McGann-Renear debate


I ought not to have claimed that for early modern printers
"the division into speeches" of early modern plays was
"the dominant hierarchy" in the writing. I claim this only
for the other people in my list: "Shakespeare, the other
dramatists of his time, their scribes, [and] theatre
practitioners". We used to think that some early modern plays
were printed from actors' 'parts'--John Dover Wilson held
this view--but there are good reasons for rejecting that
hypothesis, although it would help explain some anomalies
in some early editions.

Peter Robinson points out that printing itself introduces a
series of features that present difficulty for the claim
I'm making about a single document hierarchy: "Consider the
average book: the stream of semantic text (the 'text' of
Hamlet etc) is broken up by page headers, page numbers,
turned-over lines, footnotes, page footers, catchwords, etc
etc". This gets right to the point. I am indeed claiming
that the real 'Hamlet' itself is not the text that got
printed (and so acquired these new features) but the
historically earlier (now lost) physical documents that
instantiated a quite different idea of the play. That
idea was a speech-oriented one developed for the needs
of performance.

In case I haven't provided enough theatre-historical
evidence to convince everyone that the speech-centered
view of the play was the dominant one for early modern
dramatists and players, I'll mention two other pieces.
It is demonstrable that when plays were revised the
preference was to alter the middle of a speech so as not
to disrupt the 'cue', the last two or three words that
the next actor to speak would be listening for so that
he knew when to begin his speech. Speeches had a
wholeness that mattered to theatre practitioners
much more than the metrical unity of shared verse
units did.

But surely even this unity of speeches was cut across
by the practical necessity of dividing an actor's 'part'
across multiple leaves of paper? Actually, no: the
surviving documents are made of joined-together
leaves that form continuous rolls (hence we say
today that an actor has a 'role' in a play). When
they encountered the alternative hierarchy of
paper leaves, early modern theatre practitioners
turned to glue to do away with it.

Those are the reasons I think we are entitled to
treat the acts-made-of-scenes-made-of-speeches-
made-of-lines organization of a play as a tree structure
that really mattered to early modern dramatists, and
hence to take that hierarchy as our pre-eminent one.

I'm not claiming this for other kinds of writing,
just for early modern plays and only because of
the theatre-historical evidence.


Gabriel Egan

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