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Humanist Archives: Feb. 12, 2019, 6:14 a.m. Humanist 32.446 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 446.
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    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions (22)

    [2]    From: Michael Falk 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.444: the McGann-Renear debate (79)

        Date: 2019-02-12 00:11:22+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions


In the 2018 talk you've said:
"A text is an instance of an act of communication inscribed in a document."

I would say:

When in an act of communication a document is used, the verbal amount of the
inscriptions can be seen as 'text of the document'. If the document bears one or
more works we have to differentiate between the one or more 'text(s) of the
work(s)' and the paratext(s) both part of the document-text. How linear
linguistic texts are scattered through the document(s) is secondary in textual
scholarship, primary is the intended (by the sender) or captured (by the
receiver) unit of meaning to be hypothetically (re)constructed in all cases in
which we can speak of a (linguistically complete) 'text*. Cases of incomplete
texts will be handled with exception rules.

Greetings, Herbert

        Date: 2019-02-11 09:42:04+00:00
        From: Michael Falk 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.444: the McGann-Renear debate

(In the following angle-brackets have been replaced by square ones
to circumvent a current problem with the processing software --WM)

This has been a very interesting thread.

The idea of 'complete text' is indeed a useful concept—it forces us to
think in advance of all the things we want to model in a digital edition.

May I just reiterate the point Bill Pascoe made a few emails ago. It is not
the case that: "3. Each aspect may be represented as a OHCO: an ordered
hierarchy of content objects, a tree." This is the central weakness of XML
as a universal markup language. It insists on an impossibly strict nesting
of elements.

The essence of scholarly editing is the collation of different textual
variants. Revisions frequently create overlapping elements that XML
struggles to encode. For instance, the first version of a poem may read:

[l]From the crude records which mysterious Time[/l]
[l]Hath printed on the mountains and the shores[/l]

In a later revision, the poet may change the second line:

[l]From the crude records which mysterious Time[/l]
[l]Hath *graven* on the *giant, crag-boned *mountains,[/l]
[l]And* wild sea *shores ... [/l]

The revision starts within line 1, and ends partway through line 2. This
presents a dilemma. Either a single [rdg] or [choice] element is wrapped
around the the two lines, meaning that 'hath', 'on the' and 'mountains' are
falsely recorded as revisions, or the single act of revision is recorded as
two seperate elements nested inside the two [l] elements.

Then a later revision:

[l]From the crude records which mysterious Time[/l]
[l]Hath graven on the crag-boned *hills*, *and strewn*[/l]
[l]*In crumbled fragments, and embedded deep*,[/l]
[l]*On* wild sea shores, ...[/l]

Now the word 'shores' has been moved yet again to another element,
multiplying the dilemma of the previous version. Moreover, we now have the
sequence 'the mountains' -] 'the giant, crag-boned mountains' -] 'the
crag-boned hills'. The last revision spans an unchanged word that was
introduced in the second revision. To represent the flow complex clow of
textual revision, each atom of each revision would need to be separately
recorded and linked through a complex series of letter codes to indicate
their spatial position in each line group, and their temporal position in
the fluttering history of textual insertion and deletion.

In my own experience of textual edition in TEI - which I admit isn't\n\n
enormous - dealing with these sorts of issues requires endless workarounds
and incredible labour. And the result is not a 'true' representation of the
complete text, because in reality the elements of the text are not nested.
There is an elegant solution: store the different witnesses in different
files, and perform the string alignment algorithmically. Rather than trying
to encode the 'complete text' in a single hierarchical file, versions can
be collated pairwise as required. Pairwise collation can be updated
manually if the algorithm is found to be inadequate. This also has the
heartening result that the edition will not be ruined by the discovery of a
new witness of the text, which would shatter any carefully constructed
system of element ids.

Michael Falk, Western Sydney University

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