Editing Modernism in Canada


June 18, 2011

Embarking on Love: Producing a Digital Edition of “I want to tell you love”

My recent participation at DHSI and DEMiC was not only preparation for my upcoming MA studies, but an attempt to throw myself into a group of interested scholars, programmers, humanists and other like-minded individuals. I attended the week’s events as part of the EMiC project and I am entirely grateful that the EMiCites have taken me into their fold. Together we shared an extraordinary week of intensive learning and community building.

The focus of my academic work rests on an unpublished manuscript by bill bissett and Milton Acorn entitled I want to tell you love. The aim is to analyze and eventually produce a digital scholarly edition of the text. DHSI was the perfect place for me to begin collecting the tools and skills I need to complete the task. I enrolled in “TEI Fundamentals and their Application” which was taught by Julia Flanders, Doug Knox, and Melanie Chernyk. They were a dream to learn from. Flanders et al. taught clearly and overall the course was fun and informative. The trio made it easy for me to connect to a field with which I had no previous knowledge. Kudos to them! After the first day, my thinking of text and reading had completely changed. Not only am I now thinking about these ideas in a traditional analytical sense, but now I am considering how these ideas can be connected and then translated into a digital environment.

Admittedly, the first couple days of TEI were frustrating. This isn’t because its an incredibly difficult language to learn. It is because in the beginning stages you can’t see what you’re working towards. For a beginner like me, I had no idea what my mark-up might look like by the end. As I’m working I want to be able to ensure that I want to tell you love, as an edition, will be as aesthetically appealing as it is intellectually appealing. In order to see the end product of your encoding the text has to go through several other layers, layers which were not really addressed in our week’s agenda. A brief tutorial in CSS basics alleviated some of this anxiety, but I still possess a knowledge gap. Of course I realize that one week to learn TEI is probably not enough, other courses and more advanced learning is required. This is a responsibility I will own up to. I’m not disappointed to say that I’ll probably have to return to DHSI to build on and complete the skill set I desire.

The benefits of the TEI course do trump the drawbacks. On the other side, TEI is incredibly useful because of its ability to digitally connect interesting points, names, dates, themes, idiosyncrasies and other important pieces of information. This will be especially useful to my own project. For example, I want to tell you love is arguably a witness to the early stages of bissett’s unique orthography (an aspect of bissett’s poetry that has been of particular interest to bissett scholars for decades). One of the arguments I have developed from this point is that the manuscript marks bissett’s transition from Modernist modes of writing to Post-Modernist. His movement from a more conventional orthography to a personal, phonetic orthography is an evidence of this transition. TEI will allow me to track and take note of this transition as it occurs in the manuscript. In addition, TEI is not only a way of rendering data in a new, relevant format, but it frees the data to newer forms of analyses which consequently can open new doors for scholarship. TEI’s potential to develop new scholarship is especially important when addressing someone like Milton Acorn, co-author of I want to tell you love, whose legacy is sadly receiving less and less attention. It was at this moment of realization that EMiC’s mandate became clear. TEI and other digital tools can work to revive interest in Modernists and their writing. That’s incredible, yes?

All in all, DEMiC was a tremendous experience. The tools and skills I gained are invaluable. They will be built upon and put to good use.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.