Editing Modernism in Canada


February 21, 2012

The Modernist Versions Project: Versioning Part III of Nostromo

Hi, my name is Katie Tanigawa, and I am a new addition to the EMiC community. It has been wonderful reading about everyone’s projects (Dr. Bessette’s study of translation in Anne Hébert’s poetry and the possibilities for interacting with Hébert’s materials in different ways is fascinating).  As someone new to DH, reading EMiC scholars’ takes on the role of digital humanities in building scholarly communities and the relevance of DH has been particularly helpful (I have really appreciated Rilley Yeo’s series among others).

As an EMiC funded RA for Dr. Stephen Ross at the University of Victoria (UVic), I am currently working with Martin Holmes from UVic’s Humanities Computing and Media Center (HCMC), Dr. Stephen Ross, Dr. Jentery Sayers, Dr. Matthew Huculak, and Julian Gunn on the pilot project for the Modernist Versions Project (MVP). The MVP will be an online database for comparative editions of various modernist texts such as A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Tarr, and Ulysses. For the pilot project, we are versioning two editions of part three of Nostromo by Joseph Conrad that were both edited by Conrad himself: the serial published in T.P.’s Weekly from January 27, 1904 to October 7, 1904 and the 1904 Harper’s edition.

In line with the vision for the MVP, the digital editions of Nostromo will be a research resource and framework for the collation of textual variants.  This resource will allow researchers to easily explore the variations between texts and thus spend more time extrapolating the significance of these variations.  The methodology used to uncover the differences in the varying editions of Nostromo involves scanning the different editions, light structural mark-up to the text, difference identification, and semantic mark-up to yield a display.  The end product is an intensive mark-up of the variants using a technical mark-up language, Textual Encoding Initiative (TEI), to produce a searchable critical, digital edition.

Because naming is so important within Nostromo, the characters have multiple aliases, and because the aliases used for characters in different circumstances shifts between editions, person names are one of the key elements we are tagging. Julian Gunn and I are currently finishing the mark-up of the two variant texts and have encountered a few key editorial questions along the way.  For example, what counts as a person name?  Does the name have to be in the form of a proper noun? Can a name simply be what someone is called? When is a job title someone’s name? Who counts as a character? Does the owl who cries “Ya-acabo” get a tag?

While the questions may seem relatively insignificant, they play a large roll in designing the accompanying ographies, the xml:ids , identifying who said what and which alias a quote is attributed to.  These tags will affect how the versioning tools are able to search for certain attributes, how the differences and which differences will be visualized, and how scholars will be able to interact with the MVP’s edition of Nostromo. As part of the pilot project I will produce a document of editorial decisions that explains why certain decisions were made such as whether or not the owl is tagged (I’m still undecided), and why names that include an adjective such as “old Viola” are considered names and not simply pared down to the proper noun, e.g. “Viola.” I look forward to collaborating with the EMiC community as the project goes through these editorial and soon, the versioning and visualization stages.

One Response to “The Modernist Versions Project: Versioning Part III of Nostromo”

  1. kmikalson says:

    This is a really interesting post, as I have just finished compiling a list of just under 700 person names, including their variations, that are printed in the 10 issues we have of Le Nigog. I faced many of the same problems. For example, what to do when there are several different Héberts, all occasionally referred to simply by their last name? And the very odd editorial decision: is God a person name? Is Jesus? Should they be tagged as the same person? What about Satan and the Virgin Mary? I was not expecting such a simple task to lead me into religious dilemmas.

    I tried to be as consistent as possible in my recording of names, but as a subjective reader I still had the urge to include titles in the proper names for some people and not others, and spent quite a while debating whether women should be tagged as “Madame Blank” when men were simply tagged as “Blank.” It is good to know that someone else is also encountering these problems, it makes the time I spent pondering them seem less wasted.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.