Editing Modernism in Canada


Archive for November, 2012

November 28, 2012

Eric Schmaltz: I Want to Tell You Love

Eric Schmaltz recently completed an EMiC-affiliated project to fulfill the requirements for his Master’s degree at Brock University. Eric’s project focussed on I Want to Tell You Love, an unpublished manuscript of poetry composed by two influential Canadian poets with very different styles: the staunchly labour-oriented modernist poet Milton Acorn, and the ever-changing postmodern experimentalist bill bissett.

I Want to Tell You Love was rejected by publishers because editors thought that Acorn’s and bissett’s voices were too dissimilar. According to Eric, the editors were right — but that was the point. Through analysis of the manuscript’s aesthetics and political contiguities, Eric argues that Acorn and bissett sought to put their disparate aesthetics together with political purpose, and, thus, that the manuscript of I Want to Tell You Love presents a response to the explosive socio-political conditions of the early 1960s.

Although Eric has completed both his project and his Master’s degree, his work on I Want to Tell You Love continues. Ultimately, Eric’s goal is to create a critical edition of I Want to Tell You Love. Right now, he is in the process of revising his project — a forty-five page essay that examines the manuscript and Acorn’s and bissett’s approaches to better understand what unifies their work — to shape it into the critical introduction to his edition. Eric plans to begin to edit and annotate the manuscript soon, and will base his editorial practices on editions produced by Zailig Pollock, Dean Irvine, and Gregory Betts.

A major issue Eric is facing in his quest to create a critical edition of I Want to Tell You Love is the lack of critical attention the manuscript has received. Aside from a brief mention in Richard Lemm’s biography on Milton Acorn, In Love and Anger, there is no scholarly writing which focusses on the manuscript. Consequently, Eric has undertaken the uncovering of research documents and resources, which include archival materials at the Clara Thomas Archives at York University and materials in various collections at Ottawa’s Library and Archives Canada. Eric has also conducted an interview with bissett about the manuscript (the interview appears in Open Letter‘s special issue “Convergences and Collaborative Expression”).

Eric’s main challenge at this point in his new project, however, is institutional support. Having just recently completed his Master’s degree, Eric is currently in the process of applying to PhD programs at which he can continue to study Canadian modernism, experimentalism, and avant-gardism. Eric also eagerly awaits the completion of the Modernist Commons — over the next year, he intends to continue to experiment with its tools and functions, to learn the apparatus more extensively, and, hopefully, to contribute to its creation.

November 21, 2012

Hannah McGregor on Martha Ostenso, Middlebrow Magazines, and Digital Methodologies

Hannah McGregor has tentatively entitled her study of the simultaneous 1925 serialization of Martha Ostenso’s Wild Geese in Western Home Monthly and Pictorial Review, “‘Vast and Unwieldy Archives’: Middlebrow Magazines and Digital Remediation.”

By situating Wild Geese in both of its original print contexts — one Canadian and one American, both middlebrow — Hannah hopes to challenge familiar literary historical narratives of Ostenso as a figure who contributed one important text of prairie realism, and then declined into middlebrow “potboilers” after moving to the United States. Hannah is particularly interested in how the complexity of early twentieth-century cultural production as exemplified in the frequent remediation of Wild Geese (which included serialization, as well as a novel, silent film, CBC radio drama, and made-for-television movie) challenges the familiar categories of authorship, nationality, genre, literary quality, and medium.

In her project, Hannah will engage with several different areas of literary studies, including periodical studies, middlebrow studies, Canadian literature, and digital humanities. So far, scholars working with periodicals have had to work primarily through sampling, or the model of the “telling example,” because of the sheer quantity of material in a single title. In order to place Wild Geese in its original print contexts, Hannah proposes a new method of studying magazines that attempts to understand them as complex webs of multiple forms of media (fiction, illustrations, advice columns, advertisements, etc.) without privileging any specific type over another. In viewing periodicals in this way, Hannah hopes to demonstrate through her proof-of-concept project that the middlebrow magazine can be productively modelled as a database.

Hannah is currently in the process of applying for postdoctoral funding for this project, which she would like to begin in February 2013 as part of the EMiC University of Alberta Collaboratory. As preparation for this project, Hannah is working with Paul Hjartarson and Harvey Quamen to put together an ACCUTE panel entitled, “’The Genre of the Twenty-First Century’? Databases and the Future of Literary Studies,” and to build transnational partnerships with other related projects (including Faye Hammill and Michelle Smith’s “Magazines, Travel and Middlebrow Culture in Canada 1925-1960” and the Modernist Journals Project, both of which explore the intersection of periodical studies and digital methodologies) to support this work. Hannah, Hjartarson, and Quamen are also interested in potentially working with the University of Alberta Library to digitize Western Home Monthly, which, despite being the most widely circulated magazine in Western Canada in the first decades of the twentieth century, remains an understudied cultural object.

Right now, Hannah’s main obstacle is copyright. Periodicals present a unique set of difficulties — given the multiple authors and types of material, lack of extant archive or research precedent, and absence of clear documentation of copyright policy — and Western Home Monthly is no exception. If you know of any resources that might help Hannah track down the copyright information for Western Home Monthly, or if you know of any other projects that are working at the intersection of any of her project’s primary concerns (middlebrow, periodicals, databases), please feel free to get in touch with Hannah at hannah.mcgregor@gmail.com.

November 14, 2012

Jacquelyn Sundberg: Livesay’s Early Lyric Poetry

Jacquelyn’s project intends to examine the historical material context of Dorothy Livesay’s early lyric poetry — the work that was ultimately collected in Green Pitcher (1928) and Signpost (1932). Ultimately, Jacquelyn’s project will take the shape of a research paper for her program at McGill.

By examining publication history, secondary reading on the time period, and Livesay’s own journals and writing from the 1920s, Jacquelyn aims to show the texture and importance of Livesay’s early lyric poetry in and to its own time, to see her poetry as those who first read it would have seen it, and to examine the subsequent marginalization experienced by the poetry of this period. The foundation of Jacquelyn’s research is the primary material she has gathered, which includes the analysis of selections of poetry itself and their periodical published contexts before and after collection in Green Pitcher and Signpost. In addition, Jacquelyn is relying on the Dorothy Livesay papers in the Queen’s University archive, which provide concrete dates of composition for some poems and a greater understanding of Livesay’s own changing opinion of this early poetry. Jacquelyn will also consult selections from the Forum, as well as polemical material from the McGill fortnightly group that gives a sense of the new guard of modernists who emerged during Livesay’s time.

At this point in her project, the main challenge Jacquelyn has faced is one that is familiar to Livesay scholars — the availability of Livesay’s material. Both Green Pitcher and Signpost were limited edition imprints that are now only found in private collections or Rare Books and Special Collections, making these texts relatively inaccessible for casual readers. As of yet, there are no digital editions of these volumes, which means that access is restricted to those who are willing and able to venture into literary vaults. The accessibility of the various periodicals in which Livesay was published during her early years has also presented a challenge for Jacquelyn, who dreams of a digitized database of all of Livesay’s work.

For Jacquelyn, these challenges have raised the question of how to make Livesay’s early poetry more accessible to general readers. Livesay’s early verses have gradually disappeared from her later selections and collections, despite their contributions — in theme, imagery, and technique — to Livesay’s later poetry. Jacquelyn has argued on behalf of the inherent merit of Livesay’s early work, at least in part because it captures the crossover between poetic tradition and innovation that was happening at that time, and now she is looking towards an eventual digital edition of Green Pitcher that incorporates some of the periodical appearances as well.

After having spent the summer reading and researching, Jacquelyn had the opportunity to present a portion of her research in a short paper at the DAGSE conference in August 2012. She is currently writing a first draft of her project.

November 14, 2012

EMiC Publicity

My name is Amanda Hansen, and I am a new Research Assistant with EMiC. My particular responsibility is to maintain regular and consistent communication of EMiC projects — in order to do so, I will be posting updates about various EMiC projects on a (roughly) weekly basis. Because I am taking on the role of an editor posting on behalf of EMiC researchers, I will be writing updates in third person, which will be a noticeable shift from the first-person posts of the past. Please look for these updates here, and on Facebook and Twitter.

November 11, 2012

Interface Design and the Modernist Versions Project

My name is Daniel Carter, and I’m a PhD student in Information Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m currently working with Dr. Tanya Clement on the Modernist Versions Project and wanted to write briefly about what we’ve been thinking about in relation to digital editions and collation.

My role in the Modernist Versions Project is currently to think about the design of tools used for collation and of the interfaces that are used to display versioned texts. My background is in Modernist literature (MA from The Ohio State University) and web development and design—so this is work that’s more than a little in line with my interests.

At the moment, I’m working on reviewing existing tools for collating texts and for presenting TEI-encoded versions. I’m also working on prototypes for interfaces that would allow users to more easily view and annotate multiple versions of texts. Screenshots of (very early) progress are included below.

Prototype for viewing multiple versions of a text. Show: Ancestry by Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven

Related to this work is an attempt to think about how design methods function (and don’t) in a humanities project. In this, I follow Stan Ruecker and Alan Galey in arguing that design “operate[s] in the messy middle ground between interpretation and making, and … can contribute to a theoretical framework for new questions facing humanists” [1]. On one hand, I think this line of thought encourages us to consider the ways the interfaces that we currently work with are structuring our relations to and conceptions of things like texts, editions, collections, etc. On the other hand, it gives us license to imagine new ways of working with text.

Prototype for viewing multiple versions of a text. Shown: an excerpt from Ulysses by James Joyce

This “messy middle ground” is a place where the multiple theoretical positions that the humanities promotes can mix it up with the considerations of real users and technologies that an information school focuses on. It’s a fun area to be working in, and I’m looking forward to sharing more of our work as prototypes and sketches work their way toward, well, probably more prototypes and sketches. I’m grateful for EMiC’s support, and I look forward to meeting many of you this summer in Victoria.


The version of “Ancestry” shown above is borrowed from Tanya Clement’s In Transition: Selected Poems by the Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven.

1. Galey, Alan, and Stan Ruecker. “How a Prototype Argues.” Literary and Linguistic Computing 25.4 (2010): 405–424.

November 5, 2012

An Update on Katherine Wooler’s (b)p-roject

Thanks to the kindness of Ellie Nichol, Katherine has full copyright permission for bp’s work. Now she is ready to start on the first part of her project: creating a critical edition of bp’s Dadaist works. Katherine’s priority to is make sure she does not overlook any of bp’s work, so her first step has been to collect as much material as possible. Given the sheer volume of poetry bp published, locating each and every work is a challenging endeavour. Fortunately, Katherine spent the final year of her undergrad degree perusing bp’s work in Dalhousie’s special collections, so she knows where to look for the specific works she wants to study in greater detail.

Still, every time Katherine searches through a different library or online database, she finds something she did not know existed. Almost daily, new bp works arrive through document delivery and inter-library loan. Katherine finds “An Online Archive for bpNichol” to be a particularly useful tool in creating a complete bp reading list, and she also consults the writing and bibliographies of such bp scholars as Stephen Scobie and Douglas Barbour. Right now, Katherine is awaiting the arrival of the Open Letter issues that were dedicated to bp, and she plans to visit Simon Fraser University in June to see their collection of bp works. Even though the sheer volume of bp’s creative output is overwhelming, Katherine loves to read everything bp.

A major part of Katherine’s process involves the digital or technical aspects of her project. She recently bought the Adobe Creative Suite 6 software package, and is developing her Photoshop skills while learning to use InDesign and Dreamweaver. This is a big learning experience for Katherine, but she has many knowledgeable people around her to provide advice and expertise.

One technical issue Katherine has encountered so far involves the question of how to present the different versions of a concrete poetry text. Collating software — such as Juxta and The Versioning Machine — compares different versions of a text, but it needs to read text in XML or plain text. This type of software works well for prose or more traditional forms of poetry, but is not all that useful for concrete poetry. A possible solution for Katherine is to use OCR (optical character recognition) software, but using OCR means that Katherine will not be able to create TEI markup for concrete poems or have searchable PDFs.

Admittedly, the absence of searchable PDFs is not as much of an issue for bp’s concrete poetry, some of which is composed of one repeated word running on various angles or a creative reorganization of the alphabet. Katherine’s main challenge in digitizing bp’s work is that word images cannot be conformed into any machine-readable code that relies on the strict organization of elements — that challenge is also the beauty of bpNichol.

Ultimately, Katherine’s project goal is to create a website that presents a small selection of bp’s work and explores three different editing approaches, but for now, she will continue to scan, scan, scan.