Editing Modernism in Canada


June 14, 2014

DEMic/DHSI 2014 One week later

It has been a busy couple of weeks: Congress at Brock University, then DEMiC/DHSI 2014 at the University of Victoria, and a week to process both. The combination has emphasized my schizophrenic academic identity. At Congress, I attended the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies, the Bibliographical Society of Canada, and the Canadian Society for the Study of Book Culture; at DHSI, although year-after-year part of me gazes longingly at Helene Cazes’s course on the “Pre-Digital Book,” I took the course on “A Collaborative Approach to XSLT” with my longtime collaborator Zailig Pollock and his son Josh, a project manager for Microsoft — in which we were exposed to an extraordinary combination of editorial experience and technical expertise.

Strange as it seems, all of these are absolutely central to my teaching and research. I am currently cutting the manuscript of the selected letters of E.J. Pratt, after which I will be revamping the digital complete letters site originally published in 1998-2002 (http://www.trentu.ca/pratt). This Fall, I will be teaching both Renaissance literature and the “core” course in the Public Texts M.A. Program at Trent University on book culture and book history, a course which surveys “the material and social production of texts and their circulation in relationship to publics, focusing on technological and social practices and the circulation of texts, from preliterate orality through the development of literacy and print to contemporary digital media.” In my own research, I work both with early printed books and digital media. I study records of aristocratic and civic entertainments for Elizabeth I and how they intersect with canonical literature, but I am also an editor of the public and private writing of Canadian modernists — A.M. Klein, E.J. Pratt, and P.K. Page. (The modernists do love initials!) Oddly enough, I do not see this as contradictory. In both cases, I am fascinated with the potential of digital media to preserve the original “material” text and make it available to contemporary readers — to convey the “text” (and “paratext”) in the diverse forms in which it has been “published.” As Zailig Pollock is perhaps Canada’s premier “genetic” editor, this was very much a focus of the course he and his son Josh taught at this year’s DHSI. His own TEI coding and Josh’s XSLT style-sheets are designed to display P.K. Page ‘s composition process — the evolution of the work and its published forms. It is no great surprise that three of the students in his class are editing portions of Page’s “complete works” — Chris Doody, the Brazilian Journals; Emily Ballantyne, the non-fictional prose; and myself, the fiction. However, while we saw what could be done with pages from P.K. Page’s Brazilian Journal, the coding we did before, and then in, class was tied to one of Shakespeare’s sonnets. In both cases, the facsimile is linked to genetic display, and the model is infinitely transferable. That is where the excitement lies.

Many of the blogs posted during and after DEMiC/DHSI have commented on collaboration and community. Since the early 1990s, I have been extremely lucky to have been involved as an editor in “complete works” projects — collaborative projects in which each editor built on the work of those who came before. In these projects, the “letters” volume tends to comes last, so that the editor can allude to volumes containing the published works. However, much of this “collaboration” is after-the-fact. One of theĀ  most important features of EMiC has been the development of a wide-ranging community of scholars working on editorial projects related to “modernism” in Canada; and DHSI has augmented that community to include “digital” media. I have attended one TEMiC and two DEMiC/DHSI summer institutes, and the community of scholars to whom I have been introduced has enriched my work in ways which are harder to quantify but extremely productive. In the joint session of two of this year’s DHSI courses — “Online Collaborative Scholarship: Principles and Practices” (a “CWRCshop” taught by Susan Brown et al) and “A Collaborative Approach to XSLT” (sponsored by EMiC and taught by Zailig and Josh Pollock) — the point was made that face-to-face contact changes the game. It really does! Thank you to Zailig and Josh Pollock, Chris Doody and Emily Ballantyne, James Neufeld, Anouk Lange, Karis Shearer, Helene Cazes, Michael Ullyot, Dean Irvine and Alan Stanley, and all the rest.

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