Editing Modernism in Canada


Author Archive

June 13, 2012

Digital pedagogies

I’m sure we are all still recovering from another fantastic year at DHSI. Who would have thought that Edmonton would be a warm, balmy relief after Vancouver Island? This year I took Digital Pedagogy taught by Katherine D. Harris, Diane Jakacki, and Jentery Sayers. It was a phenomenal experience and was made doubly so by the fact that I took the class with the lovely Emily Ballantyne. Our class came up with a collection of resources, exercises, and theorizations that can be found here: http://web.uvic.ca/~englblog/pedagogydhsi/

Below is a project that Emily and I came up with together that would work as a scaffolded (i.e., multiple-assignment based) task. We had a lot of fun working with it and I really enjoyed working with the PressBook tool. If you know anything about WordPress then it is super intuitive. The PressBook itself can be found here: http://engl4312.pressbooks.com/

A word of warning about the PressBook itself — for time’s sake all of our definitions were lifted straight out of Wikipedia (a practice we definitely would discourage in the classroom). But such is life. Enjoy!

Creating a Mini Digital Anthology

This assignment would be built for a 3rd year focused seminar on Canadian poetry.  It would be appropriate in both a genre or period-based course where the works being studied are short (ie poetry or the short story).  This project would serve as the backbone of the course, and includes multiple assignments each with their own individual learning goals to build toward the ultimate goal of a collaboratively edited literary anthology for the class.

The ambition of this assignment overall is to understand how works are selected for a critical anthology and to understand the editorial principles that informs the textbooks the students have been assigned.  This is a learner-centered assignment that allows the student to become both an expert in their assigned field (an author) as well as a colleague among peers who must both justify their editorial principles and collaborate with others to create the final class literary anthology.

Students will be working both individually and collaboratively.  Students will be broken into groups of 3-4 and assigned an author.  Each student will be responsible for the selection of six poems that they have selected according to a particular theme or time period.   They will make informed choices about the poems they select, and will use an annotated bibliography to review currently anthologized and under anthologized poems by canonical Canadian writers.  After consulting a primary resource (an original edition of the poetry), 3 anthologies and critical biographical essays on the authors and their work, the students will create and justify their own digital edition using PressBook software.

Then, they will form general editor committees and work together to select only 3 poems to include in the class-wide anthology.  Working collaboratively, they will select their poems and write a critical introduction about these choices for inclusion in the anthology.

The anthology will end up including approximately 12 poets with 9 poems from each writer. This anthology will be the basis for all questions on the final exam. The student-generated anthology will double as a study guide for the students.

Part One (independent)

Annotated Bibliography (2-3 double spaced pages): Begin by examining three anthologies that anthologize your author and one original monograph published by the author.   Explore choices and layout.  Then select three critical resources on your author. Following proper citation style, create a full citation with a short, paragraph long summary of each resource (primary and critical) and    describe the choices made, relevance to the author and themes you selected for your edition.   Teaching prep will require:

  • Classroom instruction on research methods. Ideally bring in one of the reference librarians to talk to students about resources at the library. Talk about selection in looking for resources (not simply just finding anything for the sake of finding something.)
  • Classroom instruction on and discussion of proper citation in the discipline of English. Which sources are peer-reviewed? What is the purpose of peer review?
  • Classroom instruction on the form of an annotated bibliography. Go over examples to determine what type of information is most useful for the researcher

Critical biographical intro (350-500 words):  Construct a one page critical biographical introduction to your author.  Consult the anthologies you used in your bibliography to think about framing your writing, and tailoring the piece to the six poems you selected.   Teaching prep will require:

  • Classroom instruction on the form. Go over examples of others in the field. What type of information do you want to see? What is useful? What is pleasurable? How do you find a balance between the two? Do you need a thesis statement in a critical intro?

Footnotes and Annotations (Amount will vary dependent on choice of poems.   Keep all annotations to 3 sentences or less):   This will require annotating key ideas in the poems you selected. Are there concepts that are not common knowledge?  What historical, social and political contexts inform the poem?   Teaching prep will require:

  • Classroom discussion of the role of footnotes and explications. Go over examples of over- and under-use.
  • Collaboratively (as a class) come up with a set of guidelines for the footnotes and explications for the classroom.

The Edition Itself (Approx 10 pages including previous work).   Using PressBooks, bring everything together to create your own PressBook critical edition.

Example of a partial anthology:

1) title page:


2) table of contents:


3) Poem, “After the Rain,” PK Page with hyperlinks for footnotes.


4) Example of a footnote, opening up on a page located in the “back matter”


5. Editorial principles and selections (500 words):  This is your opportunity to reflect upon the decisions you made and your individual selections.  It is an opportunity for you to show me how and why you made the decisions you made.

  • assigned reading on editorial theory and practice that will then be discussed in class. What types of editing are there?
  • Collaboratively (as a class) come up with a set of guidelines for editorial principles and selections.


Part Two (Collaborative editorial selections)

Peer review of editorial principles carried by the other two in the group.

  • peer review will be facilitated by a provided rubric and undertaken in class

Pick 3 poems as a group based on a shared set of criteria that is collaboratively determined and write a short critical introduction to those three poems and a brief justification of editorial principles.

  • each group will use PressBooks to create their final anthology. Each anthology will be made available to the entire class.
  • A final class will be dedicated to discuss the process of creating an anthology.

June 22, 2011

Canadian Studies, Canadian Stories: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Pedagogies

25th Annual Two Days of Canada Conference
Canadian Studies, Canadian Stories:
Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Pedagogies
Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario
November 3&4, 2011

Currently celebrating its twenty-fifth year, the Two Days of Canada conference is one of Canada’s outstanding gatherings of scholars and students sharing interdisciplinary perspectives on the study of Canada. Each year, academic researchers, graduate students, undergraduates, and community members representing a wide range of disciplines and interests meet to share knowledge and expertise about matters of importance to Canadians. We are marking the 25th anniversary with a call for papers on the state of Canadian perspectives and Canadian scholarship within and beyond Canadian Studies. The theme for Two Days of Canada 2011 is ‘Canadian Studies, Canadian Stories: Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Pedagogies.’ The conference will be held at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, on November 3&4, 2011.

The Two Days of Canada conference invites papers reflecting current research and thinking on ‘Canadian Studies, Canadian Stories.’ Possible topics include but are not limited to:
• Canadian Studies in universities and colleges; changes and challenges
• Pedagogy and practice in Canadian Studies
• Canadianists and Canadian perspectives in the traditional disciplines
• Interdisciplinary scholarship and research in Canadian Studies; theory and method
• Indigenous Studies and Canadian Studies
• Diversifying Canadian Studies; multiculturalism, post-colonialism and globalization
• Canadian Cultural Studies; beyond cultural nationalism
• Place and space; geographies of Canadian Studies
• Canada and Quebec; comparative perspectives in Canadian Studies
• Local sites and stories in Canadian Studies
• Origins and histories of Canadian Studies
• Canadian Studies in the international context
• Narratives of nation and locations of Canadian identity
• Canada and the US; the binational relationship in Canadian Studies
• Canadian Studies in the community; citizenship, engagement and participation
• The future of Canadian Studies; interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary?
Please send a 150 word proposal and a one page CV to:
Dr. Marian Bredin, mbredin@brocku.ca
Centre for Canadian Studies, Brock University,
500 Glenridge Ave., St. Catharines, ON L2S 3A1.
All submissions must be received by August 19, 2011.

August 31, 2010

Fumbling for what we do not yet know

I recently finished reading Jerome McGann’s Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web (2001), a text that documents McGann’s co-creation of The Rossetti Archive, a digital archive begun in 1993 and supported by The University of Virginia’s Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities (IATH).  The first thing that struck me as incredible was that, although published nearly ten years ago, many of McGann’s concerns still remain of utmost concern for digital humanities today.

While the warning cries of downfall of the book that he documents as present back in 1993 are today echoed in heated debates surrounding e-readers and Google Books, McGann soothes these worries and asserts that the digital age will not bring about the death of the book but instead allow us a chance for critical reflection on the technology of the book.  He asserts that a digital environment exponentially expands the critical possibilities of editorial projects such as The Rossetti Archive.  “When we use books to study books,” he notes, “or hard copy texts to analyze other hard copy texts, the scale of the tools seriously limits the possible results” (55).  That is, he sees traditional textual forms as “static and linear” in nature and digital forms as “open and interactive” and therefore able to move beyond the media of the primary text being studied in order to critically reflect with a broader and more elastic perspective. (25)

If we agree with McGann’s formulation of the static/linear versus open/interactive dichotomy of text and digital forms (Do we agree?  Dichotomies are scary.) then what I want to start envisioning are editorial and critical projects that really do go beyond the formal limitations of the book.  Here are some questions I’ve been throwing around:

1)    What are the formal limitations of the book?  Are these limitations truly dictated by the physicality of the book and all the ways we interact with it or are there psychological / social limitations that we have placed upon it?  What are our reactions, to use a radical (but is it?) example, to an editorial method based around book burning.  It seems abhorrent because of the social history of book burning but what possible textual illuminations (ha!) could such an editorial method produce?  Maybe that’s a weird example, but what I want to start teasing out are the possible divisions between physical and social “limitations” of the technology of the book.

2)    How can a digital environment help us to start such a project?  How can studying the changes in text between these media broaden our understanding of the book?  What would such studies look like?  What sort of studies are already out there that attempt this?

3)    Can we even start to project how such studies would then change the way we make and receive texts in both media?  Do you believe McGann when he states that digital technologies allow for “interpretive moments” where not only do we discover “what we didn’t know we knew, we are also led into imaginations of what we hadn’t known at all” (129).

June 21, 2010

nuancing editions

The past week has been a great chance to settle back into life in Halifax (I trust many of you have received emails from EMiC HQ with updates on travel subventions and all that fun stuff) but it has also been a great chance to spend some time digesting and reflecting upon everything I learned and experienced at DHSI.  I had a great meeting with Dean and got him caught up on the week’s activities and he mentioned how connected he felt to all of us because of this blog.  With that in mind, I want to follow in Melissa and Meg’s footsteps and ensure that we continue to connect through the blog.  As we talked about at our Friday wrap-up meeting, we also want to put into place a more standardized system of posting, so that each partner institution has a “turn” taking responsibility to post each week in order to keep this space vital, relevant, and interactive.  We are going to draw up a schedule on this end of things but in the meantime if anyone has any suggestions I’d love to hear them!  As a final “teaser,” we have designated one hour per week as time for our undergraduate and graduate interns here at Dal to use this “blog” to report on the work they’ve been doing this year– so stay tuned!

One of the things that Dean mentioned he’d love to see more of is people blogging about their specific projects.  What projects did we go into DHSI with?  Were there specific issues that you went into the course with?  What issues came up during your class that may have changed the way you foresee conducting your research?

Here is my “for example.”  As I’ve mentioned a few times, I went into the TEI fundamentals course with very little knowledge of anything remotely HTML or XML related, so I brought in simply curiosity as to how learning such languages may affect the way I operated as an editor.  As I’ve been working with Elizabeth Smart’s novel By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, most of my editorial decisions have been based in the editorial theory I learned in Dean’s classes over the years on editions, small presses, and the history of editing practices in Canada.  One thing I did not foresee before DHSI was how so many of the self-same editorial theory applies over to coding.  The issue of “intentionalist editing,” as just one example, is just as pertinent to those working on digital editions as it is to those working on print editions.  I started to become quite fascinated by the changing power-dynamics between the author, editor, and reader in any digital edition and questions of how playful or malleable our new tools make the text are simultaneously exciting and troubling.

The following is an example of an editorial issue that had been sitting on the sidelines of my brain until the TEI course brought it into clear focus:

One of the challenges and joys of working with an author like Elizabeth Smart is the allusive (and thereby elusive) her text is.  Metaphors and allegories develop, weave, disappear, morph, and reappear at every turn of phrase or page.  One of the extended tropes in By Grand Central Station is that of sacrifice, a trope expressed at times with references to Jesus and at others to the “wandering five million”–the displaced Jewish peoples of war-torn Europe.  How does an editor footnote or tag these references?  Does one write a detailed critical introduction outlining these issues and then noting whenever they show up?  Does one build a narrative through end-notes that accumulates as the reader goes through?  When does an editor draw a line between noting a reference?  How does one deal with moments in the text which may be interpreted as fitting within a particular reading of the text?  These are all issues I have been wrestling with over the years and I found that self-same issue at play in my TEI project.

On the first page of Smart’s novel we find the following paragraph (image is a scanned first-edition of the text):

The section I have issue with is “her madonna eyes, for as the newly-born, trusting as the untempted.”  How does one footnote or tag a phrase such as this?  First of all “madonna” is not capitalized and therefore I argue that it takes away from the authority of a reference to the Biblical reference.  These eyes are “soft as the newly-born,” and such a reference to birth directly after “madonna” suggests to me the first of many references to Jesus in the text.  To make it even more complex is the secondary reference to “the untempted.”  Smart describes the eyes that belong to the wife of the man the narrator is planning to have an affair with as “trusting” as one who has never been tempted, but how does one read that in reference to Jesus, a figure who was repeatedly tempted?  There are a number of interpretations for a section of prose such as this, but where does the onus lie for the editor to make note of such interpretive possibilities?  Particularly in a scholarly edition? For the TEI mark-up I chose to tag the text as such:

With the following notes appearing in the “back matter”:

I’m not entirely happy with the results.  The challenge that I ended up leaving DHSI considering is how we can possibly build a framework to accommodate for nuance in our texts.  I would love to discuss how such nuance challenges us not only as scholars but as editors.  How can our new editorial tools help us address such nuance?  Could these tools possibly allow for an editorial apparatus that skillfully allows us to navigate or negotiate these nuances?  In what ways could they allow for multiple co-existing interpretations?  How does a more participatory relationship between reader and text by virtue of such tools allow for a co-existentially nuanced editorial practice?

June 10, 2010

project[ive] verse

I don’t know about you guys, but this morning’s TEI class was so useful for me because we began to see the ways in which digital projects can give us new ways of visually conceptualizing relationships between authors / publishers more generally and editions / edits on the level of text.  For me, the key line was that such projects “allow the reader to set up their ideal reading environment” by choosing the elements they wanted to see and use in the documents.  Giving such power to the reader challenges all our established ideas about author/reader/editor configurations and I truly believe that these shifting power dynamics are exactly the self same ones that our modernist writers (let’s say Wilfred Watson’s grid poetry, for example) were striving towards.

I think such tools and technologies, if we can think creatively enough about them, are going to offer us some very powerful ways to take the EMiC project to groundbreaking places in terms of our own conceptualizations of Canadian modernism.  What sorts of projects can we imagine?  Bart noted that being able to visualize the relationships between publishers, presses, and authors would be an invaluable tool for us.  What about being able to compare editorial practices between our authors?  How do F.R. Scott and A.J.M. Smith’s styles compare?  Are there gender breakdowns between editorial practices?  Et cetera, ad infinitum, yadda yadda yadda.

June 8, 2010

lunch-hour musing

The last two days have been an overwhelming combination of new information, new faces, and new ways of thinking about texts.  A relative novice to the field of digital humanities, my participation up to this point has been more on the process of digitizing physical texts and the training of undergraduate and graduate students in this process.  As I furiously try to transfer all of this new information from the receiving end of my noggin’ to the processing end, here is an initial thought:

Yesterday in “Text Encoding Fundamentals & Their Application” we learned that descriptive markup is based on a philosophy of the text: texts have a structure based on typography.  As readers we all have a fairly standardized kowledge of what those typographical codes are (i.e., we can easily identify the difference between a heading and a footnote).  Descriptive markup takes advantage of that shared or assumed knowledge in formulating its own codes.  This got me thinking about the ways that so much modernist literature works to disrupt such assumptions about the function of text.  Take Wyndham Lewis’s play with text in Blast, for example, where his imitations of advertising typography manipulates text direction and plays with multiple fonts (a style re-created even in our new EMiC website logo!).  I know I suffer from Watson-on-the-brain but both Sheila and Wilfred Watson as well as Marshall McLuhan all provide other examples of Canadian modernism’s challenge to typographical codes.  What sort of challenges do these purposeful breaking of typographical codes pose for digital humanists?  More importantly, how can our responses to those challenges reverberate back into digital humanities to enrichen the editorial practices of scholars in other disciplines, fields, etc.?