On 30 November, Tony Tremblay of St. Thomas University launched his new EMiC-supported digital edition, Fred Cogswell: The Many-Dimensioned Self. Tony’s edition features the selected works of Fred Cogswell, as well as a critical appraisal of Cogswell’s creative and cultural works.
Fred Cogswell was one of New Brunswick’s best-known and beloved editors, publishers, poets, translators, and professors. In this edition, Tony provides evidence that Cogswell — whom he calls a man of “indefatigable energy for work, creation, compassion, and leadership” — was a pre-eminent cultural worker who stands as a pillar of twentieth-century Canadian modernism. Tony has organized the edition to represent the different aspects — or dimensions — of Cogswell’s life and works, beginning with a biographical chapter, and then covering Cogswell’s poetry and editorial correspondences, respectively. The final chapter of Tony’s edition provides a comprehensive and up-to-date bibliography of Cogswell’s work.
Content aside, Tony’s new edition is also exciting because of its digital format. Working with Archives and Special Collections at the Harriet Irving Library and the University of New Brunswick’s Electronic Text Centre, Tony has designed an edition with an interface that will accommodate casual readers and scholars alike: while the ISSUU format allows readers the comfort and familiarity of viewing the text as a simulated Gutenberg book, the quick links and search feature allow scholars to locate specific parts of the text. Further, the ISSUU software provides options for visually impaired readers, making this edition truly accessible to as many readers as possible.
Tony hopes Fred Cogswell: The Many-Dimensioned Self is the first in what will be become a series of digital editions of out-of-print texts, and he intends his new edition to serve as a template for future editions of Canadian modernist texts. Tony’s work on Cogswell has laid the groundwork for the future of digital dissemination, which will provide exposure to long-neglected Canadian collections and writers.
Andrea, a PhD student at the University of Alberta, is working on a critical edition of Canadian manifesto print entitled, Between Poetics and Polemics: Canadian Manifestos 1910-1960. Andrea’s project reproduces political, literary, and artistic texts that set out to assert and define the social and intellectual movements of their time, reclaiming them for study as part of the Canadian modernist period. Because Andrea’s goal is to make largely unknown or out-of-print texts available to readers and students of Canadian literature, politics, and history, this edition is intended for both classroom use and scholarly research, and will present the manifestos in a clean reading format with a brief contextual introduction and extensive annotations.
Now in her third year of working on this project, Andrea has mostly completed the transcriptions/reading copies of the manifesto texts, and is currently working on annotations. Once she has completed annotating the text, Andrea will write a general introduction for the edition and short introductions for each text section, which will include notes on the texts and her editing process.
So far in her process, Andrea has not run into many major problems. Copyright for some of the previously published texts has presented a minor issue, but most of the manifestos in Andrea’s edition are out of copyright, and many exist only in a single version. Andrea’s main challenge has been balancing landmark pieces with less familiar authors and texts, and she remains concerned about the inclusion of women and non-white writers.
The inclusion of francophone texts provides another challenge. Quebec’s twentieth-century political movements produced many valuable texts — including Refus global — which are essential to Andrea’s edition. However, this raises the issue of translation: should Andrea include francophone texts in the original French, and should she provide an English translation?
At first, Andrea was concerned about balancing the political range of the texts, but in working through a definition of the manifesto as a form and genre, she has come to focus on left-oriented texts that are revolutionary, not reactionary, in nature. The result of this focus is a rich and cohesive set of interrelated texts.
Because Andrea is also currently conducting research for her dissertation and taking part in a number of related commitments, time remains her greatest challenge. For now, she is engaged in the time-consuming but absorbing process of annotations.
This is a relatively short note about something that has been nagging at me for some time. Over the course of the first part of my EMiC-funded project – to digitize and create a database of the poetry, prose, essays and life writings of George Whalley – I have learned a great deal about editing for an edition, and specifically about the ways in which the digital environment facilitates versioning. It has occurred to me over the course of my work and while attending various conference panels on digital editing that perhaps we, as digital editors, are less attuned than we should be to recording the genesis of our own projects for institutional memory. The process of putting together a digital edition seems potentially endless. Whalley’s writings could easily take a lifetime to collect, digitize, and describe, let alone tag in TEI, explicate and annotate, and visualize using visualization tools. I wonder whether there is any sort of protocol for recording our editorial choices for the next person who takes up work on the author we are working on, or whether siloing and/or lack of such protocol dictates that scholars newly approaching the subject lose out on all justifications of the hard work done before, and have only the finished product from which to infer method. I think the issue of erasure of the “versions” of a digital versioning project is immediately relevant in light of the rapidity with which digital technologies are changing; if versions of a project could be saved as the project advances, it might be easier for future scholars to decipher (and repeat or diverge from) the modus operandi of their predecessors when attempting to migrate the final version to an updated information management platform.
What do people think of this? Is there a way to record the steps of digital production as there are on paper? Or are we stuck with the final product? Are we at risk of losing the justification of our work due to the erasure of genesis markers online?
I spent last week in Winnipeg, working in the U of M Archives and the Archives of Manitoba. During my brief, frantic visit, I was able to scan material for three digital projects: the digital edition of Dorothy Livesay’s Right Hand Left Hand: A True Life of the Thirties, Bart Vautour and Emily Robins Sharpe’s project Canada and the Spanish Civil War: A Digital Research Environment, and Anouk Lang’s work on Alan Crawley and Contemporary Verse.
I spent my time scanning, the true grunt work of DH. I have spent most of the past four months scanning–an unbelievable amount of time. I want to remind everyone, especially those embarking on digital projects, just how time consuming they can be. No matter how many shortcuts you come up with, you (or your greatly appreciated RA) will still have to go through the processes of creating, organizing, editing, backing up, and ingesting files.
This trip was also a reminded of how vulnerable digital projects are to technical difficulties. This week, I negotiated with no less than four different scanners. Scanners are the very worst coworkers: they are slow, they lose things, they make mistakes, and sometimes they refuse to work altogether. Now that I am back home, I am discovering what irreversible mistakes my scanner and I made, and cursing the imperfect nature of this technology.
Scanning aside, the trip gave me a chance to thoroughly examine Dorothy Livesay’s papers, specifically her documentation of the Thirties. I found some great material and noticed some interesting rifts in memory from one document to the next. She wrote many times about her job in New Jersey, a job she was forced to leave due to illness. The nature of this illness varies: in one version it is an ulcer, in another it is chronic appendicitis (for the record, I had appendicitis, and I don’t think it can even be chronic–it’s really a one time thing). In another version she attributes her illness to high blood pressure, and in another she admits it may have been “a slight nervous breakdown.” She is clearly an unreliable narrator, even concerning her own experiences.
It is only because she left behind such an extensive physical archive that I can notice these discrepancies. Deep in archival work, I began to think about how much personal records have changed with the digital turn. Now, the majority of correspondence takes place in email, text messages, facebook, even twitter. We are documenting our own lives more than ever, but is this documentation durable? Will the kind of archival research I am performing be possible if the subject of study is the so-called digital native? To me, the digital file feels far more ephemeral than the physical photograph, letter, newspaper. Maybe this has more to do with my inherent digital clumsiness–I delete when I mean to save, name files incoherently, and so on. But I still worry that 80 years from now, when I am a fascinating famous person, archivist and researchers will know little about my relationships, experiences, or actions because so much of this information is stored in networks and servers, not boxes.
Of course, we at EMiC are (hopefully) creating sustainable digital projects. Personally, I am far more cautious when it comes to archival scans. Multiple versions of each file ensure that mistakes are minimal and reversible. After all, I know how much work goes into creating each file, and I don’t intend on repeating all those processes.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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” . 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.
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.
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.