Editing Modernism in Canada


Posts Tagged ‘reflections’

May 3, 2011

Internet Lost and Found

“Write a blog post,” a fellow EMiC-er said to me an embarrassingly long time ago. Convinced that I had nothing of interest to write about, I mumbled something incoherent, and whoever was asking me about the blog interpreted my mutterings as “Yes, great, I’ll get right on that.” After months of avoiding the topic and agonizing about what this Blog Post would say, I came to the (probably unsurprising) realization that I did, in fact, have something to write about.

Thus far, my EMIC experience has been volunteer-based, and most of that time has been spent using my overly developed Google skills to try and find out if one or another author is still in copyright. I have been searching out the whereabouts of contributors to Le Nigog, in the hopes that we will be able to find everyone and put out a digital edition of the journal. While this may sound like a spectacularly insensitive way to spend my time (Oh, he’s dead? Died 60 years ago? That’s GREAT!), it has actually been a bit of a Moment for me about this kind of research.

There is something sad and poetic about searching for information about someone when all you have is a poem they wrote decades ago, and I think it speaks to the overall importance of this kind of project. The words “lost” and “forgotten” get tossed around about literary figures quite often, but this was my first direct experience with what those words could mean. As a child of an increasingly digital age, I went into this work with the expectation that writing such short biographies would be the matter of a few hours of computer work, but I was surprised at how difficult it is to find information on many of these people. Birth and death records are far from completely digitized, and in many cases the few scraps of information we can find about contributors only adds to the sense of incompleteness. In one case, all we have are dates and this fact: “spent most of their life in the Amazonian rainforest.” With fragments of information as enticing as that, it is a consistently frustrating experience to hit dead end after dead end searching for the rest of the story, and even more rewarding when another piece of information appears. I spent hours searching for two contributors, only to find them mentioned in a French article about chemistry research in Montreal, of all things.

While I can hold in my hands the products of their creative and critical work, the people who contributed to Le Nigog would actually be lost in an academic sense without the attention of a project like EMiC. This kind of work only speaks to the importance of bringing together these scraps of information into a digital humanities project, which draws together these scattered facts into a more coherent story about Le Nigog and the history that surrounds its production.

June 9, 2010

The Reflex

I’ve been discovering this week at DHSI that I don’t really know what I talk about when I talk about digital humanism. As someone who also talks about modernism, and Canadian modernism, and labour, and print, this fogginess is nothing new. It might even be productive.

The tools we are encountering, and the ways in which we work through them, are restructuring the ways we think about text, and place, and time. Our conversations about the digital realm and the boundaries of our various disciplines are a key part of relating to these very technical concepts and grappling with the future we are propelled toward. But we’re also talking about the way we relate to modernity and how the issues we are confronting right now are also a way of reaching through to the earlier moment that we have taken up as modernists.

I have been considering the ways in which modernist print betrays anxieties about modernity through reflexive styles of rhetoric and form. Giddens has discussed how modern self-conceptions depend on constantly ordering and re-ordering social relations to accommodate continual knowledge input. It is a process of selection and shaping – not determinism; the modern actor is self-defined and highly conscious of the world around her. I’ve been considering the conversations floating around DHSI, and our own para-conversations here and elsewhere, as part of a reflexive field. As a researcher, I have to redefine myself and my position constantly to account for new tools and approaches. As a reader, I begin to connect texts and ideas in ways I was blind to before. As a conscious actor, I have to try to filter through a world of potential to find what has meaning to me and what fits to who I am. The reflex, as I experience it, is about redefining oneself as much as it is about kickback. It’s destabilizing, and exhilarating.

Vanessa’s post reflecting on the ways TEI’s structures work to enforce typographic codes, even as these codes were challenged by many modernist writers, shows so much insight into the way our tools can force us to re-think our texts – or to reify what was once revolutionary. I want to consider our conversations in the same way. I become absorbed in the intensity of a good conversation, and have had a few already. I am an inveterate gesturer. Pub stools make for good conversational bases. I want our conversations to flow back and forth from screen to stool and back again with fluid boundaries. I will do my best this week to seek out more voices and challenge more of my thoughts on these tools and approaches. I invite you to join me (and to try to convince me about Twitter…)!