The obvious answer to your colleague is "Isn't it a wonderful thing
that we now have tools to enable "scholars to do better, or perhaps
more thoroughly, what been doing (or had wishes to do) all along." It
has always struck me as an unreasonable expectation (both on the part
of the skeptics and on the part of the enthusiastic advocates) that
technology should be like the Apollo in Rilke's poem saying to you
"Du musst dein Leben aendern" (you must change your life). What if I
don't want to change to my life but simply do this a little
differently or that a little better. If tools enable me to do that,
why is there a felt need for more?
Of course, the 'more' will come in time by itself, but on that I'm
with the mad Ophelia when she says "They say the owl was the baker's
daughter. Lord we know what we are but kow not what we may be."
With regard to digital editing, I had a 'penny-dropping' moment when
I saw Peter Robinson's side by side display of the Ellesmere and
Hengwrt manuscripts of Chaucer, where color and other markers are
used to identify differences, allowing a nonspecialist reader to take
in textual variance at one glance. That's a big thing, even though a
skeptic might say that it doesn't really add knowledge for the reader
who know how to read an apparatus criticus.
On Dec 22, 2006, at 12:56 AM, Peter Baker wrote:
> I don't have an answer, but would just like to indicate an interest
> in a discussion of the issue. A few weeks ago I was an examiner on
> a defense of a dissertation that was a TEI-conformant edition of a
> text. One of the examiners, who tends to ask skeptical questions
> about technological issues (though far from a Luddite), asked if
> the use of technology in textual editing had brought about any
> changes in editing theory, or had rather enabled scholars to do
> better, or perhaps more thoroughly, what they had been doing (or
> had wished to do) all along.
> There was a lively discussion, but the question came up near the
> end of the defense, and we had to leave without much of an answer.
> I should say that the same colleague asked me nearly the same
> question some dozen years ago, and I am feeling a bit vexed that I
> have not come up with a profound answer in the meantime.
> Daniel O'Donnell wrote:
>> I have a question: one of the things the TEI forces one to think
>> is what typographic conventions mean (obviously). I am looking at an
>> essay from a student who is quite good, but who, in his
>> carefulness to
>> document, is calling text we'd describe as <mentioned> as <emphasis>:
>> i.e. in his citation (of a passage discussing some linguistic
>> forms in
>> italics) he adds "emphasis in original". I'd started to write, "no
>> it is
>> <mentioned>, so you don't need to say you are keeping it." But then I
>> realised that that would create more trouble than it would eliminate.
>> Anybody have experience teaching text structure in a non-markup
>> where their sense of what a text is has been influenced by the
>> TEI? Or
>> is it the case that if I were better trained I'd know all about text
>> structure from pre-SGML/TEI sources? I've never really thought of
>> how my
>> experience with the TEI shapes my understanding of print, but it
>> must. I
>> wonder if it is changing textual criticism in any way?