Archive for the ‘Literary Review’ Category

Literary Review of James Cummings’ The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature

In Literary Review on March 29, 2011 at 12:14 pm

Having talked about TEI, XML and other such coding initiatives in class for a few weeks did make it easier to understand some of what James Cummings was referring to in his article, however, I did find a lot of the information a little difficult to digest. I would certainly feel that sometimes there was a little too much detail given, such as the example, where the depth of the detail simply led to more confusion. The article was perhaps to in depth for someone looking for a basic understanding of the concept of TEI, and would have no doubt been of more benefit to someone with a greater prior knowledge of TEI. However, based on my limited knowledge, I picked out a few interesting points whilst going through the article.

The fact that TEI develops based on the needs of different projects was interesting, especially when thinking back to the Alan Liu article and considering the development of new media from spoken word, to writing, etc. which was identified as arising from the various needs of generations. The idea of a community development of TEI, with different projects ‘customising’ the language to use it for specific needs was also interesting, showing the flexibility in the mark-up, although it did make me think ahead to the point that would be made later that this surely would (and seemingly does) create problems when looking at the concept of interoperability.

I felt somewhat justified in my bemused feeling when reading that there can be a lot of confusion caused for new users of TEI, especially when it came to the concept of using specialised or generalised modules. I wasn’t able to digest this on the first reading, but perhaps another reading of the text would solve that problem.

It was interesting to see the responses to TEI as an information system which could be seen as damaging the creative/imaginative test, yet in my mind I would have seen TEI as much more of a supplement to the imaginative text, which allows further investigation and exploration. It was somewhat fitting that TEI was described as an interpretative system, reminding me of an imaginative piece of text, such as a poem, being very much open to interpretation as well. The ambiguity resulting in this interpretation, and then later in the discussion of customisation where the same problem arose, was quite insightful.

Though much of this article went sailing over my head, it did give a solid foundation in establishing what the goals of the TEI were and also gave a comprehensive examination of the pros and cons. Many of these were pretty self evident, but it did raise some interesting issues that I would not have considered. A second reading would definitely be needed, but a good introduction, if not a little too in-depth. The article would most probable have benefited from better structuring, introducing a smoother learning curve, beginning with a more basic assessing of TEI before launching in to the specifics provided in the essay.

This article can be found here.


Literary Review of David Z. Saltz’s Performance and Interaction

In Literary Review on February 23, 2011 at 1:23 pm

Slatz offers a comprehensive look at the introduction of digital technology into theatre, dance and art installations (labelled under the term ‘performance’). Beginning the history of new media’s introduction, Saltz uses the interesting concept of interaction with a computer as a performance in itself, as computer users perform real actions within an imaginary framework, such as throwing files into the recycling bin. This idea follows in to the fact that new media’s interactivity allows it to be brought closer to live performance, which is developed later in the text when the idea of dance and music interactivity is touched on, whereby the movements of the dancer can be translated into sound by motion capture technology. In addition, the usefulness of databasing to theatre historians is mentioned, along with the benefits of computers to theatre set, light and sound design and operation.

The history of new media in performance was comprehensively covered, with a concise breakdown of the different aspects of performance influenced by developments in technology. Although this was effectively handled throughout the article, it did feel like there was an absence of critical evaluation of the effect of these developments on performance practices, whether it has been a positive shift in the attitude towards performance or whether it has had more negative consequences. The problem of context was raised when discussing simulation of 19th century theatres (mentioned in relation to Saltz’s Virtual Vaudeville project) and how a 20th or 21st century audience might misinterpret the significance of the environment and performance. This left a lot to be desired and a handful or mostly unanswered questions at the end of the article did little to compensate.

It cannot be denied that Saltz has a strong understanding of the presence of new media in performance, and the examples listed in the article are extensive, and provide a sound foundation upon which to explore the subject further, and having looked further into a few of these examples it did prove exceptionally helpful in understanding the importance of new media in performance studies. These examples were all relevant where mentioned but after giving three examples of projects using virtual scenery, it did feel a little superfluous and it could have possibly been of more benefit to examine another aspect of digitalised scenery rather than over-analyse one particular area.

The conclusion to this article suggests that there is more to be said on the topic of new media in performance, with many of Saltz’s concluding questions leaving many avenues open for further exploration and possibly a more in-depth analysis of what new media’s introduction really means for the definition of theatre, as first developed by the Greeks and gradually adopted by the Elizabethans, and so on. Having read the article it did not feel like any opinion or viewpoint had been particularly expresses and while it can be presumed that Saltz would of course be in favour of digitalisation in performance, considering his background study in the interaction of performance and new media, it would have been beneficial to the academia of the article had he approached the subject more objectively and argued for the reasoning behind the incorporation of new media into performance, and perhaps looked at the advent of new theatre and performance emerging through media such as Second Life and indeed the ‘liveness’ of theatre, a question only brief raised, unfortunately, in the conclusion of the article.

This article can be found online. An interesting example of the interaction between new media and performance can be seen in this video.

Literary Review of Ken Price’s Electronic Scholarly Editions

In Literary Review on February 6, 2011 at 6:12 pm

Having re-read Ken Price’s article in the Companion to Digital Literary Studies, I have to say I found the article quite accessible, despite a few technical problems which were more from a lack of understanding than a poorly conveyed argument. This was the second time I read the article, and I’d definitely recommend a second reading, as the first section of the article was pretty much lost on me the first time I read it, because it took me some time to get to grips with the idea of what an ‘electronic scholarly edition’ was. Though the article was for the most part easy to digest, there were a few sections I found difficult to comprehend.

The idea of an electronic editions uncertainty in the future baffled somewhat. Would it not be the case that an edition being electronic, by its very nature, would never lose relevance in the same way that printed editions have, due to the ease of editing and updating these resources? If I were to come along in 10 years time and prepare a scholarly discourse on the work of Walt Whitman, would Price not be able to solidify the certainty and lifespan of the Whitman Archive by adding my academic musings to the edition? Along similar lines, the idea of an electronic edition having stability also perplexed me, because surely one of the benefits of an electronic edition is it’s adaptability to changes in scholarly discourse surrounding a topic? Would it not be detrimental to the purpose of these archives if they were to never change from a certain point? Are they not similar to news websites, such as, which will never be a stable entity because its content is constantly changing and renewing (this is perhaps an extreme comparison as an electronic edition would never change with the same frequency as a news website, but the point still stands, I feel). I can appreciate the concept that the frequency of change and renewal of the electronic edition could cause problems in the form of citations and references, but it does seem a minor negative compared to the overwhelming benefits.

Price also writes about the way electronic archives can ‘blur’ the nature of a text, by presenting multiple editions and variations that may have existed across the lifespan of an author or a specific text. My argument here is that this would surely be a positive characteristic as these archives (following in the footsteps of their printed ancestors by amassing a wealth of documents/versions) can now serve as an editorial, or even an academic, assistant to a printed edition, rather than a source for a definitive text. Here I think of my own experience with the William Blake Archive, having studied his prophecies in a seminar last year. Working from a printed edition of the text (which would be a ‘scholarly edition’ as it chose one specific version of the illuminated text, rather than presenting them all) I was able to use the Blake Archive in conjunction with the text in order to expand the potential meanings and my own understandings of Blake’s poetry. It would have been a nightmare to use the Blake Archive as a text, because of its scope, but it was definitely a useful study and exploration tool. This links with the interesting point Price makes about the search for ‘Final Intentions’. Personally, I would feel such a project as the final intentions of an author would be best saved for a printed edition, because of its definitiveness, rather than something which constantly changes, such as the electronic archive.

To look at some of the more positive aspects of Price’s article which I agreed with, he makes an interesting case for the limitless possibilities of the electronic edition, whether it be through the potential for displaying images or the loss of the printed page boundaries. I also found the concept of the impossibility of neutrality in a scholarly edition interesting, even though I would have initially disagreed with the statement, but it does make sense that the information provided in an edition, whether it be selected documents or a huge coillection of everything possible, will always provide some sort of bias. The collaborative nature of electronic scholarly editions was another interesting point, and certainly something I would see as a positive development in academic discourse, as an edition compiled by many scholars will surely be more informed than just one solitary scholar.

Some parts of the article I did find a little inaccessible, such as the argument for XML and METS. This was more my own lack of the technical understanding of these concepts, but I did vaguely understand what Price was alluding to in his discourse of them, and the importance of the international standard of formatting and mark-up. I also had problems with Price’s claim that the Press Publishers could contribute to funding for electronic editions, as surely they would see this as something damaging their own medium. Would it not also raise such problems as lengthy peer-reviewing and compromise the open source mentality of these electronic editions? And with regards to the concept of neutrality in an edition, Horton’s quote that readers “expect writers to blaze trails for them” was very apt, seeing as even Price himself is blazing a trail for us, his readers, in his discourse of electronic scholarly editions.

This article can be found online, and is certainly worth a read.