Digital Scholarly Editing Blog Post #1: Notes on marking up an excerpt of James Joyce’s ‘Wandering Rocks,’ in TEI

The following is a blog post intended to provide a context and rationale for the marking up of Leopold Bloom’s section of ‘Wandering Rocks,’ the tenth section of the tenth episode of the novel Ulysses (1922). This blog post will provide a description of how the process of marking up the text was carried out and will provide reasons for doing so. The chosen methodology has been documented in the interests of providing a transparent editorial model, so that potential readers, both of the code and of the text produced through the code, are aware of the editorial mediation that has taken place and why. As William Kretzschmer argues:

The making of any model is a deliberate act of the maker, in part a reflection of the marker’s theoretical foundation and assumptions about what is represented. The more explicitly the ideas are formulated and made known the more usable the model will be for others besides the maker and vice versa.[1]

It is therefore the contention of this blog post that the documenting of the editorial approach and consequent declaration of editorial principles in tandem with the process of digital editing is fundamental to the process itself and should not be regarded as an extraneous or trivial activity. Firstly, it encourages the editor to engage more deliberately with the process as it is being carried out. Secondly, it can provide an intellectual foundation for future editors, whether they are dealing with the same texts, texts of the same, ‘high-modernist’ genre, or texts that are completely different. For these reasons, this blog post is intended to provide a point of departure and a means of assisting others in identifying potential flaws or discrepancies in the mark-up method, which can perhaps be improved upon in the work of others.

This text was chosen for the first exercise in TEI mark-up because of its complexity. While there are no shortage of elements and tags permitted within TEI, it is certain that there are few texts that would challenge it as much as Ulysses. While the episode chosen, ‘Wandering Rocks,’ is not as structurally complex or phantasmagorical as other, subsequent episodes, such as ‘Circe,’ it nonetheless poses certain challenges to users of TEI, particularly for novices, as will become clear.

‘Wandering Rocks’ is an episode in which Joyce attempts to demonstrate the functionality of a rigid and empirically verifiable chronotope in prose, by documenting the activities of a number of different characters in his novel walking around Dublin at the same time. This is not done in a straightforward manner by an objective narrator that informs the reader directly as to the time and place of each character as we read, but via more elliptical means. To this end, the episode is divided into nineteen different sections devoted to different characters. Sixteen of these nineteen sections are interpolated by the activities of a different character in a different part of Dublin at the same time, to promote the idea simultaneity and synchronicity being at work in the episode.

The section that has been marked up in this instance is one in which Leopold Bloom is browsing a number of titles at a bookstand. Quotations from said works are rendered on the page, which would in theory necessitate the use of tags and elements that distinguish them from the text ‘proper.’

Marking up a novel composed of a disparate mélange of voices would be challenging enough, but Ulysses in many ways makes it even more difficult. Often, the ambiguity that exists as to where the dividing line between the representation of the narrator and the thoughts of any given character can be drawn is precisely the point and to ascribe particular sentences to definite agents would be an interpretative exercise and contravene the deliberate playfulness of the novel. Robert Gogan’s ‘Remastered’ version of the novel, for instance, italicises each instance of internal monologue, in order to allow more inexperienced readers access to a famously inaccessible text. However, such an endeavour elides its own interpretative nature. It is fortunate therefore, that the elimination of ambiguity and spaces for readers to form their own impressions is not necessarily what TEI is designed to do. This depends on the agency and the choices made by those responsible for marking up a particular text.

It was decided that the Hans Walter Gabler edition, collated from Joyce’s manuscripts would form the basis of this exercise. This is not only because academic consensus has decided that this is the ‘standard’ version, though there are some exceptions this, but because of the line numeration that the Gabler edition adopts. This not only presents us with an accepted method of referencing the novel in Joycean literary criticism, but maintaining the required line breaks would provide another challenge in the mark-up process. The use of the Gabler edition also necessitates that Gabler be cited in the TEI Header section as an editor, which would not be necessary if another edition of Ulysses was being used for this exercise, such as the 1922 facsimile edition, for example.

Each new section in announced by the presence of ellipses that appear as follows: * * *. The Gabler edition recognises them as autonomous lines in themselves, and this is documented as such. Not doing so would result in a discordant listing of line breaks and would inappropriately break with the formatting of the Gabler edition.

Bloom’s section is the tenth and is listed as such in the ‘div’ element.

As was said before, what makes this excerpt so interesting and potentially challenging form the point of view of TEI is the fact that Bloom is inspecting a number of texts from the bookseller’s collection. These are primarily pornographic titles, such as Sweets of Sin, Aristotle’s Masterpiece (1684) and Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s Tales of the Ghetto (1886). When Bloom skims these texts, they are filtered through his consciousness and appear on the page. They invoke, for Bloom, memories of his youth and a time in his relationship with his wife when they were more sexually engaged with one another. It was initially intended that the titles of these books would be tagged, along with a clarification as to whether they were fictional or not, using an element such asto indicate this. Von Sacher-Masoch is a well known writer of erotica and fiction and Aristotle’s Masterpiece but this is not necessarily the case for Aristotle’s Masterpiece or the probably fictional Sweets of Sin. This means of clarification would be carried out with the help of Don Gifford & Robert J. Seidman’s Ulysses Annotated (1989), a thorough reader’s guide to the novel. However, it was ultimately decided that as these interpretative elements were not present in the original Gabler text and that no annotation can provide a final, objective answer on the subject, this was not done and each title is marked up only as ‘.’ It is not, for example, objectively true that Sweets of Sin is fictional, as Giffords & Seidman and many other critics have argued. It may be the case that it is partially based on a piece of salacious fiction that Joyce came across that has since been lost. It was decided therefore that this mark up would preserve the typographical element of the text being marked up and maintain only the Random House edition’s use of italics when a book was being ‘quoted.’

As was said earlier, ‘Wandering Rocks’ uses the device of interpolation to demonstrate synchronicity in the episode’s prose. Gifford and Seidman delineate these as ‘interruptions.’ It was intended when beginning this exercise that they would be annotated as such within the TEI code, but as ‘interpolations.’ This change in terminology has the advantage of eliding the implicit value-judgement of ‘interruption.’ Bloom’s section features two such interpolations, the first concerning Denis J Manginni, a dancing teacher and the second describes an unnamed elderly woman, who Gifford and Seidman believe is based on Miss Flyte, a woman from the Charles Dickens novel Bleak House (1852).

As John Lavagnino points out, tagging every name in a text can seem at first advantageous and straightforward, but as this exercise has proceeded, it became clear how quickly carrying out extensive mark up can become complicated, cumbersome and problematic. Rather than adopting a time-consuming and overly-extensive mark up ethos that leaves too little room for analysis, it is preferable to deal in a more minimal and elegant style. This takes into account the extent to which this project was an exercise and was intended to familiarise a newcomer with the process of mark up. Of course each project has different needs and in some cases a more extensive encoding of Ulysses could be preferable or desirable, but this blog post is intended to sound a more cautionary note to the over ambitious. If a page and a half of the novel can generate this much difficulty, it is certain that more complicated episodes will be even more ungainly and obtuse.

[1] Flanders, Julie, ‘The Literary, The Humanistic, The Digital: Towards a Research Agenda for Digital Literary Studies,’ Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Primer,


Flanders, Julie, ‘The Literary, The Humanistic, The Digital: Towards a Research Agenda for Digital Literary Studies,’ Literary Studies in the Digital Age: An Evolving Primer,

Gifford, Don, Seidman, Robert J., Ulysses Annotated (University of California Press: 1989)

Joyce, James, Ulysses (Random House: 1983)

Lavagnino, John, Electronic Textual Editing: When Not To Use TEI


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