Tag Archives: TEI

A Defense of Pragmatic Approaches to TEI Markup

A Defense of Pragmatic Approaches to TEI mark-up


Digital Humanities Internship Blog Post #3 – Dissemination and ‘Adding Value’

The following is the third blog post written in order to document progress on ‘The Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship as part of an MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. A fundamental aspect of any project towards its end, whether it is in the digital humanities or otherwise, is a process of ‘stock taking.’ This entails some reflection and consideration of the value that a particular project can be said to have added or created. In this third and final blog post, the added value of this project will be considered aswell as potential plans for the dissemination of the TEI transcription of Joseph Holloway’s Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer (1895-1944) that refer to the Queen’s Theatre. What may be done with this resource in future projects that engage with the resource of this kind will also be touched upon aswell as the relationship that this prospective fully digitised edition of the Impressions will have with the end product of approximately 36000 words that came about as a result of this internship project.

If this project can be said to have added value to Holloway’s Impressions as a resource, it can be said that it provided added accessibility to the parts of the manuscript that have been transcribed. As has been said in previous posts, Holloway’s Impressions can be obtained only from the National Library of Ireland as they are contained within an unpublished manuscript. When excerpts from the Impressions have appeared in print form, they have only done so in a very restricted or partial format because of the variegated quality of its contents. Holloway has been quoted in various studies carried out by theatre historians such as in Christopher Morash’s A History of Irish Theatre 1601-2000 (2002). In contexts such as these, Holloway often proves useful in providing the kind of eyewitness testimony that only his writings in the Impressions can afford. Those excerpts published by the Proscenium Press also mentioned in previous posts appear in a heavily edited form and only feature subject matter deemed to be of interest to academic researchers or theatre historians. Admittedly, they serve as one among a small number of publications that correspond to a particular, post-Celtic revival era in Irish theatrical history that is barely dealt with in comparison to the wealth of literature and criticism produced on the Celtic Revival era.

This project does not necessarily improve on the very partial nature of publications of the Impressions. Like the Proscenium Press edition, this project had a limited scope in transcribing only those parts of the Impressions that dealt with the Queen’s Theatre. Furthermore, in order to feature in the transcription in the first place, it was deemed necessary that they be easily accessible according to Holloway’s idiosyncratic means of indexation. This project also had to operate on a limited time scale as it was being marked as part of a module on an MPhil course. As such, much of its allotted time was spent on coming to grips with the logistics of the resource itself. This was done firstly, in order to navigate it effectively in order to produce the project’s anticipated deliverable, secondly, in to document its idiosyncratic composition so that these potential stumbling blocks could be communicated to others. This was done both for the benefit of those who will be engaging with the resource in the future and in order to present the project and its results, which was a requirement of this internship. These difficulties were essentially a result of having to deal with a resource that is available only in the form of a microfilm held in the National Library of Ireland. Reformatting a manuscript onto microfilm obviously has its advantages, especially when dealing with a manuscript such as Holloway’s, which is, one of a kind. It is an extremely valuable resource. However, moving through a reel, often at high speeds entailed that it became very difficult to lose one’s sense of place. There is no doubt that the manuscript itself would have been more straightforward to navigate, but with the restrictions that accompany the viewing of a manuscript in the NLI, this was not a workable solution.

As this transcription will be disseminated on the digital platform WordPress, each entry will be tagged and it is therefore the case that these excerpts that have been produced will be far more easily accessible than in the form that they appear on the microfilm. It is primarily for this reason that the transcription will be uploaded into segments onto a WordPress site. WordPress was chosen as a publishing platform as it is a low-maintenance content management system. In contrast with more powerful and visually based content management system such as Omeka, it deals primarily in text, which is a means best suited to the dissemination of this project’s sequence of transcriptions. Furthermore, WordPress allows for the input of TEI mark-up in such a way that will not affect the text that the end-user or reader of the blog post encounters, while maintaining the added advantage of not losing the code when it is uploaded to WordPress. WordPress also has the added advantage of allowing one to schedule the date that a particular post will be published, allowing for Holloway’s account of a production to appear on the date that he initially wrote it, whether this be 120, 115 or 95 years ago. When one of these posts appears, a Twitter account will broadcast the publication of a particular post. It is intended that the tweet read: “On this day [x number of years] ago, Joseph Holloway attended [y performance] in the Queen’s Theatre Dublin.” This tweet will then include a link to the post in question. The addition of the date and the provision of the Impressions in a blog format will have the added advantage of engaging a wider group of people, such as amateur historians who would not normally have an interest in literature or theatre history, simply because an anniversary of a particular historical event will be more likely to attract the attention of a member of the general public, in contrast to critics with more specialised interests. It should also be noted that this means of dissemination is being adopted at a time when 100 year anniversaries are gaining a greater centrality in historical discourse surrounding various nations or institutions. One can see this from recent 100-year retrospectives on World War I, the Abbey Theatre’s ‘110 Moments,’ campaign and the upcoming centenary of the 1916 Rising. It should also be noted that many of these campaigns have a strong social media presence in order to generate increased publicity and draw the public’s attention to various events or informative articles about commemoration and their history. It is hoped that through this means of dissemination that mimics the celebration of historical anniversaries of prominence in public discourse that there will be an increase in interest surrounding Irish theatre and the Impressions in particular. By spreading information about the diaries through social media it is also hoped that the transcribed excerpts will then be of benefit to researchers in Irish theatre.

At the time of writing, it is anticipated that a fully digitised version of the Impressions is to be produced through a crowdsourcing model along the lines of transcription projects such as ‘Transcribe Bentham’ or ‘Letters of 1916.’ The planning of this project is still very much in the preliminary stages but if this initiative is to go ahead it is anticipated that it will make use of a TEI schema in much the same way that other successful crowdsourcing projects have in the past. If this is to be done it is recommended that the TEI schema that has been produced and justified in this internship’s second blog post will be maintained, not only so that the TEI document that this project produced will have proved useful but also because the features that have been marked up, names of actors, playwrights, dates of performances and titles of plays can make the text easily indexable and flag features of the text that will be important to critics, historians and amateur researchers. It should also be noted that were this crowdsourcing initiative to take place as planned, the social media presence of the Holloway diaries, the drawing of people’s attention to various anniversaries of particular performances would be an invaluable feature of this project’s crowdsourcing initiative and driving of potential contributors to the site. this would serve as an example of content which could increase and develop people’s interest in the content of Holloway’s manuscripts.

Permission was applied for from the National Library of Ireland for usage of excerpts from the Impressions for a blog site. This permission for usage is pending at the time of writing, but work will begin on the uploading of the transcription into WordPress once it has been granted.

Digital Humanities Internship Blog Post #2 – ‘Why So Called I Know Not:’ Transcribing and TEI Marking Up Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’

The following is the second blog post written in order to document progress on ‘The Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship as part of the MPhil in Digital Humanities and Culture. This first post will detail the process of transcribing excerpts from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ that refer to the Queen’s Theatre and with the process of translating this transcription into a TEI document marked up according to the TEI-C guidelines.

It was decided at the start of this internship that the status of the manuscript itself would not form part of the TEI code and what mattered was the recording of the content, independent of the form in which it appeared. As such, features such as line breaks, blemishes or annotations were not transcribed.

Holloway’s punctuation is often inconsistent. His periods, commas and hyphens are used interchangeably and sometimes he will refrain from punctuating his sentences at all. Instead, they are allowed to run into one another. This led to procedural difficulties, not only because transcription becomes more difficult when dealing with jumbled syntax, but because at this point in the project it was decided that the end product would probably be provided on an open-access website. As Holloway’s diaries are presumably of interest to both amateur theatre enthusiasts as well as researchers, it was decided that as part of the transcription process the punctuation and spelling would be standardised, both in order for the code to make sense for the end-user or reader and in order to not give the impression that mistakes were made at the encoding or transcription stage. In one instance, in the entry given for the production of Sisyphus or the Forgotten Friend (1900), Holloway’s misspelling of the name of the character ‘Sisyphus’ as ‘Sisiphus’ was maintained and encoded using the element. The mistake was encoded within the element and the corrected spelling ‘Sisyphus’ was encoded by use of the element.

The TEI Header is a fundamental component of TEI documents and contains metadata relevant to the text that is being marked up. The element in turn contains and elements. It was decided that the title of this particular TEI document would be Excerpts from the microfilmed manuscript of Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer’ from the years 1895, 1896, 1900, 1905 & 1910 as regards the Queen’s Theatre. This somewhat cumbersome title was used because if the title was simply Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer it could have been regarded as an inaccurate or misleading title, as if the full manuscript is being encoded, rather than just a series of excerpts. The was encoded as ‘Joseph Holloway.’ His birth and death dates, (1861-1944) were also provided inside this element.

The lists ‘Joseph Holloway’ as being the person responsible for originally preparing the manuscript. However, if Holloway was the sole individual credited with the creation of the text, it would ignore the role of those responsible for creating the microfilm of the manuscript. Unfortunately, in the ‘credits’ for the microfilm at the beginning of the reel, the individuals responsible for carrying out the work of converting the manuscript to film are not named. Instead, The American Microfilm Company, the company responsible for the project of converting the Manuscripts of the Irish Literary Renaissance, is named. The American Microfilm Company was therefore named in the as converting the manuscript into microfilm. ‘Chris Beausang’ was named as editor and transcriber.

The element gave the publication status of the manuscript as “Unpublished” and the fact that it is currently held by the National Library of Ireland. The address of the National Library of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin 2, was provided in the element.

The element was 2015, the year that this project commenced, rather than the year that the manuscript was written or the conversion into microfilm was carried out, in order to accurately reflect the time that the TEI file was created and written.

The element contained a element, to indicate the presence of bibliographic information about the resource being marked up. The following statement was inserted into this element: “Selections from Joseph Holloway’s ‘Impressions of a Dublin Playgoer,’ microfilmed by The American Microfilm Company in 1968.”

The and elements provide a good opportunity to summarise the rationale behind the project. The following text was placed within these tags between

tags: “This TEI document was prepared as part of a ‘Lost Theatres of Dublin’ internship. This was done in order to potentially provide a basis for a future, fully digitised, TEI version of the diaries. Each date, performance, actor, playwright and company was marked up. Each entry and year is contained in a separate ‘div’ element.” The contains in turn the elements and . In the element and through use of the

tags, it was indicated that punctuation is corrected ‘silently,’ meaning that their correction is not stated in the TEI code itself. As was stated earlier, this is because the preservation of the manuscript and its bibliographic codes was not a priority for this project. In the element, the following was embedded between the

tags: “Notes are not encoded as notes. Syntax and punctuation is corrected when the lack of punctuation corrupts the sense.”

When the first year being transcribed is encoded, the

element was used. The

was ‘year’ and the year was provided by using n= immediately afterwards. Here is an example for encoding the

for the year 1895:


When beginning a new entry for a particular performance, the

element is also used, but the div type is, in this instance, given as the word ‘performance.’ The element is also used, but the use of the element necessitated use of the element , as the TEI-C assumes that the use of would always be used in a context pertaining to bibliographic information. The result for the first entry in Holloway’s diary that pertains to the Queen’s Theatre is the play Forty Thieves and reads as follows: “

Forty Thieves.”

The text of Holloway’s entries is contained within the

tags. Though this was not a priority, this breaking of paragraphs only when a new entry is started has the serendipitous effect of being faithful to the layout of the manuscript as Holloway never uses paragraph breaks inside of a single entry.

Holloway provides the date of each entry in the following format: “21 September” followed by a dash or hyphen. This was embedded inside the element while a more expansive and detailed account of the date was provided inside the angled brackets. The result is as follows: “21 Monday”.

When a theatre company is referenced in one of Holloway’s entries, it is encoded as such, using the element . By way of example, the following is one instance of how the Milton-Rays company is encoded in TEI. Milton-Rays .

When Holloway’s writing was too difficult to decipher or the ink Holloway used blotted or the text had faded (either from the microfilm or the manuscript itself) the tag was used. Initially a guess as to what was said was embedded between the opening and closing tags but this practice was discontinued because of the likelihood that it was inaccurate. The unclear tags appear in the TEI document without these guesses and read as follows: “.” This has the advantage of allowing those who may wish to build on the work of this project to see where the absences in this project are and will allow them to be filled in more easily.

Performer’s names are encoded using the tag and the fact that they are performers is declared through use of the @type attribute. An example of this from Holloway’s first entry reads as follows: “Miss Ellie White.”

When Holloway refers to a character in the play by their name, the same element and @type attribute is used, as in the following example: “Lassim.”

Holloway sometimes notes what time that he gets home at or at what time the performance ended. Initially, this was marked up using the element, with the ‘when’ @type attribute, but this was discontinued, as Holloway only uses it a handful of times in the entire corpus. The fact that this was used only a limited number of times made it structurally insignificant.

When a playwright is mentioned, the element with the @type attribute is used to declare them as such. However, it seems that playwrights often appeared as performers in the plays that they write. Therefore, what they are declared as being depended on context and were decided on a case by case basis.

On or two occasions, Holloway mentions the person responsible for the scenery, probably in instances where the scenery was of sufficient quality to merit discussion. As these instances are as rare as they are, it was decided that another @type attribute would not be used. The mentioning of the scenographer is so infrequent, creating a new @type seemed gratuitous. Instead, the @type attribute ‘performer’ was used, which is not inaccurate, considering the porous nature of different roles in travelling theatre companies.

Digital Scholarly Editing Blog Post #3: A Derridean Critique of TEI Mark-up and XML Language

The development of TEI mark-up has had the effect of standardising the encoding practice that surrounds the creation of machine readable texts. TEI has the advantage of rendering these texts in a form that is more easily indexed and searchable. Despite the fact that this non-proprietary agreed code of practice facilitates more dynamic interaction than would otherwise be possible, there are critics that argue that the hierarchical arrangement of elements in a text is antithetical to the practice of the humanities, that it contravenes openness to differing interpretations and understandings of a text through overt standardisation.

Jerome McGann is probably the most well-known among those critics of TEI encoding. This is due to his association with early digital humanities projects such as the Rossetti Archive and his writings on the theoretical implications of using an encoding language for literary data. The hierarchical nature of the language is a particular bugbear for McGann. As he writes in Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web (2001) “its [XML’s] hierarchical principles and other design characteristics set permanent and unacceptable limits on its usefulness with arts and humanities materials.”[1] This level of reticence to engage in an exercise that essentially amounts to the standardisation of literary texts can be explained by a brief and simplified survey of the contemporary critical environment within the humanities, primarily as regards literary criticism.

The trend towards systematised critical approaches such as structuralism and formalism in the early twentieth century has been wholly reversed following the development of post-structuralism, deconstructionism, post-colonialism, feminism, etc, that established themselves in response to and in conjunction with these more schematic critical approaches in order to reveal what many of these critical practitioners had neglected  or ignored. This wave of critics in the sixties and seventies were influential in emphasising the need to resist over-arching grand narratives and neat answers to textual questions. Humanities practitioners now exist in an environment where the theories of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida have entered the mainstream and are no longer as revolutionary or ‘against the grain’ as they have been in the past.

What we have inherited from these theorists I have cited above is a post-Derridean notion of what a text is. A text is infinite, endlessly referential and fundamentally indeterminate, embroiled as it is in an endless play of deferred meaning. This is the one of the cornerstones of the contemporary humanities landscape and is one of the first things I learnt as an undergraduate. One can see why there is a vocal cohort of critics speaking out against the application of a rigid TEI code that leaves no room for ambiguity in approaching a text. However, it is the contention of this blog post that many of these critics who inherit their sense of textuality from deconstructionists such as Derrida, are at least partially unaware of what it is exactly that Derrida was positing when he developed his own critical approaches. This blog post will attempt to, in as much as possible, argue that TEI is not as antithetical to deconstructionism as these critics maintain.

Firstly, this post will provide a (very) brief summary of Derrida’s ideas as expressed in the first part of Of Grammatology (1967), ‘Writing Before the Letter.’ If Derrida can be said to have one chief argument to make in this section, it is an attack that he mounts against the implicitly held beliefs of Western philosophy, which upholds the existence of a particular kind of ‘presence’ embodied in the spoken word. This has the consequence of downgrading the value of writing, which is in the discourse of Western philosophy, a mere representation or image of full speech. This distrust of an alleged representation and preference for an ideal is a tenant of Western philosophy that Derrida identifies as existing as far back as Plato’s Phaedrus (c. 370 B.C.E.). Derrida dismisses this notion of speech as ‘theological,’ a kind of scholastic purism that has no place in a post-Enlightenment philosophical framework. This binary opposition and privileging of speech is difficult for contemporary thinkers to elide, however. If it can be located in the originary Western philosophical texts, the trace of the idea remains in the philosophical schemata that have been devised since. It is therefore necessary for Derrida to make use of the discourse of Western philosophy as it exists now, for better or worse, while without perpetuating these binary oppositions and thereby prevent the implicit privileging of one over the other. An example of how to go about this is Martin Heidegger’s use of the word ‘Being’ with a line through it, to draw attention to the fact that he is discussing Being in a way that the reader would traditionally understand it, while simultaneously distancing the word from inherited notions of Being. This is one of the methodologies behind Derrida’s ‘science’ of grammatology.

This presents the question as to what deconstruction means for a programming language such as TEI. Derrida, in deconstructing a text, is attempting to rectify this relegation of writing to the margins of philosophy. Derrida posits that as a corrective, that we emphasise the endless ‘play’ of meaning and recognise the self-contradictory nature of all utterance. This would be problematic for TEI for a number of reasons. The marking up of tortured ambiguity is not a straightforward task for any encoder. When marking up a text, questions are generally rather either/or in nature. Can this alleged inflexibility of TEI be used meaningfully to approach a text of any kind? The thoughts of Derrida’s translator Spivak on the act of translation and interpretation will be productive in this context:

“Any act of reading is besieged and delivered by the precariousness of intertextuality. And translation is after all, one version of intertextuality. If there are no unique words, if, as soon as a privileged concept-word emerges, it must be given over to the chain of substitutions and to the “common” language” why should that act of substitution that is translation be suspect? If the proper name or sovereign status of the author is as much as barrier as a right of way, why should the translator’s position be secondary?”[2]

If we understand the act of marking up a text as a kind of translation, involving many of the same skills, procedures and means of interpretation, according to Spivak there is no reason why such a product would be devalued. If deconstructionists oppose distinctions being made between low/high, original/copy, why is TEI so open to criticism? From through my own (admittedly limited) reading of Derrida and the critics who use his understanding of text as devoid of inherent meaning and more of a trace effect in the mind of the reader have yet to produce a convincing reasons why the most basic units of text should be exempt from classification. Simply put, a word, a sentence or a paragraph are not always simply effects of the reader’s interpretation and can be quite easily identified as textual features in themselves.

Therefore, it is hoped that this blog post has demonstrated that one can be a committed Derridean and still carry out the work of the TEI-C with a clear conscience. As Derrida himself writes, intellection about the instability of the signifier must be consciously forgotten occasionally in order for things to move forward. Derrida never advocates the complete destruction of the economy of signs as it exists today, regardless of some of the more violent implications of the word deconstruction.

“Up to a certain point, such repression is even necessary to the progress of positive investigation. Beside the fact that it would still be held within a philosophising logic, the ontophenomenological question of essence…could, by itself, only paralyze or sterilise the typological of historical research of facts.”[3]

The question as to where this certain point is located is as always, up to the editor.

Rather than continuing to rail against that which Derrida did, we should recognise the changed critical landscape which over time has developed its own orthodoxies and blasphemies. It is these that the critic and editor should be trying to overturn and re-conceptualise. This post will conclude with the argument that it was not Derrida’s intention that we incorporate his ideas into our critical approaches only to arrive at a point of stasis. Instead, we should continue to apply and develop the kind of critical rigour that we find in his writings and re-invigorate deconstruction as an ongoing process, rather than a dead-end. This is not to argue for a return to value judgements or the worst excesses of ‘rational’ humanist thought that Derrida, Foucault and Jacques Lacan read against the grain. It is instead an invocation to recognise that deconstruction does not end; it is instead an ongoing process of undoing hierarchies in a productive manner.

[1] McGann, Jerome, Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web (Palgrave: 2001), p.17

[2] Derrida, Jacques, Of Grammatology (The Johns Hopkins University Press: 1997), p.lxxxvi

[3] Ibid, p.28


Derrida, Jacques, Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty (Translator), Of Grammatology (The Johns Hopkins University Press: 1997)

McGann, Jerome, Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web (Palgrave: 2001)

Schreibman, Susan, Siemens, Ray and Unsworth, John, A Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell: 2004)

Schreibman, Susan and Siemens, Ray, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell: 2008)

Text Encoding Initiative Consortium Website, http://www.tei-c.org/index.xm

Digital Scholarly Editing Blog Post #2 – Observations on TEI marking-up Samuel Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape

This blog post continues the rationale of the first post written on the subject of annotating a selection from James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922). As was argued in that first post, it is important that digital humanities projects and projects involving TEI mark up, provide a statement of intent and rationale that can provide the researcher and ‘common reader’ alike with information about the text and the editorial processes that a text has been subject to. This should go beyond the information provided in the , or elements in the . This particular blog post is intended to serve as a gloss to the process of marking up an excerpt of Samuel Beckett’s short play Krapp’s Last Tape (1958) in TEI.

In script form, Krapp’s Last Tape is only pages long, but can, depending on the production, run between thirty and sixty minutes. This variation in production length can be attributed to how long each particular production spends on enacting the play’s many pauses, ellipses and mechanically repetitive stage directions.

This text was chosen for mark up because it is a dramatic text, and therefore requires a different range of elements and tags than the prose extract from Ulysses. Furthermore, the TEI mark up project that will be carried out, the ‘Circe’ episode from Ulysses, will be combining the prose elements and dramatic elements, so the marking up of a play script will provide an opportunity to become familiar with a different mark up methodology.

Krapp’s Last Tape provides an interesting challenge to the process of mark up because of its paradoxical use of voice. Most plays have more than one character, but Krapp’s Last Tape could be regarded as a partial exception. The play represents Krapp, a man who records his thoughts on the year that has passed on his birthday every year. The play takes place on his sixty-ninth birthday, a year in which he decides to listen to a recording he made on the same day thirty years ago. This tape, from when he was thirty-nine, appears as a voice in the piece, but the extent to which it can be regarded as a different character is uncertain, considering that it is Krapp who is speaking on it, albeit when he was thirty years younger.

This present the first difficulty to the TEI code, but it was decided that it the original text’s line on the matter be maintained, that Krapp be credited as a speaker and the Tape be credited as a different speaker. In the line of the code at least, there will be no overt link made between the two, to suggest that they are essentially the same person.

The source text for this TEI version of Krapp’s Last Tape is not from a copy of the play text that is published on its own. Instead, it is part of Faber & Faber’s Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett. This is why it is declared as the source text in the TEI Header.

There are frequent pauses in the dialogue and in the parts between stage directions in the play script. They appear as “[Pause.]” TEI provides a number of different @type attributes for the purposes of stage direction, such as ‘delivery,’ ‘business,’ or ‘modifier,’ to provide just three examples. It was ultimately decided that the use of the @type attribute ‘delivery’ would be most suitable for the conveying of the pauses. This was done despite the fact that the TEI-C website suggests that it be used for the way in which a character speaks as it represents a withholding of speech or action on the part of the performer.

The stage directions that describe Krapp’s repetitive movements, whether he be walking off stage, opening and closing drawers or switching tape reels are tagged with the element , with the @type attribute ‘instruction.’ It was decided not to formulate an excess of @type attributes for the element for fear of creating a sequence of disparate categories that would separate them out too finely from one another. Nesting <stage=’exit’> within <stage=’tech’> within <stage=’business’> in turn would seem counter-intuitive based on the kind of playwright that Beckett is. Furthermore, Beckett was well known for his micro-managing style of direction and high standard of perfectionism when producing his own plays. This frequently manifested itself as an absolute refusal to deviate even in the slightest way, as he saw it, from the text as it was written. Many performers of Beckett today speak of his stage directions with a kind of reverence. It is this scrupulousness that merits, for the purposes of this exercise, the use of the @type attribute ‘instruction,’ in order to emphasise the importance of accuracy in a staged iteration of Krapp’s Last Tape. This is, of course, not to suggest that this TEI encoded excerpt of the play is to be performed in any context, but merely to maintain a kind of integrity to the source material, which is in this case, contingent on the work of the editor.

This apparent digression is important to consider, as it seems that for the element that there is far more scope for the editor’s own interpretation and judgement than is usual in TEI. As was said earlier, the TEI-C website provides a number of potential @type attributes which can be considered quite productively in this context. The @type attribute ‘novelistic’ is particularly so. The TEI-C’s example of a novelistic stage direction in as follows: Having had enough, and embarrassed for the family. This is a stage direction from Lorraine Hansberry’s play A Raisin in the Sun (1959). It is obvious why this is read as a stage direction that is more characteristic of novelistic discourse than dramatic play-texts. It deals overtly in interiority and the character’s (Ruth, in this instance) motivations, which would typically be left out of a stage text and left for performers to articulate on their own terms. However, contained in this @type attribute is a closed-off definition of ‘novelistic’ discourse as realistic and transparent. While Krapp’s movements may be monotonous and not particularly illustrative of an inner state in the same way that the example provided above is, it is neither accurate, nor particularly discriminating to in turn suggest that novelistic discourse that does not partake of this particularly, readable language is only novelistic. A number of Beckett’s texts, or writers that have been influenced by him often describe at length a sequence of repetitive motions that try even the most patient reader’s attention, in order to parody and subvert the monolithic notion of what a novel ‘should’ be.  While this would seem a punctilious point to make at first, it is important that users of TEI recognise its occasional interpretative biases. As Jerome McGann writes: “it is not only difficult and time consuming to implement, but its hierarchical principles and other design characteristics set permanent and unacceptable limits on its usefulness with arts and humanities materials.”[1] The history of the TEI-C displays the fact that they have often functioned democratically as a consortium and adapted their methods of standardisation according to use, until they have come to formulate the open, almost endlessly malleable to develop the open, almost endlessly malleable means of marking up texts that it perpetuates today.

Despite the protestations of theorists such as McGann, the contention of this post is that from experience of using TEI, it is for the most part an objective framework. However, there are instances, as in the case of the @type novelistic that it throws up some contentious but interesting questions about naming and tagging. This post will once again assert the importance of interrogative critical apparatuses in conjunction with a mark-up project. Problematic tags such as ‘novelistic’ do not need to be expunged altogether from the TEI, but it is important that debates take place as to whether some tags are better than others at maintaining the objectivity that the TEI should be striving for. This is demonstrated by the writings of Susan Hockey on TEI, who points to the fact that when it was being developed initially, it emphasis was on the ordering of a text for ease of navigation. This was at the expense of interpretative or analytical mark up languages presumably because these would be far more problematic for the obvious reasons. Furthermore, TEI was developed in order to combat the proliferation of mark-up languages which risked limiting the interoperability of digital texts. The TEI-C’s evolutionary framework and ability to continually update its schema is a good reason why the process of its development should not come to an end, but rather continue. Critical analyses, debates and interpretations such as those contained within this post should help to further this.

[1] McGann, Jerome, Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web (Palgrave: 2001), p.17


Beckett, Samuel, Complete Dramatic Works (Faber & Faber: 1986)

McGann, Jerome, Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web (Palgrave: 2001)

Schreibman, Susan, Siemens, Ray and Unsworth, John, A Companion to Digital Humanities (Blackwell: 2004)

Schreibman, Susan and Siemens, Ray, A Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Blackwell: 2008)

Text Encoding Initiative Consortium Website, http://www.tei-c.org/index.xml

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, https://dlsanthology.commons.mla.org/the-literary-the-humanistic-the-digital/


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, https://dlsanthology.commons.mla.org/the-literary-the-humanistic-the-digital/

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 http://www.tei-c.org/About/Archive_new/ETE/Preview/lavagnino.xml