WWP The Project Newsletter Archive Volume 3,Number 2 Grappling with Text Encoding on Your Own

Grappling with Text Encoding on Your Own: A Beginner's Syllabus

Julia Flanders

In a recent issue of this NewsLetter, the WWP printed a brief article describing the training materials that the WWP has developed for our encoders to use as they learn text encoding. Recently, as part of a more comprehensive set of materials in preparation for Eléna Rivera's arrival as our Senior Encoder, we have created a syllabus of readings to acquaint the reader with the issues central to working with electronic texts, and to provide a broad context within which to situate the practical problems of literary text encoding. These issues include electronic scholarly editing, philosophical discussions of the nature of text, basic concepts of SGML, and an understanding of the role of text encoding standards, including familiarity with the Text Encoding Initiative and its Guidelines for Text Encoding and Interchange.

It seemed to us that this syllabus, once created, might be of use to many readers of this newsletter: those who would like to gain a critical purchase on the kinds of electronic resources that are now being created in such numbers, those who would like a general grounding in electronic text issues, and even those who are interested in learning text encoding at some point but would like to know where to start.

Until recently, such a syllabus could have included scarcely any material written by or for humanities scholars, and still less which addressed itself to the kinds of textual issues which those scholars find compelling. The past few years, however, have seen not only an increase in the quantity of material published on electronic text issues, but--more importantly--a shift in focus away from the simple fact of electronic publication and its novelty, and towards a careful consideration of the problems and theoretical issues involved. With the increasing sophistication of humanities scholars about electronic texts (and of the electronic text community about humanities issues), the work published in this area is becoming more and more intellectually compelling.

The list appended below is of course only a small part of the total published literature on electronic texts and text encoding. However, it is a segment which is shot through with continuities and ongoing debates, so that its partiality at least offers a manageable and coherent tip of an increasingly large and unwieldy iceberg. The WWP welcomes suggestions for additional readings to add to this assemblage, and also any questions on further reading. The electronic version of this syllabus which will soon be available on the WWP web site will be updated as new material appears.

Electronic Texts in Teaching and Scholarship

  1. Chernaik, Warren, Marilyn Deegan, and Andrew Gibson, eds. Beyond the Book: Theory, Culture, and the Politics of Cyberspace. Oxford: Office for Humanities Communication Publications 7, 1996.

    A collection of brief essays on a range of issues in electronic text theory, with a particular focus on the influence of hypermedia on conventional theories of textuality.

  2. Chernaik, Warren, Caroline Davis, and Marilyn Deegan, eds. The Politics of the Electronic Text. Oxford: Office for Humanities Communication Publications 3, 1993.

    Somewhat less theoretical than Beyond the Book, and by now slightly dated; provides a useful introduction to a variety of electronic text issues.

  3. Finneran, Richard, ed. The Literary Text in the Digital Age. University of Michigan Press, 1996.

    A very useful collection of longer essays which addresses itself directly to issues of literary scholarship and electronic scholarly editing.

  4. Ide, Nancy, and Susan Hockey, eds. Research in Humanities Computing. Oxford University Press, 1996.

    A collection with a somewhat more technical emphasis, but with several important articles on issues like textual ontology and text encoding.

  5. Sutherland, Kathryn, and Marilyn Deegan, eds. Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory. Oxford University Press, 1998.

    Another collection of essays on electronic text theory and electronic editing; this should be an extremely useful book.

Text Encoding and SGML

  1. Herwijnen, Eric van. Practical SGML. Kluwer, 1994.

    A comprehensive guide to understanding and using SGML. This book provides extremely clear and helpful explanations of all aspects of SGML, in language which the humanities reader can understand.

  2. Robinson, Peter. The Transcription of Primary Textual Sources Using SGML. Oxford: Office for Humanities Communication Publications 6, 1994.

    A clear, engaging, and thorough account of how to use SGML and the TEI Guidelines to encode humanities texts.

  3. Ide, Nancy, and Jean Véronis, eds. The Text Encoding Initiative: Background and Context. Kluwer, 1995.

    A useful collection of essays covering most aspects of the TEI; although some of the essays are technical, many address central issues in text encoding.

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