I have done TEI work in the past and I found the Poe work to be very challenging. A certain element of the difficulty I faced was in the text itself. There are not a lot of nouns in my segment; my whole piece was basically adjectives describing Usher and his madness. The lack of nouns were a challenge because it is so much easier to mark up, for example to tag “dog” than “trepidancy.” With all the adjectives, I assigned them tones for what I thought matched both their meaning and their use in the sentence. For example, Poe uses the word “spirit” a lot and switches between using it as synonymous of the mind and actual spirits or ghosts. I had to closely read the sentence and the greater paragraph and even the piece as a whole and make an executive decision as to what Poe meant. This decision-making about context relates to what Piezarro says about digital editions:
“We should simply say that the notion of objectivity is not very productive or helpful in the case of transcription and subsequently of diplomatic editions and that we should instead make peace with the fact that we are simply doing our works as scholars when transcribing and preparing a diplomatic edition.” (Pierazzo 466).
As a scholar working on the piece, I decided what I thought was most important and based my tags on my research of the text as well as the context of the narrative itself. As Piezarro says, we have to distance ourselves from the notion of objective truth- our editions will be inherently subjective and we can’t be stuck on trying to make it “correct.” This is exactly what I did- I adjusted my knowledge and did the best that I could to make a scholarly edition. Going even further than that, it can be argued that there is not much room for objectivity in markups of literature as literature is inherently meant to be read in several different ways.
For the Poe segment, my most used tag was <desc type=”despair”> since so much of the piece was about the narrator describing his poor friend turn madder and madder. In hindsight, the abundance of dark, or strange adjectives shouldn’t have surprised me given that Poe is known for these tones. Another interesting part of my chunk was the poem at the end. After looking up TEI guidelines, I decided to mark the poem according to its rhyme structure and number the lines. This was a little bit tricky because I had to do a bit of research to figure out the poem’s rhyming and other poetic devices.
The Declaration of Independence segment was much easier than the Poe work. It was more straightforward as we had a template to fill out and it was considerable shorter. Additionally, I had a lot of background knowledge on my signer, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, because he was from my home town. The most qualitative part of the markup or the most customizable aspect was the event tag. That was a little challenging for me because Carroll did so much in his life worth meaning. However, I decided to pick the qualities that made him different than the other signers. For example, he was the only Catholic signer and the longest lived/last to die out of all of them (died at 95 years old). I also included a fun piece of knowledge I recently learned (from researching the history of my town for another class); at 92, Carroll laid the first stone of the B&O railroad (America’s first railroad) and thought that that moment was more important than his signing of the Declaration of Independence.
In definitely believe that TEI markup helps you better engage and understand the piece you work with. It forces you to do research and ask questions about the piece; like what does this word mean and how does it relate to the context of the story or even simpler, is a bed a place or an object? As Rasmussen says: “Do we read digital editions or use them? The answer is obvious: we do both” (Rasmussen 133). This quote correctly states the complex interaction with digital editions or close readings. For the Poe work we both read the piece and used the context within it to inform our tagging. It was a little less clear in our work with the signers as we didn’t base our work on the actual text of the Declaration of Independence, but rather used the Declaration as a medium to provide biological information about the signers. However, it could be argued that we are “reading” the signer and based on the knowledge we gathered on their life, we made decisions as to what we thought would be useful or intriguing information for users looking at our published work online.
Yash Mittal says
Well articulated, Maureen. I could relate to a lot of what you mentioned above. Most definitely, different editors are going to encode a text in different ways, and there’s little scope for “objectivity.” I was marking-up the first segment of this story, so I had a considerable number of tags (less adjectives though) in the first few paragraphs. I commend you for taking the time to markup the poem; I hope I get a chance to markup one in my future TEI endeavors.