Roll on, wrap up, get there

The to-do list now fits on a page. Of course, I have to actualize here and there, add and strike and add and strike regularly. But all in all, it fits on one A5 page: 2 volumes, 3 papers, 1 grant application. When all of this is processed (if everything goes well, by the end of July), there will be time for mainly 2 things left before I run out of funding for this project: wrapping up Letters and texts and get the book writing rolling. Yes, this plan ignores superbly a series of not so irrelevant items (various conference talks, a Vorlesung, and all the unexpected magic of academic life which makes every day oh so different from what it was initially intended to be). But it all comes down to the plan, and the plan states clearly to stick to those 2 items. And as straightforward as those 2 items can seem, there are still some question marks on the master plan.

One of these questions is very specific to my project, namely: What do you do when you have worked 3 years on a digital edition that never really belonged to your project deliverables but turned out to be a way to deliver some of the due results? It is not so that I am accountable for editing this text and that author. The choice of the corpus has evolved over project time depending on mainly four factors: the assessment of what was actually realizable within project time, the growing precision of the research questions in the different work packages which lead to the definition of clearer focuses, the coordination with other editions (trying to complement, not to compete), and the sources we were able to edit (depending on digitization costs, publication rights, etc.). You could say that these factors, taken together, amount to a kind of randomness. But I have tried to keep the contingencies withing the limits of what is the core research question which made the edition possible in the first place.

So what I have to do now is to show this: how these corpus choices (and the markup choices, and the webdesign choices) as they have been done over the last three years, although part of an experiment and not completely predictable in their input and output, have contributed to this research question. A year ago, I remember eagerly waiting to finally reach a critical text and index entries mass in order to “do something” with it. I can’t say that we have been lazy over the past year, many new corpora were edited, the indexes have turned into huge files I even have respect for, almost as you do for old and wise persons. But I still have the feeling that this is not enough to “do something with it”.

Reflecting on this – the data structure, its results, but also my own understanding of data quantity as it has emerged from this edition – promises to be an exciting undertaking, and to take a while. But it is the beauty of running out of funding that it forces you to work and live with the finiteness of all things.

Anne Baillot

I studied German Studies and Philosophy in Paris where I got my PhD in 2002. I then moved to Berlin, where I have been living & doing research ever since. My areas of specialty include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history. I am currently working at the Centre Marc Bloch in Berlin as an expert in digital technologies for the humanities.

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