A philosopher’s son and a philosopher’s stone

We have new corpora online! I am very excited about this one because it has been a very long story: finding the document (while looking for something else: classic), understanding why it is so amazing, getting to know people who have known about it but never had access to it, trying to work out by myself what to do with it, admitting that it would take someone else to make the magic out of it whiz as it deserved, finding said person, getting the scans, getting the right to publish the scans online, and finally getting it all funded and done: the scan, the magic, the whiz. OK, at some point, we will have to clean the scans and cut out the darker borders (but I had the manuscripts scanned for free, so really I can’t and won’t complain).

(Although this raises an interesting general question about bound manuscripts: what shall one do with manuscripts where about a third of the text disappears in the binding? In our edition, hypotheses regarding the bits lost in the binding are supplemented in the reading version but this emendation overload only makes sense if you have the manuscript opposite. Does that mean that any edition should display the manuscript to justify its editorial choices?)

While you muse about this question, you can check our work on the I.H. Fichte corpus:

  •  there is an older blogpost of mine explaining who he is and what the fuss was all about;
  • in Letters and texts, you can find two things in the entry “I.H. Fichte”: the “Probeschrift”, that is the German dissertation written by I.H. Fichte in order to be awarded his doctoral degree (only the first 28 pages are online right now, the second half will follow over the winter), as well as the documentation regarding the accusation of plagiarism (or rather theft) that was issued towards him when he submitted said Probeschrift, in form of internal letters exchanged by members of the Philosophical Faculty in the so-called “circulars”, which consist in letters open only to members of the Faculty in which each one of them wrote their opinion (in the most urgent cases, those circulars were not left in the University building, but brought to the professors’ home in order to bring together the required number of signatures or opinions in a short time as to validate all kinds of decisions);
  • if you want to learn more about this case of Academic negociations (particularly interesting because it is the first dissertation in philosophy ever at the Berlin University), you should read the Master thesis of the great editor who took care of this corpus, Eva Schneider (who is now preparing a dissertation in Philosophy at the Technical University in Berlin);
  • and if you want to read more about the “big picture” in which this singular Academic event can be situated (but the analysis is far less refined than in Eva’s master thesis, which I hope will find its way to publication), you can read my paper “Zwischen Doktorenfabrik und Austauschplattform. Promotionsgutachten am Beispiel der Philosophischen Fakultät in den Anfängen der Berliner Universität”, in: Zeitschrift für Germanistik, NF XXIII – 2/2013, p. 276-292.

So much about the joy of growing corpora. On the backside, I have read a lot about networks, I have even taken notes in zotero (which somehow feels very grown-up) and ordered all kinds of books. I still don’t really know where I am heading there. I was thinking at first that I should just try, make experiments, but my overheads have been on strike for no rational reason for months, leaving me with not enough money to try expensive things like having someone model my data to have it run in Gephi (which I have been considering my next step, on hold for 3 months now), so all I am left with is abstraction. And networks can totally be abstract, that’s for sure, but whether that is really productive, I don’t know. A hard stone to chew on if there is one.

I hope that the conference on historical network research, which I will attend on Thursday and Friday, will break the ice…

Anne Baillot

I am a Professor of German Studies at Le Mans Université. My areas of research include German literature, Digital Humanities, textual scholarship and intellectual history.

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