Turning a page

You all know the reason why I have been such a poor blogger recently. I have been trying to help on an organisational level with the wave of refugees that keeps coming in Berlin. It started with filling the truck of the car at IKEA’s a the end of July, continued with sorting clothes at the donation center and coming back home with a flea in August and reached its acme organizing German classes in a camp growing from 500 to 1,000 inhabitants in September and October. I knew that I would not be able to keep such an intense pace much longer, but it turned out to be extremely difficult to reduce my volunteering time, since there simply is need everywhere. What finally helped me do less is the confrontation with so much bureaucracy and power affirmation structures that it feels like every single one of my movements towards any kind of action is now slowed down to an extremely, extremely slow motion. I will have to close the classes it took me weeks to build. It is clear now that it will take months to get be it only half of all the camp’s kids to school (legally, they should all have been going to school for weeks, if not months, already) – no mountain can be moved there, even with all of my best will. It only takes patience and, as I come to realize more and more, self-protection.

So, let’s get to science, ladies and gentlemen. I will not elaborate on my 21 reviews for the DHd conference in Leipzig beyond the fact that I am still amazed at the many directions in which DH evolves, even only in the German-speaking countries. At the DHd yearly conference, like at the TEI yearly conference or, for that matter, at the yearly conference of the ESTS (which was last week in Leicester), I have come to appreciate greatly the value of true transdisciplinarity.  When you hear somebody from a completely different field give a paper, you can hardly be judgmental, you can only be curious. Granted, it is difficult to have a discussion after this kind of paper, because the debate turns to either the technicalities or the meta-(meta-meta-)level. But from this too, there is a lot to learn.

Textual scholarship can take many shapes. It seems to me that it increasingly focuses, at least in the field of digital textual scholarship, on the relationship between text and image.  I still don’t really know how to word and phrase the way that this new approach of the text/image relationship relates to the tradition and in which direction it is truly going. When Joao Dionisio asked me in Leicester why I consider the way that I display the digital image on the same level as the transcription is so politically incorrect,  I realized that I had taken another tradition into account than the one he was talking about. He was talking about the traditional German facsimile print editions and he was absolutely right that this is nothing new. So why is the difference between a traditional print facsimile edition and a digital scholarly edition that shows image and text on the same level? I am trying to formulate a reasonable answer to that beyond the commercial factor. I will elaborate on that when I am a few steps further.

Working with texts through the prism of different disciplinary approaches also calls for a new vision of hermeneutics, one that is hardly acceptable by the hermeneutical tradition. This, too, is something I am thinking about, and a topic in which I hope to find a way to make my analog and my digital work come together at some point.

But first, I will tell you very soon some more first about Ada Lovelace and then about reading online texts. The new blank page is full of promises.

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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