Corpus Part One: School Exercises and Princess of Persia

A while ago (here), I had promised to present the several corpora of our edition. I will begin today with one of the first we will go online with in the spring: the work manuscript of Ludwig Tieck‘s Roxane.

Although he is one of the major romantic authors in German Literature (he was even crowned “king of romantic”), Ludwig Tieck never benefited from the usual treatment reserved to major literary celebrities: unlike Goethe, Schiller, Friedrich Schlegel and co, he was never granted such a thing as a Ludwig Tieck Historisch-Kritische Ausgabe.

It would be preposterous to track this back to only one cause, but it is sure that the state in which his leftover papers are to be found at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK does not invite to any kind of systematical and exhaustive approach. A peek in the inventory realized by Lothar Busch shows how all of Tieck’s activities are thrown together. The poet, the drama author, the tale writer, the literary critique, the Shakespeare scholar are likely to be found in all sorts of texts, fragments, letters, sketches… Also, he was the depository of many of his dead friends’ papers (among which Kleist for instance, which he published after his death). Not everything in there is new, not everything is groundbreaking. But we already digged up two treasures.

Treasure number one is the manuscript of a drama called Roxane, which Johanna Preusse is preparing for our edition. It is a youth drama, and although it is undated, it seems to have been written around 1789. By that time, Ludwig Tieck was still a 16-year old schoolboy, and it seems likely that the drama was written as an extension of a school exercise on the theme “Write a variation on the fable of Ino” (on the fable of Ino, see Hygini Fabvlae, fab. II: Ino).

Other thematic influences are perceptible. The most important one is Felix Weiße’s tragedy Mustapha and Zeangir (1763). Especially the place chosen for the plot – an oriental setting in the wake of Montesquieu’s Persian Letters – as well as the main idea of the plot itself show Weiße’s wide influence. I will not tell you here about where Tieck differs from Weiße, because Johanna is about to write a great paper about it. Let me just tell you this: Roxane, the Sultan’s wife, is really mean!

The manuscript itself shows several peculiarities too. The first act is missing, so the reader has to jump in the midst of the action. But obviously, we are not the first ones to read it. There is more than just Tieck’s handwriting to be found on the pages. You can find traces of Rudolf Köpke‘s posthumous work on Tieck’s papers. And closer to the moment when the text was written yet, the margins also contain remarks in another hand. Lothar Busch and others assume it is the one of his youth friend Wackenroder, commenting on the plot, the protagonists, the writing,…

Open Access Schizophrenia

Working with both traditional and digital humanists leads to some schizophrenic moments. Here’s one of the recurring questions I can’t really deal with because, I think, neither answer satisfies me. Who do our ideas belong to and what are they worth?

On the one hand, there is the position of pro-open access. Our original ideas are not actually worth money in themselves, they are worth being recognized by the community. If you are quoted properly, you can only be happy that other people pursue your work in one direction or another. In that logic, you put online all of your publications (see this paper Laurent wrote in connection to the Max Planck Digital Library) . More disturbingly: you put online even the things that are not really finished.What you produce is referred to you through your publication list – in the very second you have made it known to the community as being yours. With typos, missing references, unclean proofs, etc.

On the other hand, you have the copyright-hardliners like Roland Reuß (see the recent article on him or the wikipedia page on the Heidelberger Appell). In that perspective, your work belongs to you and only has to be shared as an untouchable, perfect scientific product that is yours. Open access is hence ruining copyright and diminishing the value of hard science. This position leads to a gesture of retraction on the individual work – we experienced this bitterly enough while preparing our first set of texts (by the way, things are getting closer to reality: an upgraded demo will be online soon and I posted a new version of our project guidelines as an attachment to this page).

I really share the idealistic view of saying that working together, one’s work adding to the others’, actually benefits everybody. But I cannot put together the two pieces of a puzzle with one person telling me “it doesn’t speak for the creativity of the people who need to hide their ideas” and another saying “as long as I don’t have an established position and the necessary recognition, I will not put everything I have out there”. Should it take a professorship to accept open access, to have confidence in yourself (and in the system), to not feel threatened by the wild world?

One thing is sure: we can discuss who and where our ideas belong to, but the texts don’t belong to anyone.
Of course, Philology never fulfilled the promise of its name, never realized the ideal of a common love for the text. Its very history is marked by territorial intellectual fights and there honestly is no reason why open access should in any way solve problems that have been lasting on the discipline for centuries. So what is it we are doing exactly? Fighting over power over texts, fighting over whose text is better?

This last question is not completely meaningless but asked together with the first one, it is depressing. Somehow I wish I was born in a time and place where you could still believe in human progress.

Addendum for the Berlin people: Roland Reuss will speak on December 7th at the FU in the conference series “Im Dickicht der Texte” on Kleist editions.

Additional addition: loved this post about tweeting on open access papers I read on Melissa Terras’ blog!

Unknotting the < note >


I am sure the suspense was unbearable, so here goes my post on the note-element.

For the TEI-geeks reading this blog: you have to bear in mind that we are a small project and couldn’t afford going into the subtleties of genetics or critical apparatus.

There were actually two layers of problems:
1) The most philologically troubling to me was the fact that you are supposed to encode very different textual elements with this < note > element: the footnotes of the author (in my example letter the part situated at the bottom of the page), the elements added by the people who at some point re-wrote (abridged, censored) the letter in order to publish it (here the part stroke in red ink), the elements added by the archivists along time (as for instance the foliation in pencil on my letter) and the comments we want to add to our edition, be it to explain in what book an extract was already published or what is the “Curiosität” mentioned on the first line for instance.

2) The second problem concerns the author’s notes. Of course, when the author has changed or added a single word, we don’t mark it as a < note >, but with an < add > element. So the question was: if < add > and < note > are so close elements, when does an addition cease to be an < add > and qualify as a < note >?

The first idea was to have different types of notes. Each < note > could thus be precised by a @type and a  @resp. To get back to my example, the footnote on the letter would have been a type=”author” (the @resp being obvious), the red ink a type=”second_hand”. And there was the problem: there are 2 persons who gave an edition of this letter and may be responsible for the red ink: either the addressee – or the sender, but then he would have added this red ink stroke much later than he actually wrote this letter. There was no way this solution would not draw us into a black whole of endlessly more complex @types, @subtypes and @resp.

And then came this:

Laurent, who is obviously in a @hand-phase (didn’t convince me at first, but now I am starting to see the point), suggested that we use the < note > element connected to a @hand to describe the different text layers from the author’s hand, being thus able to give an exact account of the temporality of the writing process. The @resp attribute was to be used only for the notes we add to the text (in the form: type=”comment” resp=”anne.baillot”). Laurent was unsure what to do with all the other people mixing up between the author and us. But at that point, it was obvious to me that the separation between @hand and @resp was good way to sort the things you can actually see on the manuscript from the additional information, and so we will use the @hand to describe all we can see on the manuscript and the @resp for all the immaterial input.

If you have been following me so far, this is the point where you should say: But wait, this is not a solution the add/note problem at all. Things are not so clear there. The idea to sort < add > and < note > according to their position on the manuscript (“Lage” in Laurent’s schema) is not sufficient – we are too often encountering end of sentences added in the margin AND complete new paragraphs written in the margin. Defining it by the context is a slippery slope as well: this involves so much interpretation that we would not be able to keep it coherent within the whole project. The aim now is to define for each subproject what are the habits of each author in this regard and determine according to that when to use < add > and when to use < note >.

The manuscript I used here is a letter written be the poet and drama author Ludwig Tieck to his friend Friedrich von Raumer in the year 1823 (or 1824, look into the part in red ink on top of the letter). It is preserved in the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin-PK and part of the first series of texts we will edit (in the subproject “Tieckiana”).

PS: I allowed myself to add the 6 happy girls on Laurent’s original.