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English 814
The Hypertext Edition: Theory and Practice

Syllabus and Guidelines



          Given the small size of this course and potential cost of the core course texts, I have not ordered textbooks, but have allowed individuals the option of ordering these themselves (through The Bookstore), or borrowing the pertinent work from D. B. Weldon Library. The following six works have been put on 3-day course reserve at Weldon: it is recommended that you take these out well in advance (to avoid the rush), and read or photocopy appropriate parts.

Finneran, Richard J., ed. The Literary Text in the Digital Age. Editorial Theory and Literary Criticism. Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1996.

Greetham, David C. Textual Scholarship: An Introduction. New York and London: Garland, 1992.

—— , ed. Scholarly Editing: A Guide to Research. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 1995.

McGann, Jerome J. Critique of Modern Textual Criticism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983. Repr. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1992.

——. Radiant Textuality: Literature after the World Wide Web. New York; Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave, 2001.

D. F. McKenzie, Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge UP, 1999.

One required text that is not available through the UWO library system is Elizabeth Castro's XML for the World Wide Web: A Visual Quickstart Guide. It is highly recommended that you purchase this book, as you will find it a virtually indispensable guide throughout much of the second half of the course. The necessary ordering details for the book are:

Castro, Elizabeth. XML for the World Wide Web: Visual QuickStart Guide (Peachpit P, 2000) ISBN: 0201710986

Other readings and review books are available either online, or through Weldon. Again, it is recommended that you obtain these well in advance of your anticipated need for them.


Assignment Guidelines


          Seminars should be between 25 and 30 minutes long. Evaluation will be based both upon the content and presentation of your seminar, with about two-thirds of the mark deriving from the former. The portion of your mark devoted to presentation is particularly based upon overall coherence and structure.
          The key aim of these seminars is to generate interesting discussion. While you do need a thesis, try not to produce an argument so tightly conclusive that it precludes or stifles all discussion afterward. Please do not read a prepared "paper," unless it really is your intent to bore your fellow students senseless. Use notes (probably in point form) to guide you through your presentation.
          You may structure your presentation in whatever way seems to you best: it is possible, and frequently very effective, for example, to structure your paper so as to allow for, or encourage discussion at various points within your presentation; alternately, you can run straight through your paper, saving discussion for the end. Consider preparing questions relating to central themes or points with which you can provoke debate. Try to maintain eye contact with your audience as much as possible, and focus upon keeping your audience engaged. At the same time, remember that an oral argument is more difficult to follow than a written one, and that your presentation must be correspondingly clear and coherent. Don't be afraid to repeat really important points.
          You are free to use visual aids as you see fit; if you require assistance with photocopying, data projection, overheads, or other audio-visual materials, please talk to me well in advance.
          Your thesis for this seminar is entirely up to you. You may discuss all, some, or only one of the themes scheduled for the class during which you are to give your presentation; please, however, let me know about a week in advance what you plan to focus upon.
          Please note that you must complete either this seminar, or an oral book review (with written review essay) before the beginning of the second term.

Book Review (oral)

          Much of what is noted, above, about seminars applies to your oral reviews. As with the seminar papers, you will be evaluated both on content and presentation, but with content mattering somewhat more here than with the longer seminar papers. You are required to hand in a brief (one page) summary of your main points at the conclusion of the class.
          Your review should be short (about 10 minutes) and, preferably, not read directly from a written text. Quote from the work when you feel it will add to your discussion, but do not depend upon citation too much, or you will bore your audience. It should include the following elements:

1) Important identifying information (author, title, publisher, date, etc.)

2) A brief precis of the work's primary focus and themes: why has this study been published? It can also be useful to provide (if possible) some context for the book: how does it relate to the theoretical trends and critical debates of its own time, or of our own?

3) A brief summary of some of the main arguments of the parts of the work that you have read. You should not take your audience step-by-step through the study. When you have completed the notes you write while reading the work, go back and reorganize them into a logical structure that will highlight those aspects of it that seem to you most interesting.

4) You may, if you think it relevant or useful, comment on the apparatus of the work. Is it well-indexed? Are the notes full, complete, and easy to access? Does the work contain useful bibliographies or appendices?

5) Your overall evaluation of the work. Do not forget this portion of the report: your opinions are vital.

6) You evaluation of the work's usefulness (with this course in mind, but in a more general sense as well).

It would be particularly useful to highlight those aspects of the work having a bearing upon the subject(s) of that week's class. It can also be useful to relate your work to themes or other works that have been covered in previous classes.
          When evaluating your book please be critical, and be honest. If you don't like a study, say so, but explain why. No marks will be deducted for having an opinion that differs from my own, but you should be able to explain clearly the reasons for your critical evaluation, whether positive or negative. Note, in this context, that I have not included only those works which I myself most value or like.
          Please note that you must complete either this oral book review (with written review essay), or your seminar, before the beginning of the second term.

Review Essay

          Your review essay should be about 4 to 5 pages in length (approximately 1000-1250 words), and is based upon your review presentation. It is, however, a "formal" piece of writing, with a proper introduction, developing argument, and conclusion (it should, in other words, be more than your point form notes roughly turned into grammatically-correct prose). Examples of formal review articles can be found in many scholarly journals, as well as publications such as the London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement.
          The review essay is due two weeks after your review presentation.

Hypertext Edition Review (oral)

          The format of your oral hypertext edition review should be similar to that employed for your oral book review, with the exception of the fact that you are, ideally, providing a simultaneous on-screen "tour" of important features of the hypertext edition itself. Some of the issues that your review should address include the following (note, however that this list is not exhaustive):

1) Who has edited, facilitated, or is otherwise involved in the preparation and online publication of this edition? Beyond the (obvious) identification of editor(s) and authors, you should also note the institution hosting the site, and any institutions involved in the preparation or presentation of the edition (for example, U of Virginia's IATH, or UNB's Electronic Text Centre, the Digital Library, etc.).

2) Does the site employ or identify a particular theoretical rationale for its particular approach to its subject text(s)? How is that rationale (if such exists) reflected in its architecture or in its textual approach? How forthcoming si the site about the reasons for the decisions that have been made with this regard?

3) Is this a critical edition of an author, oeuvre, or text(s)? What kind of an edition is it, viewed from a conventional bibliographical perspective? How well does its textual approach marry with its employment of hypertext?

4) Should this be classified as a "Hypermedia," a "Hypertext," or an electronic text site? Does it focus upon machine-readable text (i.e., sgml, xml, html) or text images? What other forms of media does it employ? What balance (if any) is maintained between these? Why have these decisions been made?

5) How does the edition establish its scholarly credentials? Is the site academically credible? If so, why? Why not? What forms of scholarly apparatus does it use? How do these differ from those associated with conventional print editions?

6) What forms of markup or coding language have been employed for the text? If the text is available to the reader in HTML, has SGML or XML been used for initial coding? If so, does the reader have any access to these versions of the text? What, from the reader's perspective, is the impact (if any) of the use of SGML or XML markup?

7) With particular reference to the user interface and site architecture, how well does this edition "work"? Does perspective it provides on its text(s) match the editor's stated intentions? What does the edition offer that a conventional printed edition could not?


Research Essay

          Ideally, the research essay is founded upon your oral seminar presentation, but your topic and thesis may, in fact, build upon any of the themes we are examining, and any theme relevant to the relationship between textual theory and hypertext. The research essay should be approximately 20 pages in length (about 5000 words), and is due on March 1.
          This should be, of course, a formal essay, with all that this implies. It must, in other words, be structured around a focussed and coherent central thesis. As a research essay, it should, of course, also employ relevant secondary sources. I am setting no specific requirements for the number of such sources that must be employed, but it is important to demonstrate some awareness of the critical and theoretical context around the work(s) and themes you are examining. Note that such works may include texts focussed either upon the author or work you are editing, or upon textual and hypertextual theory.



          The Prospectus for your edition is, in essence, a plan for the hypertext. It should be no more than about 4 to 5 pages in length (1000-1250 words), and should include the following features.

1) A brief introduction to your Prospectus (no more than one or two paragraphs).

2) List of primary texts that form the nucleus of your edition. Include any pertinent bibliographical information (including, for example, reference numbers from standard ennumerative bibliographies where these exist) to identify which text(s) you are editing.

3) A brief discussion of your textual approach to your primary materials, with some reference to recognized textual theories.

4) A brief discussion of, and rationale for, your planned interface, architecture, and coding approach to your edition. (This should probably be the largest single section of your prospectus). This should, where relevant, include reference to applicable hypertext theory.

The Prospectus should be formatted as a "report" (rather than as an essay), with the elements of the paper divided appropriately into sections. Before submission, your Prospectus should be briefly vetted and signed by a member of faculty who has some expertise in the field relevant to your edition. Please inform me in advance of the name of this faculty member..

Hypertext Edition

          Your Hypertext Edition will be built around a critical edition of a work of your choice. This choice is one of the most important you will be making, and you should give it some long thought. There is no set length for the text that you choose to edit, but you would be well advised to restrict yourself to something relatively short: a medium-length poem, a one or two act play, a short story or an essay will be more manageable than a novel or epic poem. When choosing for length, consider also

1) The number of versions, editions, etc. of the work which you will need to collate and/or edit.

2) The amount of scholarly annotation that the work will likely require.

3) The number and size of other texts, excerpts, etc., which you may also want to include in your edition.

          For practical reasons, you should probably avoid texts that have already been reprinted or edited a large number of times (for example, you should probably avoid Eliot's The Wasteland or virtually any of Milton's poetry). It would also be a distinct advantage to choose a text that is reasonably well represented in the UWO library system (particularly Special Collections). Generally, choose a text for which it will be relatively easy to access primary materials. Issues of copyright and reproduction rights will also factor in if you wish to publish your final edition online.
          The overall structure, architecture, and approach of your Hypertext Edition is, of course, up to you, bearing in mind always that the rationale for the decisions.that you make will be one of the things evaluated by myself when "marking" your edition. As a general rule, keep your interface as simple as possible: not only does this make your edition more accessible across a wider number of platforms, but it will also help you avoid the trap of spending too much time trying to get the "flash" just right. At the same time, it is the interface that will make this a hypertext: the choices you make here should be determined by what you, as a scholar, are attempting to reveal about, or through, your text.
          Your edition will probably include many (if not all) of the following components; others not listed below you may be able to devise on your own. Components that are obligatory are marked †.

1) An introduction, providing a brief synopsis of what you are attempting to "do" in this edition, and providing some context for it.†

2) An annotated and edited text or texts. Annotations can be keyed with the text in a variety of ways, and may also be "layered" in different ways.†

3) A lengthier explanation of the rationale for your edition, placing it, and your editorial decisions about it, within a larger context of past scholarship that relates to the text, as well as to textual and hypertextual theory.†

4) Textual notes, the length and complexity of which will obviously depend upon the textual history of the work.†

5) Textual variants, which can be keyed to the text in a number of different possible ways.†

6) Text images.

7) Parallel texts of versions and editions of the poems, if this seems useful.

8) Additional texts, excerpts, etc. providing context for, or otherwise shedding light upon, your text.

9) Biographies, chronologies or other sources of contextual information.

10) Hypermedia elements, including potentially images, sound, music, etc.

11) A simple and brief discussion of workflow and encoding and/or editing guidelines for the edition.†

12) A bibliography or list of works consulted/cited.†

Penalties for Late Work

          Essays should be brought to class and handed in on the date specified above. Late essays will be penalized at the rate of one percentage point for each working day that they are late, to a maximum of ten points. Essays submitted more than two weeks late will not be accepted unless accompanied by an acceptable reason for the delay (e.g., a medical certificate). Late essays may be submitted to me in person, or at one of the Department of English Essay Drop-off Boxes outside the English Office (UC 173); essays slid under my office door will not be marked.
          Please keep a copy of your essay.

Presentation of Written Work

The guidelines for layout that appear in the more recent editions of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers are recommended for both your review and research essays, although the Chicago Manual of Style is also acceptable. Written work should be submitted double-spaced, preferably typewritten or computer-printed. Use one side of the paper only, with 1 inch margins for all four edges. Use a font size that will permit no more than about 250 words per page. Submit the work fastened by a paper clip rather than staples; do not have it "bound." Text should be justified only to the left margin.
          The review essay should be include, directly below the review title, a bibliographical citation for the work being reviewed, in proper MLA or Chicago format.


          All documentation (including that which appears in your hypertext edition) should follow the guidelines set out in one of the more recent editions of the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (use the fourth edition or later) or the Chicago Manual of Style. Please be sure to include a list of "Works Consulted".



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Administrator: Mark McDayter
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Mark McDayter, The University of Western Ontario, 2004