Close reading and Prosopography

Recently, we learned how to use different kinds of digital humanities methods to transcribe and study diaries produced hundreds of years ago. By doing distant reading, we had a rough understanding of author’s purpose and destination. In order to have a better and more precise understanding of the diary, we did close reading by tagging words with Juxta edition and Oxygen. Close reading helps us learn more details, such as the route, the people they met and the events on their way to their destination. We even learned about the relationship between places and people, places and time and events and places.xml

Compared to Juxta edition, by which we could only roughly tag people, place and time, Oxygen enabled us to tag more, such as emotions and objects. It even had a more detailed classification, for example, it separate tag “name” into two parts—“persName” and “roleName”. It also distinguishes “time” from date, which would be more convenient when readers want to find specific date from tremendous database. When I was tagging the words in Oxygen, I was confused since there are too much information to decide which word to tag and which word not to. This recalled me of Elena Pierazzo’s idea of diplomatic edition—there are infinite facts in the work we are going to edit so that we need to have a selection among these facts. The selection should, as Elena said, “aspires to equal the object to be studied.” But, “be simpler than the object it models”. Therefore, I prefer to tag information about where, when, who, what, what happen how it looks like and how people feel about it.

I did lose something from the original pages during the transcription procedure. But as Elena said that transcription was “not a mechanically complete record of what is on the page.” –making tags to emphasize some parts from the diary and correcting the misspelling the author made from the original pages. What I did in my transcription procedure made information from the diary clearer and easier to read.

pageWhen I was designing the web, I did not change the color of background and most words, since it fit to most people’s reading habit. But I chose to made “placeName” bold, italic and red, and “persName” bold and blue. Different colors made them eye-appeal and I think place and people are two main parts in the diary. I also change the color of “characteristic” into green so that we can easily figure out people’s feeling about the events or the objects.

Close Reading and Prosopography

On the WebDuring the past 2 weeks, we learned how to use close reading for the deeper understanding of the Payne journal and how to use editorial tools, not only Juxta Editions, but also a new and magical tool, Oxygen to work on the transcription in XML files and also in a more detailed way. During this process, apart from how to use digital tools and how to collaborate with others, I learned how important self reflection is for an editor.
When I was working on my own pages, the 2 main challenges I met were how to decide whether I should mark up this word, not that one, and where to stop. The first challenge of how to decide directly led me ignore some particular word I should mark up. In this case, on my first time reading through my own pages, I finished quickly and let slip many words unconsciously. Gradually I realized this problem in my editorial process. Just as Elena Pierazzo mentioned in her article: “Scholarly choices constitute the base of any transcription and subsequent diplomatic edition”, what I did on my own pages now would finally appear in front of readers. Therefore, making scholarly choices seems to be extraordinarily important. For the second time reading, I put more emphasis on the trait description, the emotional changes of characters, the role names and the changes of the place location. My personal experience in making a choice explains why I feel quite interesting about Elena Pierazzo’s point: “the alterations which lead from the former to the latter are interpretative and irreversible.” As she explains, two scholars, given the same transcriptional criteria, are most likely not to produce the same transcription of the same exemplar, it’s crucial to treat any resource with the same respect and carefulness.

Then I met the second challenge: where to stop. What Elena Pierazzo pointed out this time is very helpful to me on deciding where to stop. She said that if there is an infinite set of facts to be observed within the physical object, ‘no limits’ might lead us to create a model which aspires to equal the object to be studied. But a model must be simpler than the object it models, otherwise it will be unusable for any practical purpose. As we learned that the diplomatic edition is more similar to a model, everything we put in this model should be concise and meaningful enough to make the context accessible to every reader. In this case, I learned that the work I mark up in the XML file should be related to the journal itself. It does matter how the word is related to the Moravian, the historical background or a particular place name.  My job, as the editior, is to find out the relationship between the words I mark up.


Page 5
Page 5
Page 10
Page 10

Last but not least, I want to mention my design for my web page. As we can see, I chose the white background since it’s easy for reading. Since readers are more likely to be scholars and students who are working on their papers on Moravian, I highlight the place and the role names by changing their color to red and blue.