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Humanist Archives: Feb. 2, 2019, 7:30 a.m. Humanist 32.412 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 412.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
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    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.410: the McGann-Renear debate (28)

    [2]    From: Desmond Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.410: the McGann-Renear debate (56)

        Date: 2019-02-01 23:08:41+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.410: the McGann-Renear debate


Your replique against Desmond sounds plausible, but I'm not convinced at all.
Looking in the older dramatic traditions you will find enough examples showing the
following regularities: What in English is named 'act' and in German 'Aufzug'
means that an empty stage will be filled with characters; changed in character
constellations appear in the printed representation of the play as numbered
'scenes' resp. 'Auftritte'. The whole can be seen as a chain of events structured
by a series of greater and smaller 'cuts'. the more one can have the impression
that 'form follows function', will say: the cuts are expressing a plausible
logic of action, the more one would judge: that play is 'well-done', and in most
cases then we have to judge that some scenes are more important than others. But
this differences in weight have nothing to do with the sequential structure in
which they are siblings.

But we should leave the level of splitting words. The scandal behind those
discussions is indeed a 'totalitarian' touch in the ubiquitous propagating of
"XML/TEI" - without differentiating between the format of transmission and the
interpretive (and in some regards restrictive) modeling of (literary) texts. At
least we should discuss the necessity of a future chapter "Dirty tricks" in the
TEI Guidelines to cope with textual anomalies found in the wild of literary
heritage. As every typesetter knows: There are more things in the world of
letters than a straightforward thinker can conceive of.

With the usual apologies for the poor English and the typing slitches,

        Date: 2019-02-01 20:17:15+00:00
        From: Desmond Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.410: the McGann-Renear debate


I'm not a deep philosopher of what text is. All I said was that the
hierarchies are artefacts of the markup language and are not
fundamental to the text.


XML is a markup language (eXtensible markup LANGUAGE). All
computer-parseable languages have a grammar, and grammatical rules
necessarily nest. Even an empty XML tag is a hierarchy of the
text-tokens that make it up. It doesn't matter how you split up your
encoding, each part, if parseable by a machine, is hierarchical. Now
you can use the markup language to describe a non-hierarchical
structure, like a graph, but the fundamental hierarchy of the language
itself remains.

Your point about only marking up semantically what is pertinent to a
particular investigation underlines my point that we cannot possibly
encode all semantic information in a text. Marking up 0.01% of the
meaning is not useful to another researcher who wants a different
0.01%. So it would appear that the original semantic encoding was
mostly a waste of effort if we intend to share the texts.

On readability I was referring to the ability of the human encoder to
read what they are editing, not a computer "reading" it for processing

On 31/1/2019 Peter Robinson wrote:

>Accordingly: a better model for the two trees is that of a single set of
> leaves, shared by the two trees.

Sounds good, until you have to encode it like that, share, maintain it
and get other people to work on it. For these purposes the simpler you
can make your encoding the more generally usable it is.

On 31/1/2019 Gabriel Egan wrote

>All the dialogue lines occur inside speeches, all the speeches
>occur inside scenes, and all the scenes occur inside acts,
>and there are exactly five acts.

Well, that's your analysis. Another way to analyse it is to say that
the headings for scenes and acts are simply in italics or a big font.
In any case your example is not perfect: sometimes speeches are inside
lines and sometimes lines are inside speeches. How do you explain

Dr Desmond Schmidt
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