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Humanist Archives: Feb. 11, 2019, 5:48 a.m. Humanist 32.444 - the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 444.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                   Hosted by King's Digital Lab
                Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org

    [1]    From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.436: the McGann-Renear debate (105)

    [2]    From: Desmond Schmidt 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions (110)

    [3]    From: Martin Mueller 
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions (18)

        Date: 2019-02-10 21:40:12+00:00
        From: Dr. Herbert Wender 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.436: the McGann-Renear debate


many thanks for your patience deciphering my horrible English and excusing the
stupidity to put leading blanks in the mail pipeline ;-) Special thanks to Hugh
Cayles for looking closely at the location in Goethe's "Faust II" I was
pointing to; I would like to add some observations in the main part of this
mail. And last but not least thanks to the scholar-at-large in Toronto who was
giving the starting pointer.

Shortly I'll take notice of the more general commentaries on this thread in
the Saturday post.

Wendell Piez pointed to Renear/Wicklett 2009 resp. 2010. What comes to mind
reading the first paper are some pre-socratic problems i.e. the one of Heraklitus
(not the *same* river) or the Sorites paradox of Eubulides (when a heap is a
heap?) but also one of Bertolt Brecht's Stories of Mr. Keuner: Meeting again.

A man who had not seen Mr. K. for a long time greeted him with the words: "You
haven't changed a bit." "Oh!" said Mr. K. and turned pale.

Asked when I turn pale I would respond: Near the end of the month looking at the
status quo of my bank account; is then any hope in Renear's assertion "Documents
cannot be modified" ?

Starting with the second paper [Renear/Wicklett 2010] I came just to the
following repetition of idiosyncratic notions use:

Our informal characterization of the sense intended in "Documents cannot be
modified" is *repeatable symbolic expression*. This seems to be more or less the
same sense implied in the XML specification, which defines "XML Document" as a
string that matches certain formal constraints [xml08]. It also corresponds
[...]. to some uses of the word "text" in textual philology [tanselle89]. A
document in this sense is not an individual physical object[buckland97] but the
symbolic structure that can be found simultaneously instantiated in multiple
physical objects [derose90].}

I decided to leave and let alone the metaphysicians in information science,
preferring the use of notions pair 'document / text' in the sense as understood
by Tanselle and most other textual scholars (documents are physical objects
funtioning as medium in textual transmission), remembering Vinton Dearing and
his distinction between textual transmission and the transmission of records,
dreaming about a future in which we could use conceptional and processing tools
based on bipartite state/transition systems as conceived in Petri Net theory to
model writing, rewriting, and both physical and textual transmission in a
transparent way... - and wishing heartly good luck the younger folk engaged in
Textual Communities and Peter Robinson too!

you're going, as usual, and normally with much benefits, far back in history.
The mention of Kuhn's book on revolutions in the history of science seems to me
a bit dangerous after so many vain claims for 'paradigm shift' in fields of so-
called humanities resp. 'Geisteswissenschften'. There in general holds post-
revolutionary co-existence (platonic vs. aristotelian approaches,
Lachmannists/Bèdierists ...). As Barbara Bordalejo has stated there's no
revolution in the principles of textual criticism when scholars were going on to
use electronic equipment and digital technologies.

your response shows impressingly clear one of the good practices in textual
criticism. While we cannot know definitively the author's intention in weighting
certain words into certain locations using white space at hand we can, reasoning
about it debating evidences (captured out of documents) to make a hypothesis
stronger evidenced than another one. For such a discussion the cited case is
best suited because we have a first-hand witness which you can identify in 
Faustedition's mouse-over i.e. to line numbered 5149 which ends in the mdash-
Both the mdash under discussion and the two verses 5150/51 are added by Goethe
("egh" = eigenhändig) on a leaf in ms. "2 H", the main manuscript of "Faust
II", pre-written by Goethe's scribe.

To deliberate the possible meanings of the mdash we ask what the author was
doing in his writing acts, to tell in the end a somehow plausible 'geetic
narrative' (Bryant). The situation in the manuscript at the start of Goethe's
action was showing little amounts of vertical white-space both above and under
"Rosenknospen." and a much bigger amount after the Rosenknospen speech in the
margin where we find only the second of the added verses. Linguistically there
is one sentence unit uttered collectively, and we wouldn't suspect in the first
clause a speaker change between the subject ("wir") and the reflexive pronoun
("uns") in the same verse. But we observe three parts of added speech scattered
around on the page andhave to ask: Why?

One possible answer follows out of a genetical hypothesis shared by the editors
of Faustedition: The last documented state before the addition in "2 H" is given
in the scribe's mundum of the whole passage "2 H.9b" where v. 61450f. make the
final sentence in the "Ausforderung" speech (and by the way: there is no mdash
in this speech). Exactly in the same spatial position starts Goethe in "2 H" his
addition with the words "Doch wir" continuing the verse below to the following
speaker name. Asking for the reason behind this change in acting out the
addition I would suppose that both the adversativity ("Doch") and the
imagination of the performing group of actresses were leading to the change of
line; but instead of deleting the starting words Goethe saw - my hypothesis -
the chance to signal the coming out of those actesses without indicating it via
stage direction. Along this reasoning about the addition the mdash came lastly
to indicate the ending of the "Ausforderung" speech.

I wouldn't deny that changing the DTD may allow to have a speaker name inside a
line of speech. My repeated quetion: Is this quite reasonably done? The same
question I would like to ask another german projct, "Bibliotheca neologica", a
critical edition project  struggling with the documentation of structural
variants in the apparatus (Söntgerath 2018, in "editio" vol 32; cf. esp. p.178
n. 44 where is noted the difficulty to describe anomalous states in old books
with means of a modern markup language).

Kindly regards,

        Date: 2019-02-10 20:27:25+00:00
        From: Desmond Schmidt 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions

"texts" != "XML-texts"

Desmond Schmidt
Queensland University of Technology

On 2/10/19, Humanist  wrote:
>                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 442.
>             Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                    Hosted by King's Digital Lab
>                        www.dhhumanist.org
>                 Submit to: humanist@dhhumanist.org
>         Date: 2019-02-09 15:28:18+00:00
>         From: Peter Robinson 
>         Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.436: the McGann-Renear debate
> Thanks to a serendipitous conversation with Geoffrey Rockwell on Thursday
> (courtesy of an invitation to Edmonton from Dominik Wujastyk), I’m
> emboldened to
> put forward a few propositions. Geoffrey and I found ourselves discussing
> Turing
> machines, and what is meant by “Turing complete”. Which I take as meaning:
> a
> Turing complete machine can compute anything which is computable, given
> enough
> resources. So in that spirit, here is a statement about “text complete”, set
> out
> as a series of propositions:
> 1. All texts are real, in that each and every text is an act of
> communication
> present in a physical document
> 2. Therefore, every text has at least two aspects: it is an act of
> communication; it has physical properties in terms of the document in which
> it
> is present
> 3. Each aspect may be represented as a OHCO: an ordered hierarchy of
> content
> objects, a tree
> 4. The two trees are entirely independent of each other, and of any other
> tree
> hypothesized as present in the text
> A few things follow from the above
> 1. Renear’s second proposition, 'the objects which constitute texts are
> abstract, not material, objects”, is false. No text exists apart from its
> physical expression.
> 2. Documents may take almost any form, from brain synapses and neutrons,
> through
> speech, to manuscript and print book, to film.
> 3. Thus: an act of communication tree may be:
> Poem—>Canticles—>Cantos—>lines; a
> document tree manuscript—>quires—>folios—>leaves—>columns—>writing spaces.
> It
> is of no importance whether the trees are “in” the act of communication or
> “in”
> our own understanding of that act, or both. We can only know and speak about
> our
> own understanding. A tree structure is a useful representation of our
> understanding of the act of communication, and we may call forth many
> elements
> to support our own understanding: statements from the author, the physical
> layout of the communication in the document, and so on. We might usefully
> think
> of the structures we understand as present in the act of communication as
> hypotheses, which we share with others, and which are useful in
> manipulation
> (“collate all instances of stanza one in all documents”), in referencing,
> in
> anchoring common discussion.
> 4. We could think then of texts as a collection of leaves, with each leaf
> present in both trees. The relationship of the leaves to each other, in
> terms of
> order and hierarchy, are determined by each tree, in complete independence
> of
> each other. Thus: a poem might begin on page 15, be continued on page 250,
> and
> then finish on page 1. The leaves (some or all) may be present in other
> trees.
> If this is “text complete”, then all texts which ever existed or could ever
> exist may be representable by this model.
> There is more on this in some articles on my Academia site (most published
> elsewhere), https://usask.academia.edu/PeterRobinson: "Towards a Theory of
> Digital Editions”, "The Concept of the Work in the Digital Age”, "Some
> principles for the making of collaborative scholarly editions in digital
> form”.
> Probably the most complete, recent and accessible statement is at
> https://wiki.usask.ca/pages/viewpage.action?pageId=1324745355 (first given
> at
> ADHO 2018).
> I’ll watch the football now.
> Peter

Dr Desmond Schmidt
Mobile: 0481915868 Work: +61-7-31384036

        Date: 2019-02-10 14:23:04+00:00
        From: Martin Mueller 
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.442: the McGann-Renear debate: a few propositions

It is the case that "no text exists apart from its physical expression", but
this does not falsify the proposition that "texts are abstract, not material,
objects. Texts or tunes are abstract, conceptual, or ideal entities, and any
representation of them is measured by the degree to which they are true to that
'ideal' or 'immaterial' existence. The Waldstein sonata begins with a low C,
followed by thirteen staccato repetitions of a C major chord in a C-G-C-E
spread.  That is independent of whether the piano is tuned to a 438 or 445 'a'.
You could play the sonata in C-sharp or B, but if you change the relative
position of the fifteenth and sixteenth notes you're changing the transition to
the dominant chord, again in a distinct spread,  of the eighteenth note (or
rather vertical set of them). People will argue whether a particular performance
is too slow or too fast, and these are arguments where will argue endlessly but
always with some reference to a shared understanding of the same immaterial
entity. There was a time when that entity did not exist. It's a nice question
what happens to it if humanity is wiped out, but there will be nobody to worry
about it.

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