Digitorium: The Future of Textual Editing

One of the most interesting presentations I saw at the Digitorium conference was the plenary by Dr. David Lee Miller: “The Shapes of Text to Come: Textual Editing and Scholarly Publishing in the Age of Open Access.” The most interesting part of his talk, for me, was about the Spenser Archive and digital edition he was working on. He showed us how the digital edition of the Faerie Queen will work. Readers will be able to choose the views they want, seeing the text in modern or original spellings, making glosses and notes appear and disappear at will, and viewing the changes that editors have made to their copy text with one click. This is not all the digital text will do, but it was enough to sell me on the idea of a digital edition. I’m always a little bit skeptical about reading a long text onscreen. I seem to concentrate better and absorb more when I read in print, and I think many of us have had this experience. The digital scholarly edition, however, seems to have so many capabilities that the print one doesn’t. I’ve been reading Arden editions of Shakespeare’s plays recently, and I find all the notes and glosses and symbols and alterations in the text so complicated and confusing (especially for King Lear) that it’s hard to concentrate on the text itself. I sometimes get distracted by notes that I don’t need or run into abbreviations or symbols that take me out of the reading or have to flip back to the introduction to reread a passage about the editing choices. The kind of digital edition Dr. Miller showed us could fix those problems. In fact, the features of his digital edition seemed so convenient that I can no longer consider reading a print edition more effective, for my own purposes, than an online one. I’m excited by these developments in the field of textual editing, and I hope that these kinds of digital editions will catch on sooner rather than later.

3 thoughts on “Digitorium: The Future of Textual Editing

  1. Michael Lambert

    Interesting response to what, I’m sure, was an interesting presentation.

    I still myself am partial to old-fashioned hard-copy, as well, but with the various tools that will be made available, I could see my future self convinced of the effectiveness of digital reading venues.


    “You still read? What a faux pas!”

  2. Geoffrey Emerson

    I agree, if I’m doing serious reading, paper all the way. I want to direct my displeasure more specifically, however, and say that digital reading venues are not my issue–its back-lit screens. In fact, I want to upgrade my displeasure to outrage and say what WHY ARE WE NOT ADVANCING E-INK TECHNOLOGY. I know that I can still get kindle models like this, but I see everyone else saying–“hey lets make it a tablet and it will be better–YAYY!” And to this I say–NO! E-ink technology is not perfect, but it certainly is not progressing as fast as tablet technology, even though its better for us.

  3. Matt Smith

    David Lee Miller’s lecture made a lot come together he in the last days of the semester. His comments on digital humanities’ place in academia was informative. His notion of his journal, and digital journals in general, as a medium in which more seasoned scholars should publish was intriguing. He stated that online journals are the ideal venue for veteran scholars because it’s a fresh environment to try out new research that would not be published in more conventional journals. This, in addition to the fact that this move would open up space for newer scholars to publish in the conventional journals, opens up many doors for understanding DH and how DH is working to meet the changing tides in academia.

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