Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory

By Kathryn Sutherland | Go to book overview

has even experimented with a series of books.20 But the legitimacy offered by the printed book depends on the very structures that kept women's writing in the archive in the first place, structures whose larger effects go far beyond the textual world. The psychic comfort of handling a book with footnotes and an introduction, of presenting it to a class as a warrant of the text's cultural importance, is purchased at a cost: the lost opportunity to examine precisely why the lack of these comforts seems so disorienting, so challenging. The attempt to legitimize the electronic text by making it perform like a book is a similar evasion. To use the electronic medium, for instance, to produce an 'electronic book' simulacrum of a scholarly edition would be equally to miss the real point: the possibility of reconstructing the relations between the editor, the text, and the reader.

There is nothing intrinsic, then, about the electronic medium that guarantees a radical departure from the habits of thought fostered by the culture of the book. Though it may seem like an obvious point, it is important to remember that habits this deeply rooted--not just at the level of reflex, but at the level of ideology--require a great deal of work to counter. The medium will not do this work for us: in designing and building a textbase we need to interrogate and exercise the medium and the facilities it offers, but at bottom the medium is only an instrument of our methodology, and remains limited by our conceptual horizons. How limited these horizons may be is indicated as much by how electronic texts are not used as by what they are used for. As long as they are seen primarily as vitiated books --books with all the sensual and cultural redolence removed--they are doomed to be used as if they really were just books with an extraordinarily unwieldy agglomeration of plastic and silicon in the way. Similarly, as long as they are constructed using the same intellectual methodology as traditional books, they will continue to perpetuate the conceptual limitations, and worse, that the traditional book culture has fostered.


NOTES
1.
The Brown University Women Writers Project, which is creating a full-text database of pre-Victorian women's writing in English, encoded using Standard Generalized Markup Language (SGML).
2.
Stephanie H. Jed, Chaste Thinking: The Rape of Lucretia and the Birth of Humanism ( Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1989), p. 60. Further references are included parenthetically within the text.
3.
For an illuminating and detailed discussion of this dynamic as it emerges in neoclassicism, see Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail: Aesthetics and the Feminine ( New York and London: Routledge, 1987), pp. 11-79.
4.
Samuel Johnson, "'Preface' to The Plays of William Shakespeare" ( 1765), in Johnson on Shakespeare, vol. vii of The Yale Edition of the Works of SamuelJohnson

-141-

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Electronic Text: Investigations in Method and Theory
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgements v
  • Contents vii
  • Notes on Contributors viii
  • 1- Introduction 1
  • Notes 17
  • 2- The Rationale of Hypertext 19
  • Conclusion: the Rossetti Hypermedia Archive 38
  • Notes 45
  • 3- Annotating a Text: Literary Theory And Electronic Hypertext 47
  • Notes 63
  • 4- Lighting Out for the Territory: Hypertext, Ideology, And Huckleberry Finn 67
  • Notes 96
  • Appendix Distribution of Links and Nodes In Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 103
  • 5- Out of Praxis: Three (meta)theories Of Textuality 107
  • Introduction 107
  • Conclusion 124
  • Notes 124
  • 6- The Body Encoded: Questions Of Gender and the Electronic Text 127
  • Notes 141
  • 7- New Directions in Critical Editing 145
  • Notes 165
  • 8- Digital Archive as Expanded Text: Shakespeare and Electronic Textuality 173
  • Introduction 173
  • Notes 195
  • 9- Coda: is It Morphin Time? 199
  • Notes 222
  • Select Bibliography 227
  • Index 237
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