L`Innommable / The Unnamable: The Second Module of the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project's Hybrid Genetic Edition.

poster / demo / art installation
  1. 1. Wout Dillen

    Universität Antwerpen (University of Antwerp)

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This poster will offer an interactive demonstration of the second module of the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project (BDMP) – an international collaboration between the Centre for Manuscript Genetics at the University of Antwerp, the Beckett International Foundation at the University of Reading, and the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Austin, Texas, with the kind permission of the Estate of Samuel Beckett. As its name implies, the BDMP aims to reunite and make publicly accessible all manuscripts of Samuel Beckett’s works, the physical documents of which are located in different holding libraries around the world. This goal will be realized in the form of a hybrid genetic edition that combines a digital archive of the manuscripts organized in twenty-six research modules (one published each year) with a series of twenty-six accompanying volumes analysing the geneses of the texts contained in the corresponding modules. Each of the modules comprises digital facsimiles and transcriptions of all extant manuscripts pertaining to an individual text – or to a collection of shorter texts. The digital archive can be accessed online at www.beckettarchive.org, where you can currently find the project’s first module, which combines the manuscripts of the late short prose text Stirrings Still / Soubresautswith those of Beckett’s last poem Comment dire / what is the word1. The project’s second module, which will present the bilingual genetic dossier of Beckett’s novel L’Innommable / The Unnamable edited by Dirk Van Hulle, Shane Weller and Vincent Neyt, will be made available online towards the end of 20132.

As a hybrid genetic edition, the BDMP combines digital scholarly editing with genetic criticism – a form of literary criticism that studies the dynamics of the writing process. As such, the edition does not aim to support a new reading text of Beckett’s works, but rather to highlight the creative process that brought those works about. Traces of this process can be found in the extant manuscripts, more specifically in their many deletions, additions, paralipomena, doodles, etc. According to Pierre-Marc de Biasi, the objective of genetic criticism is twofold (42)3: first (1) to locate, collate, and transcribe all of the work’s extant versions in order to make them analysable, and then (2) to reconstruct the logic of the work’s genesis (also called the ‘avant texte’) from a chosen perspective. Therefore, rather than focussing solely on an analysis of the works’ geneses – which can be found in the interpretative, printed component of our edition – we also want to make these geneses analysable, by offering fully transcribed (in TEI-compliant XML) and searchable facsimiles in the edition’s digital component. Hence, the BDMP complies with Patrick Sahle’s recent definition of scholarly hybrid editions, stipulating that such editions should not only be published in different media, but that their different components should complement one another, and that each component should take the possibilities and limitations of its medium into account (64)4.

Because the modern manuscripts we exhibit are still under copyright and therefore do not yet belong to the public domain, the BDMP still requires its users (either individuals or institutions) to pay a subscription fee to gain access to its materials. Therefore, this poster will be a great opportunity for potential users to receive a personal, hands-on introduction to the project. The poster’s main focus will be on the project’s newest module, and on the differences between both modules. Because the genesis of every work is different, even within the oeuvre of a single author, we try to determine what the specific needs of the texts in each subsequent module are, and to re-evaluate the tools and functionalities the module will provide to satisfy those needs accordingly. For the BDMP’s second module, for example, this resulted in changes to the Synoptic Sentence View (which allows the user to grab any sentence in our corpus, and generate a chronological list of its different versions), to the image-text linking tool, etc. Furthermore, this poster will also demonstrate the BDMP’s improved integration of CollateX5 – the interoperable collation tool that is part of the Interedition project6.

1. Beckett, Samuel (2011). Stirrings Still / Soubresauts and Comment Dire / what is the word: an electronic genetic edition (Series ‘The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project’ module 1), edited by Dirk Van Hulle and Vincent Neyt. Brussels: University Press Antwerp (ASP/UPA). www.beckettarchive.org (accessed 30 October 2013).

2. Beckett, Samuel (2011). Stirrings Still / Soubresauts and Comment Dire / what is the word: an electronic genetic edition (Series ‘The Beckett Digital Manuscript Project’ module 1), edited by Dirk Van Hulle and Vincent Neyt. Brussels: University Press Antwerp (ASP/UPA). www.beckettarchive.org (accessed 30 October 2013).

3. de Biasi, Pierre-Marc (2004) Toward a Science of Literature: Manuscript Analysis and the Genesis of the Work. Genetic Criticism. Texts and Avant-textes. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press: 36-68.

4. Sahle, Patrick (2013) Digitale Editionsformen, Zum Umgang mit der Überlieferung unter den Bedingungen des Medienwandels. Teil 2: Befunde, Theorie und Methodik. Nordstedt: Books on Demand.

5. CollateX (2013) Home. CollateX. www.collatex.net (accessed 30 October 2013).

6. Interedition (2013) Home. Interedition. www.interedition.eu (accessed 30 October 2013).

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Conference Info


ADHO - 2014
"Digital Cultural Empowerment"

Hosted at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Université de Lausanne

Lausanne, Switzerland

July 7, 2014 - July 12, 2014

377 works by 898 authors indexed

XML available from https://github.com/elliewix/DHAnalysis (needs to replace plaintext)

Conference website: https://web.archive.org/web/20161227182033/https://dh2014.org/program/

Attendance: 750 delegates according to Nyhan 2016

Series: ADHO (9)

Organizers: ADHO