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ICCC/IFIP Conference: Electronic Publishing '97
New Models and Opportunities

14-16 April 1997 - University of Kent at Canterbury

Conference Paper Abstract

Electrifying Wordsworth--a Progress Report

Ronald Tetreault, Department of English, Dalhousie University

Together with my research partner in the US, I am working on a scholarly hypertext edition of Wordsworth and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads. Initially, we plan to digitize the four lifetime editions (1798, 1800, 1802, 1805) by compiling transcripts based on original printed volumes, marking these up with SGML in conformity with the TEI guidelines, and collating them with special software to discover variants and generate an apparatus criticus. Each poem would then become the focus of its own hypertext web, showing all four versions together for the sake of immediate visual comparison, and linking each to digital images of the printed text, especially to pages where manuscript corrections provided printer's copy for a subsequent edition. Our purpose is to show the development of the poems in the Lyrical Ballads collection, and in the case of the poems by Wordsworth to show how these evolved towards their final authorized texts. Cambridge University Press has undertaken to publish this electronic edition on CD-ROM in 1998, to commemorate the bicentenary of the first edition. Wordsworth was chosen for this project because his restless habit of revision produced so many versions of each poem that trying to represent them in print stretches that medium to its limits. New media functionalities of electronic text, digital images, and hypertext may offer the capacity to fully exhibit this poet's diversity. To know Wordsworth is to know not one but many selves, expressed in a succession of texts that mark the different stages of his personal development. Which to choose has always been the editor's dilemma; establishing a text has always meant that we must privilege one version over others, and settle for a static representation of what might be better understood as a dynamic process. By digitizing Wordsworth, we hope to show that the electronic medium is best adapted to capture this protean romantic self. The new medium thus does not replace books but strives to do things books could never accomplish. Going beyond the book calls for new paradigms of representation. As the member of the editorial team responsible for hypertext design, I am exploring the frames function of HTML and SGML browsers as a means to present an array of windows that will allow four versions of a poem to appear on the screen at once. Navigation through these is achieved by a guide I call a "variant map", a sort of table of contents to each line in the poem showing places where revisions were made. Each revision becomes a "hotspot" linked to the corresponding lines in all four versions on the screen, which scroll simultaneously to the line in question. So far, I have completed an HTML prototype of this system based on "Simon Lee". This winter I expect to create a more complex web for "We are Seven", using SGML and incorporating later versions of the poem together with digital images. By summer we should be well on our way to applying these patterns to the remaining poems in Lyrical Ballads. I propose a presentation that would be a sort of progress report on the project, probably concentrating on the display of the "We are Seven" web.

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