The Past's Digital Presence, February 19-20, 2010


22 - Theorizing the Digital Archive: "Toward a Realization of the n-Dimensional Text"

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In this paper I build on recent and ongoing discussion among practitioners of humanities computing about the remediation of texts and the relationship between printed texts and their digitized counterparts, with specific regard to the impulse to capture and recreate the experience of the text in multiple dimensions. In the 2007 PMLA issue on “Remediating Genre,” esteemed literary scholars discuss the concept of the database and its potential uses and misuses with regard to digital scholarship, but this discussion lacks a certain technical depth and detail in the same way that a discussion about literary texts by computer scientists might lack certain critical nuances. After addressing some of the realities of technology that have gone missing in discussions surrounding the use of databases in the study of literature, I return to Jerome McGann’s theories of quantum and n-dimensional texts as indicated in Radiant Textuality and “Marking Texts of Many Dimensions,” and I offer a tangible starting point toward implementing a system that allows the scholar to study texts in the multiple dimensions McGann describes (linguistic, graphical/auditional, documentary, semiotic, rhetorical, social), both in isolation and combined.

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This Article is Open Access