UTC & American Culture, A&M DigitalText, and NORA

It’s been a very active week or two, and I wonder what percentage of blogs die after one or two posts. Professor Stephen Railton has kept me busy by his plan to have Era text of UTC debut on UTC & American Culture when it goes live in its XML interation. He gives me what one of what one of my UNL coworkers calls the “gift of a deadline,” but I have no shortage of gifts for myself.

The Era text of Uncle Tom’s Cabin goes public this week, in the first place where someone might see it, aside from kind relatives and friends from my hometown of less than 2,000, Weimar, Texas. From the exposure of my dissertation in family circles, I know that my mother and two of my aunts have read parts of my dissertation, thus with my spouse and my committee bringing the number who have read parts of the dissertation and edition to eight.

The preparation of the UTC Am-Cul text has been quite nerve-wracking. I removed line-breaks in prose while keeping important line-end hyphens. I removed extra spaces before or after em dashes (which my ORIG/REG coding was too dumb to handle). The revised iteration of encoding will need to go with witness tags. I also removed ligatured letters and curly quote marks. I found two errors in manually entered tags and corrected them, changed my mind about whether a chapter number was an error, and started next round of proofreading. I also wrote a “Historical and Textual Introduction” for the site and created a chart to compare UTC chapters in Jewett to installments in Era table for the convenience of readers.

Last spring I gave myself the gift for the far-off deadline that is now here, Digital Textual Studies: Past, Present, and Future, for which I planned to present a poster after UVA Victorianist and then English Department Chair Professor Chip Tucker suggested that an editor of a digital project (like myself) would be more likely to be able to produce a poster (than, say, folks who write articles and monographs and eschew charts and images). Seemed like a good idea (and welcome intellectual exercise) at the time, but a poster presentation demands a relentless focus on a single point to get across to an audience walking by. So now it’s time to go promote the dissertation project at the symposium, with a poster. Below the textual rationale of the poster, which is attached:

This poster highlights textual variants and material publication contexts on 18 March 1852, when for the first time two versions of Stowe’s work were public, the Era’s newspaper installment of Stowe’s work and the John P. Jewett edition (advertised in Era as published on that day). The newspaper serial continued through 1 April. On either side of this paragraph are images from facing pages in the Era. Opposite the page on which Simon Legree says “I don’t sell dead niggers,” the Era printed a report on a Greenville, South Carolina slave auction. Like Stowe’s story, the notice also includes a slave’s dead body. The box at bottom left highlights textual variation between the two versions. Bottom right is the Jewett edition.

Digital Text Poster (Large PDF, 2 ft x 3 feet) 

During graduate study I learned from Theodore Weld’s American Slavery as It Is many of the horrors of slavery that sedate historians gloss over, but this article took my breath away as I browsed the Era while transcribing.

A little over a week ago I pestered Dr. Steve Ramsay at UNL about how to design databases, and I tried to throw a wrench into NORA visualization of UTC by suggesting that the “natural” prose textual division, chapters, was not so natural in the periodical text. See the visualization of UTC Social Networks (Java), which groups characters by their appearance in same chapters. He was able in return to offer unthought-of complexities for the recording of sources in a relational DB. Thanks, I needed that.

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