I had some help in de-constructing the McGann text a bit as I was not familiar with the various methodologies/typologies of editing presented in “The Rationale of Hypertext”, and their significance to scholarship. So I will begin by presenting that as a background through which to discuss the direction of academic writing and our work as students and educators.
There are various types of editions, each serving a different purpose in the publishing world (See http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic453618.files/Central/editions/edition_types.html#diplomatic_edition and http://www.ualberta.ca/~sreimer/ms-course/course/editns.htm):
- Diplomatic editions
- Eclectic Editions.
- Facsimile Editions
- Critical Editions.
- Parallel Text Editions.
- Hyper-text Editions.
The basic premise of these different editions is how the editor/publisher seeks to present the author’s work alongside the process of editing and alteration that it goes through over time. These different types of editions are mechanisms of reading that reflect the interest, concerns and needs of a literary readership. Or as McGann explains, “[s]cholarly editions comprise the most fundamental tools in literary studies. Their development came in response to the complexity of literary works, especially those that have evolved through a long historical process.” A critical edition for example, will try to present the most “authentic” or close edition to the author’s original intent through comparing various editions and pieces of information and collating together to present something that most resembles the author’s original work. Parallel text editions on the other hand will provide multiple versions/iterations of the work alongside one another. What McGann is most concerned with in this text is highlighting the limitations of the various types of editions embedded in codex form (books), and focusing on the capacity of the hypertextuality to subsume all the practices of the codex editions (1 through 6), and open up scholarship to more possibility than can be allowed or possible in book form. In essence, what he asserts is that hyper-text/hyper-editing is a vastly different “set of schoalrly tools” that can offer a different way of doing scholarship. In other words, he argues that the technology of the book is antiquated (in certain spheres and cases), and argues for a different type of textuality that is layered, complex, multi-modal, dynamic and responsive.
I was put off a bit by this rather strict denouncement of book/codex technology (how quickly we condemn “old” technology when a newer and hotter thing comes along). Nevertheless, as I read both his piece and a critical reception of his piece (http://www.jpwalter.com/cyber-rhetoric/archives/449), I found validity in the claims he makes; ie. that we can leverage hypertext (as opposed to codex) textuality in developing and evolving different forms of scholarship (and writing, reading, researching and learning). However, the transition from one technology to another is not so smooth and not so simple. A lot of rhetoric around education and technology has hastened the process, and in that process, has cheated students and educators out of the real potential for technological change in how learning and scholarship can happen. What Thomas S. Kuhn’s book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions has to tell us is that these quantum leaps in techno-scientific inventions (or revolutions) is to push society not forward in some linear trajectory of “progress” but out of one epistemic paradigm into another. The mental model by which we come to know the world, in a sense, is radically different. As such, simply copy-pasting your five paragraph essay into a WordPress blog does not a Digital Humanities project make. What McGann was trying to get across, from what I can gather, is that hypertextuality is a different technology rooted in the capacity for a different form of scholarship that is divorced from the logic of codex technology. What this may look like is something that I am personally still in the process of exploring and grappling with in my own thinking and work. As students and scholars conducting research and writing essays, I am very interested in your thoughts on how we could leverage hypertextuality in teaching and learning?
On the Weinberg piece that we almost read, I see a lot of potential for teaching historical thinking through hypertextuality. In the Spring 2015 I piloted a course on the Great Migration that utilized counter-narratives as a critical lens through which to understand contemporary issues and experiences viz-a-viz exploring the conditions that the black community faced at the abolishment of slavery. Specifically, examining the mental framework of the South as blacks and whites alike tried to navigate the social, cultural, economic and political/legal implications of a newly-freed population became the focus of reading historical narratives. The counter-ness of the counter-narrative came from juxtaposing popular stereotypes and issues in contemporary society with developments in race relations during the 60-year movement. In addition, the question of historical texts and narratives was breaded throughout our class discussions. We talked about what we read, but we also talked about coming to this information for the first time (for the majority of the class who were youth of color), we talked about how history was taught in their personal experiences at school, and we talked about the ways that narratives shape our worldview. What also emerged was musing on the concept of a leaderless movements, and an African-American/Black History that did not include the major figures (MLK, Malcon X) etc, but rather focused in the daily experiences of regular folk as they grappled with whether to stay or leave, and navigated a world that offered both potential for progress and more fear. Hypertextuality offers a way of writing about experiences that could potentially braid in several narratives (in a similar way to parallel text), offer a critical annotation through a close and reflexive process of historical reading/thinking, and to embed beneath the text more and more information and ideas, as though the practice of reading, writing and research involves mining iterations of the truth and layers of voices that provide a more complex, nuanced and probably messy “text”. My second provocation the is how does historical thinking matter to you, and in what ways can you see hypertextuality playing a role in your work.
To re-cap: Two provocations-
- As students and scholars conducting research and writing essays, I am very interested in your thoughts on how we could leverage hypertextuality in teaching and learning?
- How does historical thinking matter to you, and in what ways can you see hypertextuality playing a role in your work.