The overarching purpose of this project is to put the theories of Barthes, Bauer/Zirker, Iser, Drucker, et al. into practice by collaborating on “editions” of a text, in this case Melville’s Benito Cereno. Obviously, it takes many hands and several years to create a publishable edition of a literary text, so we will keep our expectations modest and emphasize the process of collaboration and the experimentation with the affordances, design choices, and relationship with “implied readers” that digital publication allows.
In class, we decided by consensus to work within the following parameters (apologies to those who were absent, but the deadline is looming!):
- two roughly equal groups will each create an edition: to enroll in a group, sign up here
- the groups need not be perfectly equal, so follow your interests. But if things start getting very imbalanced, be a mensch and take your second choice, please!
- each group selected a relatively narrow “frame” for the edition. Whereas the Norton edition we have in print, for example, aims to tell a “general reader” everything they need to know to feel oriented to the text, both editions will focus on a narrower (but more novel) issue:
- group one (Anthony, Jenna, and Lisa so far) will create an edition focusing on the geography of the novella, providing links to historical maps and perhaps providing some context from historians of the period as to the global flows of goods, bodies, and capital that sailor/merchant/sealer/slavers like Delano and Cereno engage and enslaved Africans like Babo and Atufal attempted to wrest away for their own liberation.
- group two (Sabina, Patrick, Travis, and Kelly so far) will create an edition that links the text to its own “reception history,” embedding quotes and links that give readers a sense of how Benito has been read, from its publication in the tumultuous 1850s to the present day.
- both groups began discussing next steps:
- choosing a platform (some suggestions are here), creating a division of labor and workflow, and scheduling things out to ensure finishing within two weeks.
- I want to emphasize that I want you to experiment and enjoy the collaboration: I am realistic about what you can do in two weeks and am perfectly happy with a partial edition that is a “proof of concept.” For example, group two might limit itself to the mid-19th century reception of the text, or it might add “reception history” only to the first 1/3 of the text. Group two might also “map” only a part of the text, or discuss representations of the slave trade in the visual culture of the period. Be realistic and follow your interests where they go.
- instead of formal presentations like last time, we will have an informal discussion of the process/product on 10/25. I do ask that, as for the first group project, each team member compose a brief post for the blog (500 words max) reflecting on a) the process/product as a whole and b) your specific role within it, with an emphasis on what the experience taught you that theorizing about annotation, marginalia, readers, and editions, or consuming such editions, didn’t.
- evaluation will be very similar to last time, with a group comment/grade and an individual comment/grade. The criteria are only slightly changed:
- adventurousness: does the text take risks, or just play it safe? Does the edition resemble other standard “critical editions” in print, or does it do something new, using digital affordances to engage readers in novel ways or devise a new angle on the text that will be fresh to readers?
- quality: is the product accessible and user-friendly? Does it articulate a clear relationship between the “primary text” and your “secondary” comments on it? Was some attention paid to aesthetics and design?
- reflectiveness: does the presentation (and the discussion in the seminar and on the blog) reflect careful thinking about the project? Did the secondary readings by Barthes, Bauer/Zirker, Iser, Drucker, et al. inform the project in any way?