A Review of James Cummings: The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature

TEIJames Cummings article on TEI and the study of literature gives us a detailed account of the purpose of digitizing. The overall concept of TEI was so that originally printed texts to become electronic texts in the majority of linguistics and literary disciplines. It also sets guidelines, these guidelines are used for many text encoding projects. With new projects and new recommendations, they change as a result of both technology and theory. SGML and XML are constantly evolving and improving.

The Poughkeepsie Principles form the theoretical basis from which the TEI has developed. These principles are in place to provide a standard format for data interchange in humanities research and they also give an outline for the encoding of texts in the same format. These guidelines change as projects change. Each project will be different, different projects require different principles. Cummings points out that XML has been a success throughout the world. XML is now used as a storage format for mostly everything. The difference in SGML and XML is significant, SGML describes a document’s structure. Overall, XML is a much easier mark up language for text.

TEI was founded long before the world wide web, which explains why textual criticism has had a more direct effect on the development TEI. Cummings makes reference to Van Reenens and Van Mulken 1996 theory that textual criticism has three basic parts: Cladistics, this is the statistical analysis to determine which texts are most likely to be correct; Electicism, this is the editor choosing a particular reading as the critical text which is the easiest to perceive. The third branch of textual criticism is stemmatics, and I will quote from the text as I found this point the most difficult to interpret: “The more likely readings of a text are determined through the classification of the witnesses into grouping based on perceived phylogenetic relationships of the readings they contain. Overall TEI is designed to provide a better understanding of the text and electronic markup.

Cummings quotes the foundations of modern electronic scholarly editions, he believes that of all eight, there are three that must be met. They are longevity, accessibility; and intellectual integrity. The need for accessibility refers to a version of software which is required to run a certain programme. Longevity is dependent on market forces for support. In order for it to be able to function properly it relies on accessibility. Intellectual integrity is an important requirement that has to be met; The point of producing scholarly editions is to meet the needs of its readers intellectually. Like everything else that is produced it is designed to meet the needs of its users.

The main body of this article is based on the framework TEI provides for publishers, editors and scholars who wish to digitize their work. As we know more and more literature is available to us via a digital medium. Having literature readily available makes the reading experience a lot easier. The people creating them must ensure that they are available to everyone no matter where they are in the world and what language they speak. Scholarly editions have to be kept up to date with the latest advances in technology and they must be easy to use and reliable. When this article was written Cummings new that it was inevitable that soon printed books would be inferior to online books. With online books and such technologies like ipads and kindles becoming even more popular there is a possibility books could be left on the shelf but in saying that there will always be a place for printed editions. This article was long and hard to read but I would recommend it if you wish to further your understanding of TEI.

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Published in: on March 21, 2011 at 7:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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