Close Reading and Slow Programming — Computer Code as Digital Scholarly Edition

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Currently most digital scholarly editions are representational digital documentary editions, largely along the lines described by Elena Pierazzo (2015). Alternative theoretical perspectives take less document centric and more process analytical oriented approaches. Textual scholars have, for instance, argued for editorial practice oriented digital editions (McGann 2001). Others have argued for web serviced editions (Boot 2011, Van Zundert 2012) that cater to computational analytical process such as stylometry (Kestemont 2011) and other ‘distant reading’ statistical analyses (Ramsay 2011). Yet others have argued for genetic process oriented archives of texts (Van Hulle 2015), or for more audience inclusive analytical approaches (Robinson 2010, Siemens 2012).
The computational paradigm in other words, is prolific in advancing alternative analytic models for scholarly text editions. Until now however, textual scholars seem not to have considered the computational paradigm as a locus for computationally modeling the act of close reading a text. Arguably because there is a strong assertion also within the textual scholarship community that computation to be a useful analytical instrument should be scalable. The computational model is applied in anticipation of scaling representation, analytic process, audience participation, and so forth. In my paper I contend however, that a lesser focus on the raw power and scalability of computational methods opens up perspectives towards computational modeling as a precise and foremost hermeneutic instrument of textual scholarship. Expressing the close reading of a text in the form of executable computer code both opposes and complements the currently predominant approaches of representational modeling (such as seen, for instance, in markup based editions) and scalable but potentially reductive ‘distant reading’ models. I will support my argument by demonstrating computer code that represents the modeling of the scholarly hermeneutic act applied to (part of) the Middle Dut ch text of Van den Vos Reynaerde.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2016


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