Issued by the Literatures in English Section
of the Association of College & Research Libraries, a division of the American Library Association
#33 Spring 1999
Editor: Scott Stebelman
George Washington University
Washington, D.C. 20052
Chair, 1998-1999: Rob Melton
350 Watson Library
University of Kansas
Lawrence, KS 66045
Chair, 1999-2000: Catherine A. Larson
2545 N. Grannen Rd.
Tucson, AZ 85745-9616
- News from the Chair
- Literature Online (LION): A Scholar’s Perspective
- Research on African Writers: A Citation Count
- English Department Web Sites with Links to Resources
- EALSL and Related ALA Sources
As I write this, I have just returned from a week of vacation in Death Valley. The topography, climate, and culture there were quite foreign to anything I have ever experienced during my youth in the South, my young adulthood in the Northeast, my library professional years in the Midwest, or my travels elsewhere. Being in such a radically different environment for a week, along with the headlines relating to regional conflicts around the globe, led my thoughts to the centrality of regionalism in human affairs. Due to my personal interest and professional involvement with American literature, these thoughts naturally extended to the issue of whether, in our increasingly homogenized culture, there continue to be meaningful connections between place and literature. We could probably agree that the author of Henry James’s novels could not have been reared in late nineteenth century Nevada, and that the author of Mark Twain’s novels could not have been reared primarily in New England. But what about today’s writers? Has the commercialization of American culture minimized regional variety? Are the distinguishing traits of our authors’ voices—their core identities—due more to their gender, sexuality, class and/or ethnicity than to the region of their upbringing? Or could this apparent trend be due more to academic fashion than to literary reality?
Some of the issues relating to regionalism in American literature may be addressed in the EALS Program at this summer’s ALA Conference in New Orleans. Taking advantage of our Southern locale, the 1999 Conference Program will blend the issue of regional American literature, by focussing on the literature of the South, with the primary concerns of many if not most academic librarians who work with American literature: collecting it (to some degree or another), making it accessible, preserving it, and providing factual information about it and about collections of it beyond our own. The title of our program is "Reading the South: Southern Literature and the Library."
I am very pleased to let you know that Ellen Douglas, one of the most interesting voices in contemporary American (not just Southern) literature, will be opening our program by reading briefly from her work and discussing the extent to which she considers her writing to be "Southern." Following her remarks, Ralph Adamo, editor of New Orleans Review and Professor of English at Loyola University, will discuss recent trends in Southern literature and offer his views on the extent to which Southern literature is distinct from other American literatures. Because the spring 1999 issue of NOR is devoted to "The Other South," a presentation of nontraditional and experimental writing in the South, his remarks should be particularly pertinent.
Three EALS members will then look at Southern literature from the perspectives of collecting, preserving, and providing reference service. I will survey the principle collections of Southern literature, including manuscripts, and offer the perspective of a bibliographer at a non-Southern library. Patricia Dominguez, Humanities Bibliographer at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, will describe the "Documenting the American South" Project at UNC, for which she has served as Project Director. It includes literary texts through 1920, slave narratives, and other first-person narratives. Finally, Jeanne Pavy, Bibliographer and Reference Librarian at the University of New Orleans, will provide a critical survey of both printed and Internet reference resources on Southern literature.
At our meetings at the Midwinter Conference in Philadelphia, the EALS Executive Committee voted, with input from all those attending the general membership meeting, to petition ACRL to allow us to change our name from English & American Literature Section to the Section on English Literatures. (If ACRL’s own Committee on Bylaws approves the request, EALS members will probably vote on the change in next year’s ALA elections.) Although regional differences are not the only ones that justify adoption of the plural form in our name, they are certainly one. I hope that as many of you as possible will be able to attend the New Orleans conference in general, and the EALS Program "Reading the South" in particular.
Rob Melton, Chair
(Editor’s preface: Professor Gail Kern Paster is a distinguished Shakespearean scholar who teaches at George Washington University and is Editor of the Shakespeare Quarterly. In conversations with her about LION, and the larger issue of libraries acquiring digitized texts, I was impressed by her thoughtful and detailed concerns about some of the problems attending digitization. I asked her if she would share her views, in the form of an essay, with EALS members. That essay appears below. Chadwyck-Healey will be invited to reply in the next issue of Biblio-Notes.)
I have expressed skepticism to Scott Stebelman, English specialist at the Gelman Library of George Washington University, about the usefulness to Shakespeare scholars and teachers of the Chadwyck-Healey Shakespeare database. This database claims to offer machine-readable Shakespeare texts from 1594 to 1911, with the last major Shakespeare text being the Globe edition of 1863-6. Librarians seeking to justify the purchase of such expensive on-line products should want to find out how accurate the texts are and who among their readers will find them useful. Perhaps the following will prove cautionary.
I want to report, briefly, on the results of an on-line reading of one text from the Chadwyck-Healey database-in this case the First Folio text of A Midsummer Night's Dream. I chose this text almost at random; almost any Folio text would prove the following points because only the specific instances from this text—and only some of them—would have changed. The first surprise in the Folio MND comes with the front matter. Chadwyck-Healey acknowledges in the preliminaries to their database that some front matter in some editions has been excluded. But in the case of the Folio MND, the problem arises from what has been included without textual warrant—a list of Dramatis Personae for the play that does not appear in the Folio (nor for the matter in any early authoritative text). Nowhere in the Chadwyck-Healey text is there any explanation of where this particular list of the play's characters comes from. The first dramatis personae list for MND appears in Rowe's edition of 1709 but any reader without that knowledge—and this includes virtually all students and many Shakespeare teachers—would assume that such a list belonged to the seventeenth century texts of the play. It does not and it seems irresponsible of Chadwyck-Healey not to say so.
Other serious problems result not from editorial decisions but from the inaccuracy of the electronic scanners where early printed texts are concerned. A quick collation of the Chadwyck-Healey Folio text for Dream is far from reassuring. Of course it is to be understood that electronic formats will lose many typographical features of early texts, such as the ornamental capitals which appear at the beginning of Folio play texts, as well as early printed types such the long 's', ligature characters ('ct', 'st', 'sl' and so forth). Other typographic and orthographic features of early printed texts—early spelling conventions regarding 'u', 'v', 'i', 'j' and 'vv' for 'w'—are retained. I am troubled by this inconsistency because I have heeded the cautions of today's textual scholars about the materiality of the print medium. Print conventions, types, spellings are not merely transparent features of texts which we use only to decipher semantic meanings 'within' or 'beyond' the word on the page. Features of print are themselves carriers of meanings, and their loss for the reader who imagines she is reading a replica of an early printed text is a real one.
The loss of the look and feel of early print is not, however, the major deficiency of this electronic text. The real problem occurs because the scanner's inability to recognize early print produces outright nonsense for the reader. The scanner does not recognize the early print conventions for abbreviations, for example. Take line 7 in 'Actus primus' of the Chadwyck-Healey Folio MND: 'Four daies wil quickly steepe theselues in nights.' Here the word 'themselves' has become 'theselues' because the tilde that appears in the original text over the 'e' to stand for the missing 'm' has disappeared. What would a student make of this? Another misreading occurs in line 8—'Foure nights wil quickly dreame a way the time.' Here, thanks to a slightly greater spacing between the first two letters, the Folio's 'away' has been misread.
These are small errors. There is even more nonsense to be found when the scanner badly misreads and misrecognizes whole words. Thus Lysander lamenting that the course of true love never did run smooth, tells Hermia in line 139 of the same scene that love is sometimes "misgrassed in respect of yeares" instead of 'misgraffed' (i.e., misgrafted). The scanner sees double 's' for the Folio double 'f.' Later, however, when the same double 'ff' appears, the scanner inexplicably gets it right. Poor Snug the Joiner (or woodworker) is also misrecognized by the scanner. He is correctly named 'Snug the Ioyner' in the stage directions for the entrance of the mechanicals after Chadwyck-Healey's line 155 in Act One, but soon becomes 'Snugge the loyner' by line 311. What's a 'loiner', the student asks in puzzlement.
These are mistakes only in the first Act of the play. Any complete collation of the Chad- wyck-Healey text with the Folio Dream or any other early Shakespeare Folio texts would produce many more such examples of machine-produced nonsense. What will students think of these early texts? How can they possibly read what they see—let alone interpret it correctly—when what they see is nonsense?
There is also the odd matter of spacing. What the eye sees reading the Chadwyck- Healey Folio Dream are closely spaced verse lines in the first several pages being followed by widely spaced lines of prose dialogue. This spacing of course bears no relation to any spacing in the Folio, nor do I quite understand how and why it has come about here. Though retaining the Folio abbreviations for speech headings, Chadwyck-Healey gives separate lines to these speech prefixes. But why? A rationale for this, as for so much else in this bastard text, escapes me.
What one sees on the screen looks very odd indeed: these are not pages, of course, since there are no page breaks. They certainly are not facsimile pages since the Folio of course is printed in double columns. Nor are they modern pages with regular spacing. I can only call them monstrous hybrids, screens bearing no relation to printing practices at all—then or now.
A better example of how to do it electronically comes via the Furness Memorial Library at the University of Pennsylvania. There, thanks to the Schoenberg Center for Electronic Text and Image, selected Shakespeare texts and other important texts of the period are appearing on-line in photographic reproductions, with pages reproduced at 1 times the original size. These are legible pages, accurately reproduced and may be accessed at: www.library.upenn.edu/etext/collections.
Textual scholars know that it is very difficult to know how to make choices, where to draw lines as to the retention or elimination of typographic features in the history of the book. Scholars of the early printed book have recently insisted upon the materiality of textual and printing practices and their significance. A virtual text cannot hope to reproduce those features with any accuracy, and perhaps we cannot expect it to. But when the virtual text makes nonsense of the early printed text, textual scholars ought to cry foul. Such an electronic text has no textual value, because it cannot be used to demonstrate features of the early text or to be consulted by editors and scholars. It has no pedagogic value, because it so often turns sensible words and phrases into nonsense through its own misrecognitions. I honestly fail to see why any teacher of Shakespeare would reproduce pages of the Chadwyck-Healey First Folio unless it would be to demonstrate why electronic versions of early Shakespeare texts that are not photographically reproduced cannot be trusted to tell us anything. Although Chadwyck-Healey has enlisted the support of prominent Shakespeareans to serve on their Editorial Board, it is hard for me to believe that these colleagues have thought seriously about the problems associated with this form of electronic reproduction.
Gail Kern Paster
During the last ALA Conference, Kristine Anderson, as part of our ongoing series on "Criitcal Theory"— facilitated a discussion on Postcolonialism. Participants learned about the influence of Foucault, Said, Bhabha, and other theorists on Postcolonialism, and how contemporary criticism of postcolonial writers differs from that of earlier scholarship. Given the importance of postcolonialism to the English curriculum, and hence to collection development, I thought it might be useful to do a citation count of some of the writers; for this issue, I have concentrated on African writers. All of the writers were selected from the Postcolonial Web site developed at Brown University. (http://www.stg.brown.edu/projects/hypertext/landow/post/misc/postov.html)
The search was conducted on April 2, 1999. Three databases were used to generate the citations: the MLA International Bibliography ( MLAIB), the Annual Bibliography of English Language and Literature ( ABELL), and the Arts & Humanities Citation Index ( A&HCI). The database vendors used were FirstSearch ( MLAIB and A&HCI) and Chadwyck-Healey ( ABELL). Because the online version of the A&HCI begins with 1980, and ABELL (at the time of the search) ended with 1996, I restricted retrieval to the period 1980-1996. Several of the databases included studies by the writers, as well as those about the writers; citations by the writers were excluded; the rationale being that users of the databases search them mainly as sources of secondary, not primary, criticism. Also excluded were book reviews. The searches done in A&HCI were restricted to articles and to the "cited author" field.
I realize that citations retrieved from the A&HCI, as with other ISI indexes, pose problems for the researcher. Unlike the MLAIB and ABELL, which use indexers to determine the prominence a subject has within a document, the A&HCI indiscriminately records all footnotes (implicit as well as explicit), resulting in the referencing of studies only marginally relevant to the subject. As problematical as these references can be, in the case of Postcolonial writers, especially minor writers, these references can be invaluable if single author studies do not exist; furthermore, the cross-disciplinary nature of the A&HCI, in contrast to the predominantly literary focus of the MLAIB and ABELL, allows the A&HCI to gauge the impact these writers are having in non-literary fields. Adding the Social Sciences Citation Index, especially for writers whose influence is often political as well as literary, would strengthen the cross-disciplinary analysis.
The table below displays the results for each writers, as well as the retrieval performance for each database.
|Muhammed ben Abdallah (Ghana)||0||0||0||0|
|Catherine Obianuju Acholonu (Nigeria)||0||0||2||2|
|Ama Ata Aidoo (Ghana)||36||25||63||124|
|Ayi Kwei Armah (Ghana)||133||70||131||334|
|Awuor Ayoda (Kenya)||0||0||0||0|
|Biyi Bandele-Thomas (Nigeria)||2||0||0||2|
|Tsitsi Dangarembga (Zimbabwe)||22||13||15||50|
|Cyprian Ekwensi (Nigeria)||16||7||25||48|
|Buchi Emecheta (Nigeria)||72||30||67||169|
|Nadine Gordimer (South Africa)||225||195||211||631|
|Bessie Head (Botswana)||112||104||92||308|
|Chenjerai Hove (Zimbabwe)||5||5||4||14|
|Farida Karodia (South Africa)||2||2||2||6|
|Violet Dias Lannoy (Kenya)||0||0||0||0|
|Jean Marquand (South Africa)||0||0||0||0|
|Ezekiel Mphahlele (South Africa)||22||24||75||121|
|Njabulo Ndebele (Souith Africa)||10||15||30||55|
|Isidore Okpewho (Nigeria)||4||0||74||78|
|Ben Okri (Nigeria)||13||18||15||46|
|Tess Onwueme (Nigeria)||10||3||1||14|
|Femi Osofisan Nigeria)||14||11||40||65|
|Sembene Ousmane (Senegal)||117||3||48||168|
|Ken Saro-Wiwa (Nigeria; Ogoni)||13||8||9||30|
|Wole Soyinka (Nigeria)||403||219||417||1039|
|Ngugi Wa Thiongo (Kenya)||118||129||20||267|
|M. G. Vassanji (Kenya)||5||3||9||17|
|Yvonne Vera (Zimbabwe)||0||0||0||0|
|Zoe Wicomb (South Africa)||9||4||9||22|
|Musaemura B. Zimunya (Zimbabwe)||0||0||1||1|
The five most frequently cited/indexed writers are Soyinka, Achebe, Gordimer, Armah, and Head. The MLAIB and the A&CI provided the most citations, with ABELL providing 61% of MLAIB’s and 59% of A&HCI.
This study did not attempt to identify citation overlap among the databases and the number of unique citations found in each database. A much more extensive analysis is being conducted with 50 English, American, and postcolonial writers, from a variety of literary periods. That study will also address the frequencies of foreign language citations, of publication format, and the place of journal publication.
George Washington University
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