Project Update: Headnotes for the Digital Mitford

We’ve not had a blog update from the Digital Mitford in a while, but our project team has been busy! We’ve been working on grant writing and conference talks, not to mention semester and job activities, our energies diverted in many directions. We need a Coding Refresher Hangout, so project-team members, please check your e-mail and write back to let me know what upcoming Saturdays might work for this.

I’m taking a moment now to think aloud about Headnotes for the literary editions we aim to prepare this year for the Digital Mitford. We’re working on coding a test-bed of files, a cross-section of Mitford’s letters, prose fiction, and drama composed in the early 1820s. This moment is especially significant for us in representing Mitford and, effectively, for gluing together the fragments of her reputation. (Victorianists know her for her prose fiction, Our Village, while Romanticists–if they’re aware of her at all–may know of her drama and poetry, and it’s weird that few people are aware of BOTH at the same time, though she was writing both at the same time in the 1820s!) Thus, we on the Digital Mitford team are concentrating our efforts on the early 1820s, when she was especially active (and ultimately successful) in defining her identity and shaping her reputation as a professional woman of letters–so many letters, letters of many kinds!

Several of us are preparing TEI editions of Mitford’s plays and sketches from her Our Village series, and I’ve been preparing some guidelines for drafting headnotes for this work. The following are my notes toward a formal set of guidelines on this:

Headnotes will need to narrate a history of the text, give an overview of its major variations and reception, and explain which variants we’re making available in the project. Though you may in your own research (of course) want to develop larger theoretical or historically grounded arguments about the text and its various forms, the headnote should actually refrain from pushing a particular line of interpretation. Rather, we need to concentrate on making information available about the text, including how it has been received since its first appearance. In other words, let’s prioritize the reception history over our own points of view here. Length is negotiable and flexible, because these editorial headnotes will appear as a separate page linked to the various reading views, graphs and charts we’ll be preparing of and from our TEI editions. Almost certainly we can expect our headnotes to grow as we’re working together on the bundle of plays, prose fiction, and related letters from the early 1820s in our test bed–that period when Mitford was so active in defining herself and negotiating with some Very Important People. I know that my own posted headnote to Julian on the DM site is much too short, so I’ll be working on it to try to provide a good model.

Of course, this means at the very least that each of you working on literary text editing needs to be researching the various performance texts, publication history, etc of your text–and I’m happy to help those of you who are new to this kind of research. The same context-coding guidelines we’ve been developing will apply here. Ultimately it makes sense to write these headnotes  in code, from the start–in a way that links to our site index lists of people and places.  However, I can well understand if you find it easiest to just start writing these in something other than oXygen–in the throes of research and sketching out what you’re learning. Ultimately what we need is plain unicode text that fits our context-coding across the site. (If you’re writing in a word processor, realize that eventually we’ll need to get rid of word-processing special characters and code these as good TEI files connected up to our site index. So, to that end, DM Editors, if this applies to you, please shut off all the formatting “bells and whistles” like curly quotes and such for anything you’re drafting that you’ll be coding in TEI.)

For right now, those of us working on literary and performance texts should concentrate on collecting detailed information on publishing and performance history, as well as relevant historical contexts that we’ll need for our site index’s “personography” and “placeography” lists. We’re quite likely to be making lots of serendipitous discoveries in this phase of research, which will almost certainly generate–for all of you engaged in this–new research material for your own conference talks and publications, as well as new material for the Digital Mitford site to be published in the next couple of years. Editors, feel free to send me (or the group) draft notes, questions, etc. as you have them, and let’s see what we can develop in working together, and see you online. 🙂


One comment

  1. Reblogged this on Confessions of a Digital Romanticist and commented:

    We’re hard at work on the Digital Mitford…an update:


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