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Under Review Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker, “Whipping Boys Explained: Literary Annotation and Digital Humanities”

Whipping Boys Explained: Literary Annotation and Digital Humanities

Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen, Germany

1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 This draft essay has been chosen by the editors for open review. You are invited to read this draft and comment on it. The editors may then ask the authors to revise their work in the light of your comments, with the goal of eventually including the revised essay in the anthology.

1. Introduction

2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Commentary as a practice of annotation that not only helps readers comprehend a text but also facilitates its critical evaluation, elucidates its relevance for a particular readership, and serves to establish or promote specific interpretations spans almost the whole history of reading. Already Homer’s writings were given interpretative word explanations during antiquity (cf. Schmitt-Neuerburg). It seems a matter of course that texts from the past, or originating in a foreign culture, are endowed with notes, but sometimes notes are even part of the original edition or are added shortly afterwards, frequently by the authors themselves.1 Authors who do so sometimes strive to give the impression of cultural, historical or political authenticity (e.g. Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper), or they wish to expose and criticize the practice of commentary in order to integrate it into the aesthetic reflection (e.g. in Nabokov’s Pale Fire).2 In any case, commentary aims at situating a text and its objects communicatively by means of explanations. Practising and reflecting on explicatory annotation has thus been an ongoing task for anyone concerned with mediating literature. In the age of digital media, however, the issue of explanatory annotation comes up with particular force: while it has never seemed easier to annotate texts, and perhaps never more necessary, the new options offered by digital humanities make us see problems of annotation that have rarely been reflected upon.

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 For this reason we founded a project at the University of Tübingen on the electronic annotation of literary texts in 2011.3 The starting point was the wish of our students for a deeper understanding of the assigned text in one of our classes, Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper. To meet this request, we offered a seminar expressly devoted to annotating it. More classes followed that aimed at collaboratively annotating texts (e.g. on metaphysical poetry and Charles Dickens), and students continued the work on their own. This initiative was the beginning of a peer-learning students’ project, which fed into a website (www.annotating-literature.org) in order to enable others to profit from their work and encourage them to participate.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 While the peer-learning project has helped students acquire and practice scholarly methods, improved their writing and research skills, and made them understand the annotated text better, we found more and more that the practice of annotation proved a rather difficult undertaking. The reason for this is the sheer lack of a theory of literary annotation.4 We have therefore supplemented the student project with a research project in which we are trying to develop such a theory and establish models of best practice. The relationship between theory and methodologies (as ways of organizing the practice of annotation) is by no means obvious. Still, we believe that the medium (a digital space for text and annotations) and the practices it entails makes us realize the need for establishing certain methodological principles, which will in turn require some conceptual clarification as to why and wherefore texts should be annotated, i.e. a theory of annotation. Practice will lead to methodology and theory, and back again. This interplay is especially complex when literary texts in the more narrow sense of the word (i.e. poems, prose narratives, and drama) are to be annotated. For whereas (e.g.) legal or religious texts will be annotated with a view to clarifying their meaning and defining their relevance for the lives of their recipients, this is much more problematic when it comes to literary texts, as they work differently. If you think, for example, as Archibald MacLeish does, that “A poem should not mean / But be,” annotation might become impossible. Thus the ontological status of a literary work is a theoretical problem which is of considerable significance for the practise of annotation. Moreover, it is a problem that should be historicized, for the very denial of the communicative function of poetry (in favour of an existential one) is characteristic of a historical development (and could be part of an explanatory note). Our idea of the nature of a text will therefore influence the function of its annotation. Other theoretical issues which are relevant to the medial practice of annotation include the relationship of part and whole (do we understand a text as a whole better when its parts are explained?), as well as more general questions of hermeneutics and understanding (what do we need in order to understand a text?). The former may lead to (and be derived from) the way in which we connect notes in the medial practice; the latter is immediately relevant to (and the result of considering) the amount of information and explanation provided, which becomes an issue particularly when there are virtually no limitations of space. Pointlessness and redundancy may be the result. Last but not least, questions of expertise and authority come in when a text is provided with explanatory annotations. New forms of collaboration made possible by the digital medium entail the theoretical question of how explanatory authority is established; conversely, our idea of how an annotation becomes most trustworthy and authoritative will influence the way in which we organise the practise of annotation.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 A theory of annotation comprises all these aspects and more; our suggestion is that two questions form its core: Firstly, what is the idea of the literary text presupposed by annotation, and what does annotation do to a text, both in its medial and material form and as regards its meaning? Secondly, what does annotation do for readers, both with regard to their way of reading and their understanding of the text? Methods and medial practices will have to be measured against these theoretical questions, just as any answer to the questions will be influenced by the methods and practises employed.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 Based on these considerations, the aim of our project is threefold. Besides developing a theory for the explanatory annotation of literary texts from different periods and cultures, we aim at establishing a concept of explanatory annotation within the field of digital humanities. By means of exemplary annotations, we hope to help opening up a new area of practice within digital humanities. Last but not least, the project aims to explore and analyze the use and profit of literary annotation in order to see if and how the readerly comprehension of texts may be enhanced. Linked to this goal is the integration of evaluative methods from educational studies into literary research.

2. Literary Annotation in the Digital Age

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 The practice of explanatory annotation, on the one hand, shows a high degree of formal and medial constancy; on the other hand, it reflects (in concentrated form) changing emphases and strategies of literary reception. It is, therefore, even more surprising that this old practice is not provided or backed up with an adequate theory (cf. Assmann, “Text und Kommentar”; Eggert; van Peursen; Drucker; Parry; Sutherland, “Paper-based Editing and the Digital Environment”). Aims and assumptions of annotations mostly remain unacknowledged, which means that one of the first steps of the project must be to further a systematic reflection of the ongoing practice. Thus the first of our two theoretical questions could be spelled out as follows: are there any characteristics of texts (content, style, genre, period) that allow for the inference of general principles that help us describe what is to be annotated and in which manner? For example, do texts from the early modern period generally require vocabulary annotation? Or: what kinds of styles and/or genres require explanatory notes?

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 The medium of annotations has always attracted critical attention since explanatory notes and comments usually multiply the texts (partly through images) and provide hypertexts.5 This issue leads us to the question whether there are any principles that govern various medial realizations of literary annotation. It is, however, also connected with the relation of commentary and changing media: which medial form is adequate to contemporary processes of reading? What comes into focus in this regard is digital and web-based commentary: a few models seem to exist.6 But so far, annotation in the context of digital humanities is mainly understood as tagging; i.e. adding encoded information (the markup of a text; the TEI project; cf. Cummings; McGann) which enables users to retrieve specific features, e.g. for corpus-based linguistic analysis. A related field is electronic editing (see the contributions in Siemens/Schreibman; Hockey; Eggert).7 None of these is the same as explanatory annotation. The challenge is to integrate the hermeneutical project of explanatory annotation into digital humanities, where it belongs in the twenty-first century.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 This is by no means just a technical problem. Rather, the second theoretical question mentioned above is always involved: all explanatory annotations of texts are based on an (implicit) idea of who and what the reader is. This issue is linked to constructs of the cultural function of annotation. As university teachers of English literature we are here thinking in particular of the learning reader: annotations serve to transmit knowledge and understanding about texts and their content. The questions, hence, are what readers of annotations are supposed to be like, what they need, how they are to deal with literary annotations, and in which way they are to interact with them. Important concerns in this regard are the diversity and individuality of readers: groups of readers are no longer homogenous.8 While, until a few years ago, it might have been rather obvious which aspects of a classical/canonical text needed annotation (or not), in a contemporary context such consensus is difficult to achieve. This fact, however, has consequences for the systematics of annotation as well as its mediality. It belongs to the concept of digital annotation that individual needs and requirements are met.

10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 Annotation is an enrichment9 of the reading process, i.e. simultaneously with reading the text additional information is being conveyed. The quantity of this information is limited both by the medium and the cognitive potential of the reader. In early modern Bible editions, for instance, it was common that a scriptural passage was framed by a commenting marginal gloss (for a prominent English example, see the Geneva Bible),10 which led to a multiple reading that, however, was at the time understood to be a coherent process. Text and commentary were spatially and medially separate but connected communicatively. On the book page, this is not problematic: the size of the page automatically (so to speak) delimits the amount of textual commentary (and so does the amount of pages in a volume). In a digital context, however, such a (spatial) restriction does not exist, though problems of representation remain. What is mainly to be taken into account are the limits of cognitive processing on the reader’s part. A theory of annotation has to consider on the kind of reading process that correlates with the medial presentation as well as the effects of this presentation on the understanding of the text. Thus, while basic medial assets and problems of commentary have remained the same throughout media change, they are now foregrounded through digital annotation. Different texts and readers need different annotations (and different kinds of annotation), a requirement that can be met more easily by the digital than by the print medium.11 Still, the information provided by annotations will have to be structured (and, for cognitive reasons, limited) in order to retain its nature, i.e. be informative and useful. It therefore seems advisable to keep in mind different fields and different levels of annotation when working on a concept that can be used for a range of literary texts.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Our introductory theoretical considerations are therefore addressed by methodological and practical steps. Texts can be supplied with explanatory material in more ways than ever before (e.g. by adding visual and auditory material) but, from a theoretical perspective, a balance will have to be struck between keeping the text recognizable in its original, unexplained and therefore often enigmatic form, and making it completely disappear in a context of related material. Correspondingly, a balance will have to be struck between leaving readers enough room to explore and interpret a text on their own and overtaxing them with explanations and additional material whose authority and relevance they may not be able to evaluate. As a methodological consequence, our aim should be to find ways of structuring and making transparent what is added to a text. This could lead up to the development of a best practice model of annotation that includes medial dimensions as well as digital formats that allow for a wide use in various projects of (literary) annotation. To find such a model, theoretical and methodological reflection has to go hand in hand with a practical approach, i.e. theoretical approaches have to be tested against model annotations that then help develop and modify the theory.12

3. Finding a Model for Best Practice

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 In our project so far, the guiding principles for annotating literary texts are to consider the audience (who are we writing the annotation for?), to define the purpose of annotation (why are we writing this note?), to make the criteria transparent (how are we writing it?). In accordance with these principles, our methodology (in the sense outlined above) is constantly to be revised and developed.

3.1 Audience and Purpose of Annotation

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 With regard to the audience and purpose of literary annotation, our model aims to be flexible in its attempt to address (potential) individual needs of readers, trying to consider the kind and amount of information (neither too little nor too much) they require in order to understand and interpret the text. The student project has so far proved to be a good format to test this as we immediately get feedback from our readers concerning difficulties in understanding the text and/or the notes, and we thus learn where clarification is needed. Apart from enabling us to develop annotations based on these needs, the feedback from our students and website users also makes us aware of possibly ambiguous passages in a text when we compare readings among members of the group.13 The question is how this practice of collaborative reading may be related to the theoretical framework sketched in our introductory remarks.

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Apart from the question of authority (how to balance individual expertise with the distributed knowledge of the group), there is question of how to balance the notion of an “open” and “readerly” text (as emphasized by Spiro 24)14 with hermeneutical principles: each explanatory annotation of a text must have a well-defined function for the comprehension of the text. The project, although grounded in English literary studies, thus addresses issues relevant for other textual studies as well (one may immediately think of theology, but also of classical studies etc.). Hence, developments in the field of hermeneutics (see, e.g., Raible, “Vom Text und seinen vielen Vätern” and “Arten des Kommentierens”) are as relevant to the project as is the clarification of terminological and ontological notions. What is at stake is to find a definition of annotation in its explanatory sense and its relation to interpretation (cf., for instance, the definition of annotation vs. comment in Zafrin 209, and Zons). Hermeneutical theory (as well as text linguistics) also comes into the selection of aspects of a text that are to be annotated and the relation of the parts of a text and its whole. As a rule, annotations refer to a particular part of the text and its elements; accordingly, questions of information hierarchy will have to be considered when it comes to determining the function of the annotation with regard to the explanation and comprehension of a text as a whole. The fundamental problems inherent in the hermeneutical cycle hence win particular relevance in the context of annotation: the annotation of parts presupposes the understanding of the text as a whole, while at the same time providing such an understanding.

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Both of our introductory theoretical questions (what does annotation do to the text? and what does it do for the reader?) will have to be remembered when it comes to the systematic description of why annotations are necessary: which elements need explanation and why (cf. Stroud)? The practical experience as described above is one issue, but others relate to the historical reconstruction of language (re older texts) and cultural contexts (cf. Battestin).

16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 The use for the text and the use for the reader can help us address the current situation in which textual notes are all too often nothing but “the enrichment of a text by information that is in the head of the human researcher” (van Peursen 12). The intuition of literary scholars is one thing, but it has to be integrated into a systematic approach and into a model of collaboration. Such an approach allows for creative and individual annotation that is productive for a recipient;15 at the same time it requires theoretically valid criteria.

3.2 Content and Criteria of Digital Literary Annotations

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 The hermeneutical concerns outlined above are connected to a requirement for objectivity and clarity with regard to annotation. To this end, we have developed, in the current student project, various categories of annotations that correspond to a specific set of criteria related to content on three different levels. It seems important to us, as a first step, to make transparent what an explanatory note actually achieves. This helps us keep in mind the first of our theoretical questions. Annotators should show which aspect of a text is being annotated and thus make it possible for their notes to cater to different ideas about the nature of literary texts.

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Methodologically, we suggest doing this by defining different fields; in our annotations, these are are linguistic (i.e. relating to lexicon, syntax, etc.), formal (e.g. verse form, narrative structure, iconicity, etc.), intratextual (recurring patterns, motifs), intertextual (relations to other texts), contextual (i.e. biographical, historical, philosophical, theological), and interpretative (a second-order annotation16 which refers to conclusions we draw from our findings, e.g. effects of ambiguity on the overall reading of a text); all of these are given a marker:

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 A Linguistic (Lexicon, Syntax, etc.)

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 B Formal (Verse Form, Narrative Structure, Iconicity etc.)

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 C Intratextual

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 D Intertextual

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 E Contextual (Biographical, Historical, Philosophical, Theological, etc.)

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 F Interpretative

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 These fields may be interconnected, they may all come into play for one instance in a text—but they do not necessarily have to. Furthermore, their relevance has to be taken into consideration as well: we do not wish to make annotations endless but provide readers with information they may find essential and adequate. Thus the method of organizing notes by indicating the aspects of the text they elucidate, as well as their relationship to the text, also helps taking into account our second theoretical question. We do not have a fixed idea of what readers are like but rather introduce fields in order to make it easier for them to use what the annotations will offer, dependent on situation and purpose. The method offers enough for a large number of reader-types and helps them to find the information they need. It has a pragmatic function with regard to the kind of information offered and a heuristic function with regard to the reader’s needs; i.e. it is not a scheme of classification by fixed categories but provides orientation for the reader. There are risks of redundancy, but the overlap between the fields is kept to a minimum. Relations and cross-references between the fields rather than repetitions of explanations is what the reader gets.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 In order to address situational needs, we have furthermore arranged annotations on three levels: from brief information (a survey, pointers) to more detailed, established facts and, finally, scholarly context (incentives for future research, opening up debates).17 Whereas the fields indicate different aspects of the text, the levels indicate the quantity of explanation. Of course there might be two or four or five levels, but three achieves the right kind of balance between too little and too much differentiation (as outlined above). The three levels serve to manage the amount of facts presented, to encourage plausible interpretation and to show the dynamic aspect of annotation. The digital format is particularly apt to the latter point, as an annotated edition thus may become an ongoing working platform. There must be openness in order to facilitate purposes and findings the annotators may not have thought of, but there also must be organization in order to make the annotations as useful as possible.18 Still, the quantitative levels are not exclusively reader-oriented but also text-oriented, as they show us, at the same time, a text that virtually speaks for itself (with just a little help from outside) and a text which is situated in a network of multiple linguistic, cultural, historical etc. interactions. Last but not least, the proposed organization of notes into fields and levels makes sense because the explanatory annotation is collaborative. As distinct from the work of individual annotators, who may purposefully choose a subjective approach, the teamwork of collaborative annotation is in greater need of principles that make it more objective.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 As van Peursen has pointed out: “In the digital age, annotation is a completely new field, which includes not only traditional scholarly commentary, but also social tagging, blog comments, and comments solicited via specialised software” (20). The project wishes to address the possibilities resulting from digitalisation in a systematic way and to integrate them into a model of annotation that enables readers to profit more from such an annotated text than from a set of explanatory annotations in a printed book. This, however, does not mean that digital media guarantee an improvement with regard to the practice of annotation—just as “collaboration” does not automatically result in a gain in quality (cf. McCarty). The advantages of digital annotation and the possibilities resulting from collaborative approaches will only emerge in the context of a consistent concept, which takes into account the risks of loss of information through quantity of information (cf. Berry).

3.3 The Text and Its Communicative Context

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Commentary positions a text within a communicative situation. This means that especially literary texts which are not usually pragmatic in any specified sense are brought into a functional context by means of annotation. These texts are treated as utterances whose meaning is to be elucidated and which make better sense when understood as referring to areas of knowledge that can be made accessible to the reader (cf. Presner).

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 It is self-evident that this is not always in accordance with authorial intention or the origin of a text; at the same time, the didactic functions of annotations need not delimit the aesthetic, non-pragmatic dimension of a text. “Comprehension” does not mean the passive perusal of a text but rather its appropriation in the readerly practice, for instance through readers linking the text with their own experience or situation in life. Especially because annotation does not usually provide the reader with an interpretation of a complete text but with the elucidation of single aspects, it is a particularly apt way to enhance the reader’s active participation. Literary annotation thus should strive to address the individual strengths and needs of readers, which is rarely the case in any of the existing approaches. Testing the effects of annotation, in turn, also helps modifying the model of annotation.

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 A best-practice model of literary digital annotation aims at developing theories of commentary (understood as explanatory annotation) that open up texts for a deeper understanding. This will also widen the scope of digital humanities, as such a model will contribute an aspect that has so far been neglected. Furthermore, new methods of reader orientation with regard to text comprehension are developed in the area of text explication, and the results (and the success) of text explication can be tested. Especially this latter point is highly relevant with regard to the debate concerning textual comprehension (or “reading literacy”) as a key competence.19

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 At the same time, the question remains open whether a theory of explicatory annotation as a means of textual comprehension that is transhistorically, transculturally, and transgenerically compatible can actually be established. We think the answer to this lies in remaining aware of the historical transience inherent in the rapidly changing digital media themselves. Digital tools that make possible the adequate presentation of annotation have to be developed. And, finally, the reader-oriented approach has to be flexible enough in order to address various preconditions and requirements of recipients—from the mere enjoyment of reading a text to academic research. A theory of annotation therefore has to combine individual and active use with (educational) objectives whose achievement can be empirically tested. In what follows we will present an example of literary annotation based on our model to see if these requirements can actually be met at all.

4. An Example: The “Whipping Boy” in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper (1881)

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Our example is from Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, the text that the project first approached for literary annotation. In chapter 14, the “whipping boy” of Prince Edward is mentioned, but all existing editions of Twain’s historical novel fail to give a satisfactory explanation of the term.20

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 If we approach this word on the first level of our model—which is supposed to provide brief information and a survey—we might arrive at the following note:

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 Level 1 [Brief information and survey]

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 A [linguistic] OED definition: “A boy educated together with a young prince or royal personage, and flogged in his stead when he committed a fault that was considered to deserve flogging.” The first reference is from 1647, i.e. about a hundred years after the scene described in The Prince and the Pauper.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 E [contextual] It is by no means certain whether Edward VI had a whipping-boy or whether Mark Twain was convinced he had one. But there are good reasons to assume that the scene draws on Samuel Rowley’s play about Henry VIII, When You See Me You Know Me (1605). See Level 3 D/E note.

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 One of the purposes of notes on this level is that they should help readers in estimating whether they would like to be provided with further information. This is why, in our example, the notes are presented as succinctly as possible while nevertheless indicating that there might be more complex issues at stake. In this manner, we can also address the theoretical question about the relationship between local annotation and the meaning of the text as a whole: even in the brief level 1 note, the occurrence of the whipping-boy appears as part of an overall fictionalization of history by the author. When addressing the second level of annotations (aimed at readers who wish to know more than basic facts), the established facts concern Mark Twain’s own note on the whipping boy, his separate publication of the whipping boy’s story, as well as Twain’s avowed sources (William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott). The annotation accordingly reads thus:

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 Level 2 [Established Facts]

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 C/E [intratextual/contextual] Mark Twain’s own note on the whipping boy which appeared in the first ed. of P&P: “James I. and Charles II. had whipping-boys, when they were little fellows, to take their punishment for them when they fell short in their lessons; so I have ventured to furnish my small prince with one, for my own purposes” (Twain, The Prince and the Pauper, ed. Griswold 188n8).

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 C/D [intratextual/intertextual] “A Boy’s Adventure”: “Clemens originally published ‘A Boy’s Adventure’ as his contribution to the Hartford Bazar Budget (June 4, 1880). He intended to use this ‘whipping boy story’ in his novel but William Dean Howells did not find the episode amusing; at his friend’s suggestion, Clemens left it out” (Twain, “A Boy’s Adventure” 195). For the text of the story, see here [a link to an online edition of the text will be provided].

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 E [contextual] Mark Twain derived his information about the whipping boy in the wake of his getting familiar with archaic English phrases. His notes include long lists of words and phrases, the result of reading, as he later said, undertaken “with the purpose of saturating myself with archaic English to a degree which would enable me to do plausible imitations of it in a fairly easy and unlabored way” (Twain, “1601” 206). These vocabulary lists are, in the main, drawn from Shakespeare’s King Henry IV, Part 1, and from Sir Walter Scott’s Kenilworth, Quentin Durward, Ivanhoe, and The Fortunes of Nigel. His reliance on Scott’s romances, which are set in France and England from the twelfth to the seventeenth centuries, for an approximation of Tudor speech is a curious instance of the author’s slapdash historical scholarship. From Scott he also gleaned one or two details of period costume” (Salamo 20).

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 In Scott’s The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) Mark Twain also found a reference to the “office” of whipping boy; Sir Mungo is mentioned as King James VI whipping boy: “The office of whipping-boy doomed its unfortunate occupant to undergo all the corporeal punishment which the Lord’s Anointed, whose proper person was of course sacred, might chance to incur, in the course of travelling through his grammar and prosody.” Sir Walter Scott goes on to describe Sir Mungo’s “grotesque physiognomy, and the superhuman yells” which added to the effect of the punishment “appall[ing] the very soul of the youthful king” (76).

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 The third level provides the reader of the annotation with scholarly context, namely other possible sources of Twain’s whipping boy (in particular Rowley and Fuller), a possible response to The Prince and the Pauper (namely Dyer’s article in The Leisure Hour), historical accuracy, and, lastly, the link between literature and the creation of historical myth. With regard to our introductory theoretical question about the authority of explanatory annotations, we hope the example shows that one way of establishing such an authority may consist in addressing the scholarly discussion and, where appropriate, in correcting misconceptions. Thus the third level fulfills the function of making annotations trustworthy by providing scholarly evidence, which is frequently impossible in conventional (printed) annotated editions, where there is no room for scholarly discussion and where authority must rely on secondary evidence, such as the publisher’s or the annotator’s name.

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 Level 3 [Scholarly Context]

45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 D/E [intertextual/contextual] The whipping boy case seems to be an illustration of how, through the mixture of fact and fiction, Mark Twain contributes to the invention of the “institution” of the whipping boy which could have been just an occasional practice. His sources are mainly literary rather than historical, and it is interesting to try and trace the connection of the assemblage of texts that revolve around this issue.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Although historical information regarding the “office” of whipping boy is scarce, in 1883, that is two years after the publication of The Prince and The Pauper, a short article by T. F. Thiselton Dyer entitled “Whipping by proxy” appeared in a London family journal of instruction and recreation called The Leisure Hour (see Dyer). It was reprinted in the Canadian Messenger of 18 October 1889.21

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Dyer starts by describing the “institution” slightly paraphrasing Sir Walter Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel (1822) and mentioning the explanation Scott gives for the creation of this office, namely the king being the Lord’s anointed and thus a sacred figure, as a fact. He goes on to mention Scott’s novel too, as well as an “old play” recently republished at the time, and featuring as the oldest source concerning Prince Edward’s whipping boy. It is Samuel Rowley’s play on Henry VIII When You See Me You Know Me (performed in 1604, published in 1605). In this play we find a scene about young Prince Edward’s learning and education. The tutors have whipped another boy instead of Edward because the Prince is “behind in [his] Greek authors” (Rowley 47). By way of compensation the young Edward knights the boy, Edward Browne, and when his father enters upon the scene, he confirms the knighthood. Edward Browne is not called a whipping boy but he is in fact one. This ascertains that the legend that Edward had a whipping boy is at least as old as 1604, and it is very likely that Mark Twain knew the play. In 1874, only a few years before the publication of P&P, the play was re-edited by Karl Elze.22

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Dyer’s short article also mentions the only historical source we have on that account, prior to the publication of Twain’s novel, which is the following mention by Thomas Fuller in his The Church-History of Britain: “We lately made mention of Barnaby Fitz-Patrick, to whom the King directed His Letter, as who was bred and brought up with Him from His infancy, though somewhat the older. He was Prince Edward’s PROXIE for CORRECTION, though we may presume seldom suffering in that kinde, such the Princes general innocence and ingenuity to learn His book. Yet when such execution was done, as Fitz-Patrick was beaten for the Prince, the Prince was beaten in Fitz-Patrick, so great an affection did He bare to His Servant” (Fuller 2: 342). This short mention of Prince Edward’s whipping boy, which is already 60 years removed from the time of the historical events, is the only source that is being mentioned as evidence by scholars hereafter.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Such is the case with Mark Lawhorn, who is not very precise when it comes to historical sources. He notes: “There is some indication that a whipping boy was appointed for the young Edward after he became king, not before as in Rowley’s play” (Lawhorn 132). His reference for this is Alison Weir, The Children of Henry VIII: “when Edward became king, Barnaby was appointed to the unenviable post of royal whipping boy, which meant that he had to suffer the punishments that their governors would not dare to administer to the Lord’s Anointed, their sovereign” (Weir 14).

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Weir does not give any references but her phrasing (“the Lord’s Anointed”) suggests that she eventually relies on Scott’s novel.

51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 The veracity of Fuller’s mention is however challenged by Chris Skidmore in his Edward VI: The Lost King of England: “Edward’s best friend was Barnaby Fitzpatrick, the son of Lord Upper Ossory, whom he later wrote to fondly and rewarded with generous gifts of money. A century later, the historian Thomas Fuller asserted that Barnaby had even acted as Edward’s ‘proxy for correction’ and was whipped in place of Edward when the prince misbehaved by tutors not willing to incur Henry’s wrath. This was a likely invention. We know from a report of Edward’s progress, written by his tutor Cox in December 1544, that not even the nation’s heir was able to avoid the cane. […] Despite Fuller’s assertions to the contrary, it seems that Edward had become a bit of a brat, confident that not even Cox could lay a hand on him. […] Cox despaired, until eventually his temper boiled over and he gave Edward ‘such a wound that he wist [knew] not what to do’. Edward was stunned—‘Captain Will’ had been vanquished; ‘I never heard from him since,’ Cox reported. He was sure Edward had learnt his lesson, and that no further similar punishments would be necessary” (Skidmore 32) [Skidmore cites unpublished documents, see references in his book].

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 1 It appears then that, by doting Edward VI with a whipping boy, Mark Twain draws from an early historical fantasy, as Rowley’s play attests. There is no solid historical evidence of this, since the only historical source given is Fuller, who is ambiguous about the matter. Rowley and Scott thus seem to be the models Mark Twain uses for inventing a whipping-boy for Edward VI. The incident of a punishment for not knowing his Greek authors and the episode of the “knighting” of the boy as recompense for his sufferings in the Prince’s stead, are both to be found in Rowley. However this creates a web of texts installing and sustaining a historical myth, which is then reiterated by scholars as an ascertained historical fact. In a constant interrelation of literature and history, fiction and fact, the literary texts’ power of shaping the image of historical figures is being enhanced through the myth’s re-entering the sphere of historical popularized knowledge, achieving maximum reach and impact through its Wikipedia entry, which however issues the following warning for the careful reader: “This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.” The Wikipedia entry on Barnaby Fitzpatrick being Edward’s VI whipping boy gives Fuller as its source. In Robert Dunlop’s entry on Fitzpatrick in the Dictionary of National Biography, he is also mentioned as “proxy for correction” to Edward with the source being again Fuller (Dunlop, “Fitzpatrick, Barnaby”). Though the entry on Fitzpatrick in the 2004 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has been extended, he is still listed “as the king’s [Edward’s] whipping boy” (Maginn, “Fitzpatrick, Barnaby”).

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Fischer and Frank, in their annotated ed. of P&P, suggest that Mark Twain’s own note “shows that he was unaware that Edward Tudor was also said to have had a whipping boy, identified as Barnaby Fitzpatrick (1535?–1581), a schoolmate and close friend” (The Prince and the Pauper, ed. Fischer/Frank 314). Apart from the fact that Barnaby Fitzpatrick’s role, as outlined above, was by no means certain, Mark Twain’s note does not definitely show this. Like Rowley in When You See Me, You Know Me, he endowed Prince Edward with a whipping-boy, knowing that this meant taking liberties with established historical facts.

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 The different levels provide the reader with different planes of knowledge—both with regard to quantity and to quality (in the sense of the kind of information). A reader who wishes to learn the basic facts concerning the “whipping boy” in Twain’s novel will probably only be interested in level one. If the reader is interested in somewhat more detailed material, level two provides him/her with concise intratextual as well as intertextual and contextual information. Level three is the most comprehensive annotation in that it also gives the reader an overview regarding secondary literature and criticism that invites him/her to conduct further research.

5. Open Questions and Future Perspectives

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 While we are annotating literary texts, our approach is interdisciplinary in that it brings together the fields of linguistics, history, cultural studies, and religious studies; it is also transdisciplinary as a theory of annotation is a tool essential for all philologies as well as theology, philosophy, and even law studies, i.e. for all subjects concerned with hermeneutics.

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 Our long-term goals—besides the establishment of a flexible model of annotation—are to produce critical and reliable academic online annotated editions of literary texts with an open access policy and to establish an international network of collaboration.

57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 1 An issue we will have to deal with in the near future is the problem of engaging with the possibilities and delimitations of the digital medium: while it gives us the sheer endless opportunity to publish material, this is also its largest weakness. The overabundance of what is offered on the web is frequently tantamount to an incongruous and non-manageable amount of information; the task of finding out what is relevant and pertinent is left to the reader.23 Simply linking the individual names and expressions in a text to Wikipedia entries and dictionaries is no surrogate for explanatory notes provided by experts who encourage the reader to go on exploring the text. Thus, in the age of Google et al. when everyone can browse the web to find an answer to a query, we need, more than ever, a theory-based methodology and practice of annotation which will allow for making this excess of information manageable, and therefore useful and usable. While the classical note was already posing problems concerning the act of reading, digital annotation and the unlimited space it affords bring us back to the linearity of the text and of its reading and, by extension, to the definition of the text itself. This aspect is related to the question of where to stop when annotating a (literary) text, i.e. to find a balance between giving the necessary information without overwhelming the reader, thus taking into account various kinds of readers and their individual needs.24 Here very specific questions of medial representation are involved. How are the annotations to be displayed? On the reference site of the student project (www.annotating-literature.org) notes are indicated by a coded marker (hyperlink) the reader has to click on. This will hopefully trigger a certain element of suspense and surprise which is felt to be a true enrichment of the reading process. At the same time, as Dennis Tenen has recently reminded us,25 we should not wait for readers to visit specific platforms to peruse (for example) famous and complex texts of world literature. Much better than trying to carry readers to specific sites of annotations will be to carry the annotations to the readers, i.e. to whatever version of the text (print, online) they happen to have in front of them. Ideas of how to do so are currently being hatched.

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 We will know in due course if a theory (and a practice interacting with such a theory) of annotating literature can be developed further. In the meantime, literary annotation, from our point of view, should find its place in the digital humanities and, more specifically, in the field of literary digital studies.


59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 1. See, for example, Rainey on one of the best-known cases of this kind, T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which “appeared in three more or less contemporaneous versions: first, on 16 October [1922], without notes, in the October issue of the Criterion […]; then around 20 October, again without notes, in the November issue of the Dial […]; and finally around 1 December, now with notes, in a small book issued by the American publisher Boni and Liveright” (45). A more recent case in point is poem #14 in Leonard Cohen’s Book of Mercy about Ishmael, which Cohen glosses with a note on “Ishmael, first son of Abraham and his hand-maiden Hagar, is traditionally considered the father of the Arab nation” (14n). The tradition can also be found in Dante’s “autoexegesis” (cf. Minnis 313).

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 2. Or as a feature making us aware of the materiality of the medium; see, e.g., J. J. Abrams’s and Doug Dorst’s S. (2013), in which a fictional novel (V. M. Straka’s Ship of Theseus) is annotated by two readers in dialogue with each other. We are grateful to Christoph Reinfandt for making us aware of this book in the context of reflecting on functions of annotations.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 3. The project is a joint venture of a group of students, esp. Lisa Ebert, Lena Moltenbrey, Susanne Riecker, and Timo Stösser, as well as a colleague, Elena Anastasaki. Although we have authored this article, their ideas and research have contributed to it.

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 4. As a concept which is grounded in hermeneutical optimism, Battestin is still valuable for the practice of annotation. Apart from its concern with editing, however, it is mostly author-focused, e.g. when Battestin recommends the annotator to identify “specific meanings and connotations an allusion or an idea may have had for the author and his first readers” (21). By contrast, Lipking, referring to Valéry, regards the marginal gloss, at least potentially, as representing the reader’s (creative) thought. Various degrees of scepticism as regards annotation and its (potentially) hegemonial claims inform the contributions by Derrida, Hanna, McFarland, and Nichols. – We are grateful to Timo Stösser, who has drawn our attention to the publications mentioned here.

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 5. On commentary and annotation as multiplication see, e.g., A. Assmann, “Der Eigen-Kommentar”; J. Assmann, “Altägyptische Kultkommentare”; Lang, “Homiletische Bibelkommentare”; Minnis, “Vernacular Literature”; Lipking, “The Marginal Gloss.”

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 6. See, for example, the Internet Shakespeare Editions (cf. Murphy; http://internetshakespeare.uvic.ca/) and the Walt Whitman Archive (http://www.whitmanarchive.org).

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 7. Both are outside our scope of research. Markup, however, may become relevant when recurrent textual phenomena are concerned. The question of editing is pertinent whenever we come across textual variants that influence the interpretation of a text and thus demand commentary.

66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 8. Lamont writes: “the dimensions of the text and the capacity of the reader remain unaltered” (60). On the reader of multimodal texts (in comparison to monomodal, print-based texts) see, e.g., Serafini; and Walsh.

67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 9. The term is used in a fairly wide sense, including, but not restricted to, its meaning in relevance theory, where the activity of enrichment it can be described as “constructing an appropriate hypothesis about explicit content (explicatures) via decoding, disambiguation, reference resolution, and other pragmatic enrichment processes” (Wilson and Sperber 615).

68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 10. For a reproduction of the 1560 edition, see https://archive.org/details/TheGenevaBible1560. – See Lamont: “What happens to the act of reading if an annotator slips in between reader and text with a note? Readers read in the light of their own experience of previous texts; do we acknowledge that one of these might be a carefully places note, read more or less concurrently with the reading of the text? Do such notes get subsumed into the text in the act of reading, so challenging our idea of what the text is anyway?” (51).

69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 11. In this respect, digital annotations share the advantages of digital editions. For the latter, see Dahlström: “On the one hand, it [digital scholarly edition] is supposed to be dynamic and as a research tool quickly reflects new findings and scholarly development. On the other hand, there are arenas where the scholarly edition is supposed to be conservative, static and confirmative. We see this two-faced character in the way scholarly editing is marked by both being prone to change, experiment, question and discussion while at the same time being highly conservative and traditional. There is a welcoming and there is a resistance” (86).

70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 12. One way of testing theory and practice is to give annotations to readers and see whether (various kinds of) notes and commentary further the understanding or not. This leads to a didactic component of the project (cf. Spiro).

71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 13. This immediate feedback is furthermore enhanced through our website where readers can, via a discussion forum, address further difficulties and suggest information we might have missed to provide.

72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 14. See also, for instance, Gervais; Klemm; and Vandendorpe.

73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 15. Such “productivity” furthermore requires constant evaluation of quality standards that also have to be integrated into theories and models of annotation, especially as the digital media allow for an open and potentially endless annotation. Quality standards are based on the premise that something like a “better” or “richer” understanding of a text exists—which also implies a critical perspective with regard to deconstructivist approaches (cf. Meister).

74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 16. We are aware that factual information is always the result of (conscious or unconscious) interpretative decisions. Still, we think that the introduction of an interpretative category furthers rather than obscures ongoing reflection on this fact.

75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 17. Apart from providing related material for further reading, this third level may also include information about (or even make accessible) seminal works from secondary literature as well as dialogues the text has produced (either at the time of publication or during its subsequent reception up to today).

76 Leave a comment on paragraph 76 0 18. The three levels are, however, not representative of the address of different target audiences. Each reader is supposed to make use of all levels, in accordance with his/her individual needs.

77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 19. See the OECD definition of “literacy” as “the ability to understand, evaluate, use and engage with written texts to participate in society, achieve one’s goals, and develop one’s knowledge and potential. Literacy encompasses a range of skills from the decoding of written words and sentences to the comprehension, interpretation, and evaluation of complex texts” (OECD 4). See http://www.oecd.org/site/piaac/SkillsOutlook_2013_ebook.pdf.

78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 20. On the technical side of things, we have so far developed a new user-friendly digital annotations reader that allows annotations to be read alongside with the text (without the need to change windows or to scroll at the bottom of the page and back) while providing the possibility for different layers of annotations.

79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 21. See http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=303&dat=18891018&id=F7EuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=mS0DAAAAIBAJ&pg=2289,6950978.

80 Leave a comment on paragraph 80 0 22. The text is also available online: http://www.archive.org/stream/cu31924013134113/cu31924013134113_djvu.txt.

81 Leave a comment on paragraph 81 0 23. Both the concept and the term “information overload” precede the internet; see, among others, Rosenberg; and Graham. For its implications concerning the practice of annotation in the digital era, see, e.g., Sutherland, Electronic Text; especially Lamont’s “Annotating a Text: Literary Theory and Electronic Hypertext.”

82 Leave a comment on paragraph 82 0 24. Claire Lamont has noted that “[t]o turn from contemporary theoretical considerations of annotation to the electronic hypertext is to turn from a theology of guilt to a theology of liberation” (54). This liberation comprises issues of organisation of the annotation apparatus and space limitations, but also “freedom from ‘linearity’ and freedom to ‘decentre’ a text” (54).

83 Leave a comment on paragraph 83 0 25. In a fruitful exchange at Columbia University, New York, on 24 October 2014.

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