2015 Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker, “Whipping Boys Explained: Literary Annotation and Digital Humanities”
Matthias Bauer and Angelika Zirker
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 This essay is part of the second iteration of the anthology. Since public review and commentary help scholars develop their ideas, the editors hope that readers will continue to comment on the already published essay. You may also wish to read the draft essay, which underwent open review in 2015, and the project history.
¶ 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 the relevance of the text for a particular readership and establishes or promotes specific interpretations. Commentary spans almost the whole history of reading. Homer’s writings were given explanations during antiquity (see Schmit-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 an original edition or are added shortly afterward, frequently by the authors themselves.1 Authors who add such notes sometimes strive to give the impression of cultural, historical, or political authenticity (e.g., Twain in The Prince and the Pauper), or they wish to expose and criticize the practice of commentary in order to integrate it into the aesthetic whole (e.g., Nabokov in Pale Fire).2 In any case, commentary aims at situating a text and its objects communicatively through explanation. Practicing and reflecting on explanatory annotation have thus been ongoing tasks for anyone concerned with mediating literature. In the age of digital media, the issue of explanatory annotation comes up with particular force: while it has never seemed easier to annotate a text, and perhaps never more necessary, the new options offered by digital humanities make us see problems of annotation that have rarely been encountered.
¶ 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 greater certainty about historical and fictional elements in an assigned text, Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper, in one of our classes. To meet this need, we offered a seminar expressly devoted to annotating the book. More classes followed, in which we annotated texts collaboratively (e.g., on metaphysical poetry, on novels by Charles Dickens), and students continued the work on their own. This initiative was the beginning of a student peer-learning project, which fed into a Web site that encouraged students to participate and enabled others to profit from their work.
¶ 4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 Although 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 was rather difficult, because of the lack of a theory of literary annotation.4 We therefore supplemented the student project with a research project to develop such a theory and establish models of best practice. The relation between that theory and those models is by no means obvious. Still, we believe that a digital space for text and annotations and the practices it entails create the need to establish certain methodologies, which will in turn require some conceptual clarification as to why a text should be annotated—in other words, a theory of annotation. Practice leads to methodology and theory, and theory leads back to practice. This interplay is especially complex when literary texts in the more narrow sense of the word (poems, prose narratives, drama) are to be annotated. Legal or religious texts are annotated with a view to clarifying their meaning and defining their relevance for the lives of those who are affected by them, but literary texts work differently. If you think, for example, as Archibald MacLeish does, that “A poem should not mean / But be,” annotation becomes impossible. Thus the ontological status of a literary work is a theoretical problem that is of considerable significance for the practice of annotation. Moreover, it is a problem that should be historicized, for the very denial of the communicative function of poetry (in favor of an existential one) is characteristic of a historical development—and therefore could be part of an explanatory note. Our idea of the nature of a text influences how we annotate it.
¶ 5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 Another theoretical issue that is relevant to the practice of annotation is the relation of part and whole: do we understand a text as a whole better when its parts are explained? And there are more general questions of hermeneutics and understanding: what do we need in order to understand a text? The relation of part and whole may lead to or be derived from the way in which we connect notes; the question of understanding is immediately relevant to and the result of considering the amount of information and explanation that should be provided—an issue particularly when there is virtually no limitation to space. Pointlessness and redundancy may be the result of too much annotation. Last but not least, questions of expertise and authority arise when a text is annotated. New forms of collaboration made possible by the digital medium sharpen the theoretical question of how explanatory authority is established. Conversely, our idea of how annotation becomes most trustworthy and authoritative will influence how we organize its practice.
¶ 6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0 A theory of annotation comprises all these aspects and more, but we suggest that the following questions form its core. First, what is the idea of the literary text presupposed by annotation, and how does annotation affect a text, both in its medial forms and as regards its meaning? Second, how does annotation affect the way readers read and understand a text? Methods and medial practices must be measured against these theoretical questions, just as any answer to the questions will shape the methods and practices employed.
¶ 7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Based on these considerations, the aim of our project is threefold: to develop a theory for the explanatory annotation of literary texts from different periods and cultures, to establish a concept of explanatory annotation in the field of digital humanities and use examples of annotation to help open up a new area of practice in that field, and to explore and analyze annotation to see if and how readerly comprehension of texts may be enhanced. Linked to this effort is the integration of evaluative methods from educational studies into literary research.
Literary Annotation in the Digital Age
¶ 8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 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 habits and strategies of reading. It is therefore surprising that this old practice is not supported by an adequate theory (see J. Assmann, “Text”; Eggert; Peursen; Drucker; Parry; Sutherland, “Paper-Based Editing”). Since the aims and assumptions of annotation mostly remain unacknowledged, one of the first steps of the project must be to take a systematic look at the ongoing practice. Thus the first of our two theoretical questions could be spelled out as follows. Will any characteristic of a text (its content, style, genre, period) allow for the inference of general principles that help us describe what is to be annotated and in which manner? What kinds of styles or genres require explanation? An example could be historical fiction, which has double temporal references: to the time of the events described in the text and to the time of composition.
¶ 9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0 The practice of annotation has always attracted critical attention, since explanatory notes and comments usually multiply a text (partly through images) and provide hypertexts.5 This issue leads us to the question of whether there are any principles that govern realizations of literary annotation. The relation of commentary and changing media is important: which form is adequate to contemporary processes of reading? A few models of digital and Web-based commentary do exist.6 But so far annotation in the context of digital humanities is mainly understood as tagging: adding encoded information (the markup of a text, the TEI project; [see Cummings; McGann]) that enables users to retrieve specific features—for example, for corpus-based linguistic analysis. A related field is electronic editing (see the contributions in Siemens and 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.
¶ 10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 This integration is by no means just a technical problem, because all explanatory annotations of a text are based on an idea of who and what the reader is. The answer is linked to constructs of the cultural function of annotation. As university teachers of English literature, we are thinking in particular of the learning reader (who may need to learn the language in the first place): annotations serve to transmit knowledge and understanding about texts and their content. When considering what readers of annotations are like, what they need, how they deal with and interact with those annotations, we must keep in mind the diversity and individuality of readers: groups of readers are no longer homogeneous.8 Until a few years ago, it was relatively clear which aspects of a classical or canonical text needed annotation (or not); today such consensus is difficult to achieve. This new uncertainty has consequences for the systematics of annotation as well as its mediality. In digital annotation, individual needs and requirements must be met.
¶ 11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Annotation is an enrichment of the reading process,9 which means that with the reading of a text, additional information is being conveyed. The quantity of this information is limited both by the medium and by the cognitive potential of the reader. In early modern editions of the Bible, for instance, it was common for a scriptural passage to be framed by a marginal gloss (for a prominent English example, see the Geneva Bible),10 which led to a multiple reading. Text and commentary were spatially separate but connected communicatively. On the book page, this process is not problematic: the size of the page places a limit on the amount of textual commentary, and so does the number of pages in a volume. In a digital context, however, this physical restriction does not exist, though problems of representation remain. The limit is determined by the reader’s ability to process. A theory of annotation has to consider the kind of reading that correlates with the medial presentation and how the presentation affects the understanding of the text. Although basic problems of commentary have remained the same despite media change, they are now foregrounded by digital annotation. Different texts and readers need different annotations and different kinds of annotation, and the digital medium can meet those needs more easily than the print medium.11 Still, the information provided by annotation must be both structured and limited to remain informative and useful. It therefore seems advisable to keep in mind different fields and levels of annotation when working on a concept that can be used for a range of literary texts.
¶ 12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Our introductory theoretical considerations go hand in hand with 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 a balance must be struck between keeping the text before the reader’s eyes in its original, unexplained, and therefore often enigmatic form and making it completely disappear in a welter of contextual material. A balance must also be struck between leaving readers more or less alone when they explore and interpret a text and overtaxing them with explanations and supplementary material whose authority and relevance they may not be able to evaluate. Finding ways of structuring and making transparent what is added to a text should lead to the development of a best-practice model of annotation whose medial dimensions and digital formats allow for use in a wide variety of projects. To find such a model, testing a kind of annotation will help develop and modify the theoretical approach.12
Finding a Model for Best Practice
¶ 13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0 In our project so far, we are considering the audience (Whom are we writing the annotation for?), the purpose of the annotation (Why are we writing this note?), and the need to assess the effectiveness of the annotation (Is it clear?). In responding to these questions, we constantly revise and develop our methodology.
Audience and Purpose of Annotation
¶ 14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 Our model should be flexible in its attempt to address the individual needs of readers while considering 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 for such testing, since we get instant feedback from our readers about the text and explanatory notes and thus learn where clarification is needed. Student feedback also makes us aware of ambiguity in a passage of the text when we compare readings of the passage among members of the group.13
¶ 15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Apart from the question of authority (how to balance individual expertise with the distributed knowledge of the group), there is the question of how to balance the notion of an open and readerly text (as emphasized by Spiro ; see also Gervais; Klemm; and Vandendorpe) with hermeneutical principles: each explanatory annotation of a text must have a well-defined function. Our project, although grounded in English literary studies, thus addresses issues relevant to other textual studies as well. Developments in the field of hermeneutics (see Raible, “Vom Text” and “Arten”) are therefore as important to us as the clarification of terminology and ontological notions. What is at stake is to find a definition of annotation in its explanatory sense and its relation to interpretation (see the definition of annotation vs. discursive comment in Zafrin 209; Zons). Hermeneutical theory also concerns the selection of which aspects of a text are to be annotated and the relation of the parts of a text to its whole. As a rule, an annotation refers to a part, so questions of information hierarchy must be considered when the function of the annotation is determined with regard to the text understood 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.
¶ 16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 Both our introductory theoretical questions—What does annotation do to the text? What does it do for the reader?—should be kept in mind when it comes to the systematic description of why annotations are necessary and to the discussion of which elements of the text need explanation and why (Stroud). Practical experience is one consideration; others are the historical reconstruction of language (of older texts) and cultural context (Battestin).
¶ 17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 All too often, textual notes are nothing but “the enrichment of a text by information that is in the head of the human researcher” (Peursen 12). The intuition of literary scholars is indispensable, but it has to be integrated into a systematic approach and into a model of collaboration. Such integration allows for a creative and individual annotation that is productive for a reader;14 at the same time, it requires theoretically valid criteria.
Content and Criteria of Digital Literary Annotations
¶ 18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 In the interest of objectivity and clarity, we have developed, in the current student project, various categories of annotation that correspond to a specific set of criteria related to content. As a first step, we want to make transparent what an explanatory note accomplishes. Annotators should know which aspect of a literary text is being annotated, and their notes should accord with ideas that are pertinent to the nature of that text.
¶ 19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 The different fields of our annotations are linguistic, relating to lexicon, syntax, and so forth; formal, relating to verse form, narrative structure, iconicity, and so forth; intratextual, relating to recurring patterns, motifs; intertextual, relating to other texts; contextual—the context may be biographical, historical, philosophical, theological; and interpretive, a second-order annotation,15 which refers to conclusions we draw from our findings, for example, the effects of ambiguity on the overall reading of a text. All these fields are given a marker and will also be color-coded when presented online:
¶ 26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 The fields may be interconnected, may even all come into play for one instance in a text, but they do not need to. Their relevance must be taken into account: we do not wish to make annotations endless but provide readers with the information they find essential and adequate. Thus the method of organizing notes by indicating the aspects of the text they elucidate, as well as their relation to the text, also helps taking into account our second theoretical question. Without having a fixed idea of who our readers are, we introduce the fields to make it easier for them to use the annotations that will suit them, depending on the situation and purpose. Our method helps very different kinds of readers find the information they need. It therefore has a heuristic function—that is, it is not a classification by fixed categories but provides orientation for the reader. There may be some redundancy, but the overlap between fields is kept to a minimum. The reader finds relations and cross-references between the fields (facilitated by the digital medium that allows for linking structures) rather than repetitions of explanations.
¶ 27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 To address situational needs, we have arranged annotations on three levels: brief information (a survey, pointers); more detailed information, including facts and figures; and scholarly context (ideas for future research, indications of debates). Whereas the fields respond to different aspects of the text, these three levels indicate the quantity and complexity of explanation. They manage the amount of information presented, encourage plausible interpretation, and show the dynamic aspect of annotation. This aspect is seen in the digital format in particular: a digital annotated edition may become an ongoing working platform. There must be openness to accommodate aspects that the annotators may not have thought of at first, but there must also be organization to make the annotations as useful as possible.16 The quantitative levels are not exclusively reader-oriented; they are also text-oriented, showing us, at the same time, a text that virtually speaks for itself (with just a little help from us) and that is situated in a network of many linguistic, cultural, and historical interactions. Last but not least, our proposed organization of notes into fields and levels makes sense because the explanatory annotation is collaborative. An individual annotator may choose a subjective approach, but the teamwork of collaborative annotation is in need of principles that make the approach more objective.17
¶ 28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 As Wido 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). Our project addresses in a systematic way the possibilities resulting from digitization. We integrate them into a model of annotation that enables readers to profit more from a digital annotated text than from a set of explanatory annotations in a printed book. Digital media do not guarantee an improvement in the practice of annotation, just as collaboration does not automatically result in a gain in quality (McCarty). The advantages of digital annotation and the collaborative approach will emerge only in the context of a consistent concept, which takes into account the risk of the loss of information through the overabundance of information (Berry, “Introduction”).
The Text and Its Communicative Context
¶ 29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 Commentary positions a text in a communicative situation. Literary texts, which are not usually pragmatic in any specified sense, are so positioned through annotation. They 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 (Presner).
¶ 30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Obviously such elucidation is not always in accordance with authorial intention or the origin of a text; at the same time, the didactic functions of annotation need not delimit the aesthetic, nonpragmatic dimension of a text. Comprehension does not mean the passive perusal of a text but rather the appropriation of that text in the readerly practice—for instance, when readers link the text to their personal experiences or situations in life. Because annotation usually provides readers with an interpretation not of a complete text but of its particular aspects, the active participation of readers is enhanced.
¶ 31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 Literary annotation should strive to address the individual strengths and needs of readers, but in any of the existing approaches it rarely does. Testing the effects of annotation can help modify annotation to improve it. A best-practice model, developing theories that help open up texts for a deeper understanding, will also widen the scope of digital humanities. New methods of orienting annotations toward readers are being developed, and their results can be tested. This testing is crucial in the debate concerning textual comprehension and “reading literacy” as a key competence.18
¶ 32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 The question remains open of whether, in theory, explanatory annotation can lead to textual comprehension that is transhistorical, transcultural, and transgeneric. We stress the importance of remaining aware of the transience inherent in the rapidly changing digital media themselves. Digital tools that make possible the adequate presentation of annotation are still being developed. Finally, the reader-oriented approach must be flexible enough to address the many different preconditions and requirements of readers—from those who read a text for mere enjoyment to those who read a text as part of their academic research. A theory of annotation therefore has to combine individual and active use with educational objectives whose achievement can be empirically tested.
The Whipping Boy in Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper
¶ 33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 Mark Twain’s The Prince and the Pauper is the text that our project first approached for literary annotation. In chapter 14, a whipping boy for Prince Edward is mentioned, but all existing editions of Twain’s historical novel fail to give a satisfactory explanation of the term.
¶ 36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 A, linguistic. OED definition of whipping boy: “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—that is, about a hundred years after the scene described in The Prince and the Pauper.
¶ 37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 E, contextual. It is by no means certain that Edward VI had a whipping boy or that Mark Twain thought he did. 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, note D-E.
¶ 38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 The notes on this level should help readers decide whether they would like to have more information. The notes are presented succinctly yet indicate that there might be complex issues involved. In this manner, we address the theoretical question about the relation 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.
¶ 39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 In the second level of annotations, aimed at readers who wish to know more, the facts are given about Mark Twain’s note on the whipping boy, his separate publication of the whipping boy’s story, and his avowed sources (William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott). The annotation reads:
¶ 41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 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” (Prince [introd. Griswold] 188n8).
¶ 42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 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, “Boy’s Adventure” 195).
¶ 43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 E, contextual. Twain derived his information about the whipping boy in the process of his getting familiar with archaic English phrases. His notes include long lists of words and phrases, the result of reading, as Twain 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” ( “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. Twain’s reliance on Scott’s romances, which are set in France and England from the twelfth to the seventeenth century, 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).
¶ 44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0 In Scott’s The Fortunes of Nigel (1822), Twain found a reference to the office of whipping boy. Sir Mungo is mentioned as King James VI’s 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.” 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).
¶ 45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 The third level provides readers with scholarly context: other possible sources of Twain’s whipping boy (in particular Rowley; Fuller), a possible response to The Prince and the Pauper (Dyer’s article in The Leisure Hour), historical accuracy, and the link between literature and the creation of historical myth. The scholarly discussion and the correction of misconceptions, of course, establish the authority of these annotations and make them trustworthy, by providing evidence that often cannot be contained in conventional (printed) annotated editions.
¶ 47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 D-E, intertextual-contextual. The whipping boy seems to be an illustration of how, through the mixture of fact and fiction, Twain contributes to the invention of the institution of the whipping boy, which could have been just an occasional practice. His sources are more literary than historical, and it is interesting to trace the connections to this theme in the assemblage of texts that revolve around it.
¶ 48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Although historical information regarding the office of whipping boy is scarce, in 1883, 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. The article was reprinted in the Canadian Messenger of 18 October 1889.
¶ 49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Dyer paraphrases Scott in The Fortunes of Nigel and mentions the explanation he gives for the creation of this office: that the king was the Lord’s anointed and thus a sacred figure. Dyer also refers to an “old play” recently republished at the time and calls it the oldest source concerning Prince Edward’s whipping boy: 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, the prince confirms the knighthood. Browne is not called a whipping boy but in fact is one. The legend that Edward had a whipping boy is therefore at least as old as 1604, and it is very likely that Twain knew the play. In 1874, only a few years before the publication of P&P, the play was reedited by Karl Elze.
¶ 50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Dyer’s short article also mentions the only historical source we have of that account prior to the publication of Twain’s novel, Thomas Fuller’s 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” (2: 342). This short mention of Prince Edward’s whipping boy, which is sixty years removed from the time of the event, is the only source given by scholars thereafter as evidence.
¶ 51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Mark Lawhorn, who is not very precise when it comes to historical sources, 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” (132). His reference for this statement is Alison Weir’s Children of England: “[W]hen 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” (14).
¶ 53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 The veracity of Fuller’s mention is 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 the references in his book.
¶ 54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 It appears that, endowing Edward VI with a whipping boy, Twain draws from an early historical fantasy, as Rowley’s play attests. There is no solid evidence of a whipping boy for Edward VI, since the only source given is Fuller, who is ambiguous about the matter. Rowley and Scott thus seem to be the works that Twain used. The incident of the punishment of the prince for not knowing his Greek authors and the knighting of the whipping boy as recompense for his sufferings in the prince’s stead are both in Rowley. A web of texts install and sustain a myth, which is then reiterated by scholars as a historical fact. In a constant interrelation of literature and history, fiction and fact, a literary text’s power of shaping the image of historical figures is enhanced when the image reenters the sphere of popular history, achieving maximum reach and influence through its Wikipedia entry, which does caution readers, “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” (“Whipping Boy”). In Robert Dunlop’s entry on Fitzpatrick in the Dictionary of National Biography, Fitzpatrick is mentioned as “proxy for correction” to Edward, and the source again is Fuller. Though the entry on Fitzpatrick in the 2004 edition of the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography was extended, he is still listed “as the king’s [Edward’s] whipping boy” (Maginn).
¶ 55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 Fischer and Frank, in their annotated ed. of P&P, suggest that Twain’s 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” (Twain, Prince [ed. Fischer and Frank] 314). Barnaby Fitzpatrick’s role, as outlined above, was by no means certain, but Twain’s note does not show this. Like Rowley in When You See Me, You Know Me, Twain endowed Prince Edward with a whipping boy, knowing that this meant taking liberties with established historical facts.
¶ 56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 The different levels provide readers with different planes of knowledge—both with regard to quantity (length, complexity) and to quality (the kind of information). Readers who wish to learn the basic facts about the whipping boy in Twain’s novel will probably be interested only in the annotation at level 1. If they want more detailed material, level 2 provides them with concise intratextual as well as intertextual and contextual information. Level 3 is the most comprehensive annotation, giving readers an overview of the secondary literature and criticism, which may invite them to conduct further research.
Open Questions and Future Perspectives
¶ 57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 When we annotate 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, because a theory of annotation is essential for all philologies as well as theology, philosophy, law studies—for all subjects concerned with hermeneutics. Our long-term goals, besides to create 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 in the work of annotation.
¶ 58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 A problem that we will have to deal with in the near future is engaging with both the possibilities and limitations of the digital medium: the endless opportunity that the medium gives us to publish material is also its greatest weakness. The abundance of what is offered on the Web is frequently tantamount to an unmanageable glut of information; the task of finding out what is relevant is left to the reader.19 Simply linking names and expressions in a text to Wikipedia entries and dictionaries is no substitute for notes provided by experts that explain and also encourage readers to explore further. Thus, in this age of Google, when everyone can browse the Web to find an answer to a question, we need, more than ever, a theory-based methodology and practice of annotation that will make the excess of information manageable and therefore useful and usable. The classical note was already posing problems concerning the act of reading, but digital annotation and the unlimited space it affords make us ask about the linearity of the text and of its reading and, by extension, the definition of what a text is. The question arises of where to stop when annotating a literary text; in other words, we should find a way to give readers the necessary information without overwhelming them. We should also take into account various kinds of readers and their individual needs.20 Very specific questions of medial representation are involved. How are the annotations to be displayed? On the reference site of the student project, notes are indicated by a coded marker (a hyperlink) that readers can click on. This feature hopefully will add an element of surprise and thereby enrich the reading process. At the same time, as Dennis Tenen recently reminded us,21 we should not wait for readers to visit specific platforms to read famous and complex texts of world literature. Instead of directing readers to sites of annotation, we should carry the annotations to the readers, 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 developed.
¶ 59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 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.
¶ 60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 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 , 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 the note, “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” (Minnis 313).
¶ 61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 2. Authors may also include notes to make us aware of the materiality of the medium. In J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst’s S., a fictional novel (V. M. Straka’s Ship of Theuseus) 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.
¶ 62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 3. The project is a joint venture of a group of students, especially Lisa Ebert, Max Faul, 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.
¶ 63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 4. Battestin is still valuable for annotation as a concept grounded in hermeneutical optimism. But his approach is mostly author-focused. He recommends, for example, that the annotator identify “specific meanings and connotations [that] 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 as representing the reader’s (creative) thought. Various degrees of skepticism about annotation and its hegemonic claims inform the contributions by Derrida; Hanna; McFarland; and Nichols. We are grateful to Timo Stösser, who drew our attention to these references.
¶ 65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 6. See Internet Shakespeare Editions; Murphy; and Walt Whitman Archive. Examples of unreviewed digital annotation projects are Kindle X-Ray and Genius (on Genius, see Widner).
¶ 66 Leave a comment on paragraph 66 0 7. Both tagging and electronic editing are outside our scope of research. Tagging, however, may become relevant when a textual feature recurs. The question of editing is pertinent whenever we come across textual variants that influence the interpretation of a text and thus demand commentary.
¶ 67 Leave a comment on paragraph 67 0 8. Nevertheless Lamont writes, “[T]he dimensions of the text and the capacity of the reader remain unaltered” (60). On the reader of multimodal texts (in comparison with the reader of monomodal, print-based texts) see Serafini; Walsh.
¶ 68 Leave a comment on paragraph 68 0 9. The term enrichment is used in a fairly wide sense, including but not restricted to its meaning in relevance theory, where the activity of enrichment 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).
¶ 69 Leave a comment on paragraph 69 0 10. A reproduction of the 1560 edition is available online. But Lamont writes, “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 placed 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).
¶ 70 Leave a comment on paragraph 70 0 11. As regards this flexibility, digital annotations share the advantages of digital editions. For the latter, see Dahlström: “On the one hand, [the 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).
¶ 71 Leave a comment on paragraph 71 0 12. One way of testing is to give annotations to readers and see whether the notes and commentary further their understanding or not. Such testing provides the project with a didactic component (Spiro).
¶ 72 Leave a comment on paragraph 72 0 13. This feedback is enhanced through our Web site, where readers, in a discussion forum, can bring to our attention further difficulties and suggest information we should have provided but did not.
¶ 73 Leave a comment on paragraph 73 0 14. Such productivity requires the constant evaluation of quality standards, which must also be integrated into theories and models of annotation, especially as digital media permit 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, a premise that implies a perspective opposed to deconstructivist approaches (Meister).
¶ 74 Leave a comment on paragraph 74 0 15. We are aware that the inclusion of factual information is always the result of an interpretive decision, whether conscious or unconscious. The introduction of the interpretive field, we think, furthers rather than obscures awareness of this reality.
¶ 75 Leave a comment on paragraph 75 0 16. These three levels are not meant to represent the needs of different target audiences—a level, that is, for each audience. Each reader should make use of all levels, as they apply.
¶ 77 Leave a comment on paragraph 77 0 18. Literacy had been defined 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” (Skilled 4).
¶ 78 Leave a comment on paragraph 78 0 19. Both the concept of information overload and the term precede the Internet; see Rosenberg; Graham. On the implications of information overload for the practice of annotation in the digital era, see Sutherland, Electronic Text, especially Lamont’s essay in that collection.
¶ 79 Leave a comment on paragraph 79 0 20. Claire Lamont notes, “To turn from contemporary theoretical considerations of annotation to the electronic hypertext is to turn from a theology of guilt to a theology of liberation.” This liberation comprises issues of organization of the annotation apparatus and space limitations but also “freedom from ‘linearity’ and freedom to ‘decentre’ a text” (54).
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