PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers

June 24th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers § permalink

Abstract: As readers have migrated to eBooks and similar digital forms, there has been a transformation in the manner in which they leave marks on books. With this shift, there has been a movement from the widespread ability to find evidence of individual readers towards an aggregation of this information as a monolithic entity often described as “big data,” offering little discrimination between various people. The Kindle contains a database of several million individual highlights that cannot be analysed in great detail on the individual level, but rather on a global, where all nuances and reasonable analysis become vaguer.

One way in which we can trace the reader in these new forms is by instead looking at the collective markings of a single book. Surprisingly, the most popular book to annotate is the The New Oxford American Dictionary, which has been pre-installed on all the devices sold on the US. Over 1000 people have left annotations on the dictionary, but in an atypical way, characterizing many of Leah Price’s arguments about non-responsive readers. These notes are not close reading dictionary but rather something more complex and social, as a group has formed, primarily of pseudonymous teenagers, who use the dictionary in order to chat in a space that has been unrestricted by their parents or educators.

This paper examines this pocket of activity to the degree that it is representative of all digital reading practices and evidences. As the text is transformed into a social network and data to be mined for a variety of companies, to what degree can we see these readers as representative of the new forms of reading on top of the book rather through or in to it.

“Reading the Kindle’s (Non-)Readers.” Real, ideal or implied…? The Reader in Stylistics. June 2014. University of Nottingham.

PRESENTATION: Used eBooks

June 19th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Used eBooks § permalink

In lieu of an abstract, in this presentation I looked at the methodological barriers to studying eBooks and how we can reconcile the ability to distant read millions of shared highlights and the lack of access of user’s personal used eBooks.

“Used eBooks.”Digital Reading Network Symposium, June 2014. University of Bournemouth.

Is Book History the Future of Nabokov Studies?

May 2nd, 2014 § Comments Off on Is Book History the Future of Nabokov Studies? § permalink

The following is my contribution to the Nabokov Doctoral Day event. While I hope to return to the questions posed by this paper in future research, I’m posting the talk here as a record of my argument.

 

[Before embarking on my topic, it is worth briefly reflecting on the processes I took to arrive at it. My initial PhD prospectus was ambitious, outlining a working methodology for exploring the digital annotation of post-War novels including Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire. As I am currently in limbo between submission and examination of a completely different PhD, I am aware of how ambitious this plan was. Nonetheless, my interests have remained with digital humanities, but over the development of my PhD, another field garnered my interest: book history. These two nebulous pseudo-disciplines gel and offer fertile methodological grounds that are still in development. This shift in focus pushed Nabokov outside my primary focus in order to develop new models of (hyper)textuality. Fortunately, there was still room to explore the book history of Pale Fire. If I were to start again now, with the ability to write purely on Nabokov and the necessary resources, the following sketches out my ideal thesis. It also expands upon methodological strengths and weaknesses of the approach for future work.]

Nabokov studies have thus far been largely immaterial, ignoring the problems of publication and reception that create the socio-economic conditions of Nabokov’s works. The field of book history offers a critical vocabulary to enrich Nabokov studies. Book history emerged as a nebulous interdisciplinary activity in the twentieth century in response to the much more conservative field of bibliography. The “New Bibliography” of the early twentieth century resulted in an empirical fussiness towards the idealized state of a great text that overwhelmed the potential to historicize the development of these texts. In particular, the concept that the author was the sole important contribution to the composition of the text jarred against the appearance of many colourful characters who dot the history of the book (e.g. Wynkyn de Worde, Thomas Jefferson, and the Little Giddings community). Book history, on the other hand, revels in the supporting cast—almost to a fault—and exposes the material, socio-economic and intellectual conditions in which texts are produced. In recent decades, work such as Leah Price’s How to Do Things with Books in Victorian Britain, William Sherman’s Used Books and James Secord’s Victorian Sensation have offered vital evidence of the real reader within the empirical study of the book. These scholar projects refer to pre-1923, or what Matt Kirschenbaum termed “B©,” texts as true book historical research requires access that copyright, archival permissions and belligerent literary estates often prohibit. That is not say that we cannot make a good start towards this with an author who primarily published after year-zero of current copyright protection.

It would be churlish to suggest that good work in this area has not already been undertaken—Maxim Shrayer and Lyndsay Miller’s work on Nabokov’s revision processes, Brian Boyd’s Library of America editions of the American works and Michael Juliar’s extensive enumerative bibliography rank among the most important—but within the field, it is undeniable that critical arguments are rarely built upon the material conditions of his literary output. The idiosyncrasy of referencing conventions and standard editions in the scholarship is one of the most apparent and immediate manifestations of this blindspot. This, however, may all change in the next few years due to an unorthodox catalyst: The Original of Laura. When Dmitri Nabokov decided to publish TOoL in its unfinished form, complete with perforated index cards, this revealed the processes behind his other polished texts. The aesthetic quality of the artifact (for it is hard to call it a novel) is secondary to its importance as a book historical object as we are confronted with the stark reality of not only Nabokov’s revision process, but editorial decisions that make up the final text.This suggested a move in the literary legacy from tightly controlled access to more open and amenable conditions towards reassessing our understanding Nabokov as an actual author in the complexities of the book trade. Early criticism of TOoL has taken the prompt to assess the book historical value of the novel. This critical move is only possible because of TOoL’s unique form, unlike previous posthumous publications, most notably his Lectures on Literature, edited by the domineering Fredson Bowers, a stout disciple of the New Bibliography. While TOoL has been a major catalyst in pushing critical attention in this direction, Nabokov literary output also encourages it. From Lolita onwards, Nabokov’s fiction frequently parodied, questioned and otherwise cajoled all aspects of the book trade. Take the unfinished quality of Lolita, Pale Fire and Ada, which all feature moments where it is clear that the work has not received the careful editing it may have otherwise received it was complete. Take for example, Humbert Humbert’s note for the printer of Lolita: “Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita, Lolita. Repeat till the page is full, printer,” which is left ignored; and Ada’s fictional editors Ada and Van Veen have also presented their final text with marginal comments to each other intact, such as “Hue or who? Awkward. Reword! (marginal note in Ada Veen’s late hand)” embedded directly into the textual world. In Pale Fire, this can be seen in the juxtaposition between “Insert before a professional” and “A professional proofreader has carefully rechecked the printed text of the poem.” The unfinished quality of these works prompts readers to delve further into their composition and reception.

If we choose to approach Nabokov studies with a book historical tint, a whole range of new questions become apparent. The methodologies central to book historical practice offer a variety of new approaches to Nabokov including, but not limited to, looking at composition processes, the role of editors, his sales figures, and the way in which he was received by a popular audience. Today, I will primarily take a holistic view by approaching at the macro-scale of modelling the book trade. The most famous model of the book trade is Robert Darnton’s communication circuit, which posits three significant prompts for the study of book history: (1) the continuous link between reception and (re)publication; (2) the importance of the socio-economic factors around the text; and (3) the role of pirates, smugglers and other unsavoury agents in shaping the text’s reception.

Immediately, we can see case studies of when these would be applicable to Nabokov Studies:

(1) The prestige of Lolita in allowing Nabokov’s older texts to become republished and translated with the addition of textual apparatus, leading to sustained fame that lasted throughout his career; the fight for rights to Nabokov’s publications; Strong Opinions originating in order to fulfill a contract with McGraw-Hill; and the drawn-out public debate surrounding the publication of TOoL;

(2) Nabokov depositing selected manuscripts at the Library of Congress for tax break reasons and holding back the manuscript of Ada due to perceived worth; the eventual publication of TOoL;the initial censorship of Lolita; the scant appearances of Nabokov’s literary works in anthologies; and Nabokov’s careful preservation of a persona in all public appearances; and

(3) The smuggling of Lolita into America and other texts into the USSR; Girodais’s impact on the manuscript of Lolita when removing many unnecessary French phrases; the widespread circulation of pirate editions of Nabokov’s works in the former-USSR and on the web; and Nabokov’s general opinion of editors and publishers despite the evidence that they often helped improve the text.

This list is potentially endless and offers a plethora of new avenues for exploration in Nabokov studies. My contribution to the growing body of book historical research is a refined model of the book trade reflecting the importance of hypertext in the processes of composition and reception. The model  is the shape of an hourglass to show the importance of a physical manifestation of a text in the process, as opposed to its disappearance in Darnton’s circuit. The two axes represent the most fundamental concepts of the hourglass: on the vertical axis, time, and the horizontal axis, meaning. The practical implication of this is the model displays the flow of meaning from author to reader via the text. This can never be reversed as compositional meaning is completely different to receptional meaning, even when the author makes a comment post-publication, such as Nabokov’s repeated assertions about the authorship debate in Pale Fire that are completely contradictory. Moreover, the hourglass is not cyclical as a new version of the text derives from the original but does not recreate it. The model’s also develops a framework for critiquing the reception of text more effectively than the other models of the book trade that conflate this multifaceted aspect to an after-thought in book history. This offers a robust mechanism to look at the development of a text such as Pale Fire, which has a substantial composition and reception history, although I want to focus on one particular aspect: reprints and appropriations.

When Pale Fire was published in 1962, it had undergone a long gestation period dating back not only to the first index cards dated 1957, but also to the 1930s with “Ultima Thule” and “Solus Rex.” The composition process is relatively invisible as we only have archival evidence for the manuscript, so work-in-progress and galley proofs, all of which show Nabokov’s development of the central themes of the novel, but not to a degree that can satisfactorily account for the changes between manuscript and published novel. This can be supplemented by Nabokov’s correspondence discussing the novel and two pre-publication extracts: “King’s Gambit,” a revised version of the note to line 130 that was due for publication in Harper’s Bazaar, but was pulled because of creative differences; and “The Late Mr. Shade,” an early version of the Foreword published in Harper’s magazine. From this, we can reconstruct some of the early development of the novel including, most enticingly, three major changes:

(1) “your favorite” appears in the manuscript as “my favorite;”

(2) Goldsworth is a professor rather than a judge at an early point in the manuscript; and

(3) “See my notes to line 949-999” warps into “see my note to line 999” to “note to line 991.”

While these offer intriguing alternate versions of Pale Fire, my interest lies instead in the changes that have occurred in the development of the novel through its complex lifespan. The traces of the reception process are some of the most interesting parts of this model to emerge, which can only be seen through close comparison of states of the text and reader’s reactions to the text. Some of these completely change the reader’s understanding of the text, such as Penguin’s decision to remove the Kindle version’s index as Amazon provide ‘superior’ forms of automated indexing through their software packages. Audiobook and radio-play editions of the text also offer interesting variations on a novel that relies on its bookishness to generate meanings. Through tracing the digitization process of certain texts we can also begin to deduce which versions copy each other. Most egregiously, Shannon Chamberlain’s version has been copied by GS Lipon, which can be seen through the scanning mistakes unique to both editions, most explicitly characterized in the transformation of “the turf” to “the turd” to create the ludicrous “with incredulous fingers he picks up from the turd that compact ovoid body.” This brief sketch demonstrates the importance of remembering the text is only a version rather than the definitive edition.

A further significant factor when considering the transmission history of Pale Fire is the rhetorical significance of the novel’s hypertext structure. There have been at least six unauthorized editions of Pale Fire on the Web, and many more that were never shared. Recent eBook editions have also included basic hypertext mechanisms. The reception of the novel has been intertwined with the hypertext network Nabokov constructed within the novel and readers have tried to appropriate this with their web-based editions. The hypertext poetics of Nabokov’s novel are complex and not easily represented in the mechanisms of the Web, so many of these versions alter the structure of the novel. The novel requires a delicate balance between the poem and commentary, since Kinbote creates explicit links from the commentary to the poem, but never the other way round. The technology of hypertext could also be better exploited, as a digital edition could track the reception of the novel through the reader’s pathways. This empirical data could test the claims of critics who suggest there are standard ways of traversing the novel.

While this may be exciting new areas for exploration, there are several caveats at adopting such an approach. Most readily, such research needs the availability of archival research, and this presents several problems. The material is scattered over the US, mainly in the Library of Congress and New York Public Library, but also spread in various locations and in publisher’s archives to document his complex history with various publishers. This is then ignoring the problem that much of this material either has not been uncovered or simply does not exist. The value of the Lolita manuscript will forever be unknown, to name the most obvious example. The third problem is the effort required in order to undertake serious book historical work, which may require tracking down multiple pressings and searching in the archive for countless hours to find little fruitful evidence, given the patchiness of Nabokov’s archives. Despite these potential problems, book history promises to be a fruitful approach to Nabokov studies.

PRESENTATION: Nabokov’s Compositional TOoL

April 5th, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Nabokov’s Compositional TOoL § permalink

Abstract: When Dmitri Nabokov finally decided to publish his father’s famous unfinished last novel, The Original of Laura (TOoL), he took the unusual decision of presenting it as a facsimile of Nabokov’s index cards along with a transcription. In the aftermath of TOoL’s publication, the reception of Nabokov’s artistry has not shifted, and many critics have shunned the publication. Although the fragments reveal Nabokov’s declining power, they offer a powerful entry point to Nabokov’s mode of composition to the popular imagination. The original edition of the fragments encourages this behaviour as the cards are perforated, so the reader can remove the cards from their binding and shuffle them into any order they wish. The materiality of the text confronts the reader with ontological questions about Nabokov’s processes of composition.

The current paper argues that the value of TOoL lies in reading it as material evidence marketed to the mass public rather than remaining available only to those who can access the original. While the materials in the Library of Congress are now available for any interested party, unless they have access to the Library or funds to receive microfilm copies, the manuscripts are inaccessible. TOoL is an entry point into understanding Nabokov’s mode of composition. For an author with such an aura around his genius and his reluctance to conform to the norms of the book trade, such a document unravels the compositional artifices.

The facsimile of TOoL bear material witness to Nabokov’s hypertextual composition method, as the cards are ordered in a multi-linear fashion rather than conforming to an ascending number system. Several of the index cards feature rough drafts or material that has been worked in elsewhere, offering further insights into Nabokov’s material reliance on index cards to compose his complexly structured novels. Thus, Dmitri’s Nabokov’s choice of presentation for his father’s unfinished novel reveal new perceptions of Nabokov’s computational method of composition to the wider public, uncovering another way in which Nabokov can be connected to the history of hypertext.

’Efface, expunge, erase, delete, rub out, wipe out, obliterate’: Nabokov’s composition TOoL. Vladimir Nabokov & Composition Panel. NeMLA. April 2014. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

PRESENTATION: Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace

March 22nd, 2014 § Comments Off on PRESENTATION: Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace § permalink

Abstract: 

The rise of the Kindle has marked the appearance of the first authorized e-books of many post-World War Two authors. As e-reading continues to grow in popularity, this allows a new audience to discover older works due to the affordances and availability of these e-books. Many of these novels, however, have not previously been digitized and are wrought by the negative traces of digitisation well known to academic and professional digitization projects although these are often not discussed within the context of traditionally published e-books.

This project assesses the vulnerable textuality of a single author on a single platform: Vladimir Nabokov’s Kindle e-books. Apart from posthumously published works, including 2008’s controversial The Original of Laura, most of Nabokov’s works were originally authored, edited and published at least 40 years ago, with some now approaching their centenary anniversary. The remediation of these texts is problematic and error-strewn, not only because the source versions, the Penguin mass market paperbacks have varied in quality, lacking at time forewords and indexes central to the fiction, but also because of the discrepancies with their corresponding print versions. The paper will read these errors and markers of print culture within the digital edition to demonstrate the complex forms of material textuality present in the Kindle.

“Vulnerable Textuality in the E-Book Marketplace.” Society for Textual Scholarship. March 2014. University of Washington, Seattle.

PRESENTATION: The Possible Worlds of Pale Fire

July 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: Arguably the greatest debate in Pale Fire scholarship has been the problem of the internal authorship of the poem and commentary. The proposed solutions to this puzzle range from either John Shade or Charles Kinbote as the author of the entire text to more recent models involving influences from the afterlife proposed by Brian Boyd and René Alladaye. Nabokov’s own responses to the indeterminate nature of the authorship suggest an unclear position as he posits two conflicting opinions in different interviews, thus denying the traditional authorized single solution often associated with many of his other works. The literature on the internal authorship of Pale Fire has focused on using these fractures to propose a solution, this paper instead analyses the faultlines in the narrative world as sites of indeterminacy. Is there a limit to the number of characters we can claim as author? Where are the places at which this indeterminacy flourishes? These internal debates can be formally analysed by use of Possible Worlds Theory, introduced to literary studies by Thomas Pavel and Lubomír Doležel and more recently expanded by Marie-Laure Ryan, who, in Possible Worlds, Artificial Intelligence, and Narrative Theory suggests Pale Fire represents a destabilised Textual Actual World, whereby the reader is required to reconstruct the narrative’s internal consistency from what little concrete information we can garner from the text. Possible Worlds Theory formalizes the worlds in which the narrative works and can demonstrate the ontological dissonance in Kinbote’s assertions throughout the commentary which have led to many hypotheses regarding the novel’s content. Through this theoretical approach, the worlds of Pale Fire’s potential authorship can be analysed with regards to their stability. The method demonstrates the extent to which authorship attribution can be justified and why there will be no definitive solution emerging in forthcoming Nabokov scholarship.

Forthcoming ”The Possible Worlds of Pale Fire.” Indeterminacy in Nabokov Panel. MLA. January 2014. Chicago

PRESENTATION: Authorized Fan Culture and the Kindle

July 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: The Kindle has been strongly established as one of the market leaders in e-reading technology since its launch in 2008. This has been facilitated by both Amazon’s existing market base and the willingness to allow their proprietary book format to be read on multiple devices, as long as the reader uses Amazon’s proprietary Kindle app. As with the book, readers were offered a space to annotate their texts and highlight interesting passages. While these annotations were traditionally only shared in print very slowly through passing books around, the Kindle offered an amplification of this process, allowing popular highlights to be seen by any interested party. More recently, Amazon’s acquisition of the “editable book encyclopaedia,” Shelfari, has begun to transform the authorized interactions one can have on an e-reader, making e-books a more explicitly social object. This shift towards the social has always been part of Amazon’s plans for the Kindle, since one has always been able to connect to annotations from Wikipedia or the Oxford Dictionary of English, resources built through collaboration. There is also a chance to tweet quotes or post them on Facebook. All these interfaces explicate social connections that have previously been invisible and offer rich new resources for the empirical study of reading.

Despite the potential benefits for these new integrated interfaces, this paper will question how they transform and potentially limit the ways in which people engage with literature and the (e-)book. The user annotations are easy to use and appear to be authorized through their appearance in the official Kindle app. Therefore, to what degree are users going to want to engage with further reading outside of official app? To what extent will these annotations be verified for truth, rather than being checked for being non-offensive? The margins of the E-Book, as exemplified by the Kindle is a deeply contested space, where a lot of promise of the early hypertext movement could finally be realised, but much depends on the potential hegemony of systems such as the Kindle’s integration of Shelfari annotations.

“Authorized Fan Culture and the Kindle.” Resurrecting the Book. November 2013. Library of Birmingham

PRESENTATION: Widening the Big Tent: Amateurs and the ’Failure of the Digital Humanities’

July 3rd, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract:
The Failure of the Digital Humanities
Mark Sample’s “Unseen and Unremarked On: Don DeLillo and the Failure of the Digital Humanities” argues that post-1922 literary texts are being left behind as a part of the Digital Humanities (Sample 2012). This is a direct result of the Sonny Bono, or “Mickey Mouse,” Copyright Term Extension Act, another apparent move towards perpetual copyright. These difficulties are compounded by other obstacles including closed access or disorganised archives, insufficient preservation tools for early computer usage, and authors who simply refuse to embrace the digital. Without the necessary permissions or archival material, scholars of these twentieth century scholars are becoming increasingly envious of their colleagues, who develop tools that would equally aid interpretation of these more recent authors. Mid-twentieth century literature is of particular relevance to Digital Humanities research, since many frequently cited precursors of electronic literature including Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire (1962), Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela (1963), and the short stories of Jorge Luis Borges’s Ficciones (originally published c.1960s), are still protected by the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act. Many of the theoretical issues that have been teased out of these texts – especially early hypertext theory (see Landow 1992; Bolter 1991; Joyce 2002) – perhaps can only truly be tested once many of these texts have been the subject of digital experimentation. This paper argues that although these projects are often not being carried out by faculty members, the need and potential uses for such tools among non-academic readers is demonstrated through the samizdat distribution of online versions and tools readily available for all those who wish to conduct a Google search. The launch of the first authorized Pynchon e-books (Flood 2012) was met with dismissive claims that better samizdat copies had been in circulation for many years beforehand. These projects are coming into fruition externally to traditional (digital) humanities departments, spreading out to computer scientists’ extracurricular projects or the work of those outside of the academy who build digital tools and resources for the love of the original literary artefact. A few examples of the diverse work being undertaken includes wikis (for authors such as Thomas Pynchon (Ware 2006) and Terry Pratchett (Anon. 2005)) databases (Finnegans Wake Extensible Elucidation Treasury (FWEET) (Slepon 2005), interpretations of literary texts through social media on both a single platform, and a dense and complex ecosystem of literary engagement and reception (such as the recently organized group read of William Gaddis’s JR centralised around the Twitter hashtag #occupygaddis) and many other forms that demonstrate potential platforms for further research and development.
Literature Review
This study fits into a wider field of readership and reception studies, an interdisciplinary research subject, which has had some crossover within the Digital Humanities. Anouk Lang’s edited collection, From Codex to Hypertext: Reading at the Turn of the Twenty-First Century, which includes chapters on how reader recommendation systems are changing in the digital age (Wright 2012), the community of LibraryThing (Pinder 2012), and the network of reader reviews on Amazon (Finn 2012). Furthermore, the present study runs parallel to crowdsourcing in the Digital Humanities, most recently exemplified by the Transcribe Bentham Project (Causer and Wallace 2012), as many projects involve large numbers of volunteers to organize materials. Moreover, as Henry Jenkins et al. have recently suggested, the easy transmission and manipulability of media in the early twenty-first century is essential to ensure the text’s viability, and the evidence of fan communities exploring literary texts suggests a desire for these more of these platforms. (Jenkins, Ford, and Green 2013) There have also been more specific papers exploring the use of particular social network platforms for literary reception (see Schroeder and den Besten 2009; Ketzan 2012) and how the use of these tools reflect the development of underlying software through the way users build on the platform (Howison and Crowston 2011).
Do “Amateurs” Fit into the Big Tent of the Digital Humanities?
There has been a considerable debate concerning the purview of the Digital Humanities, particularly the extent to which building tools is essential to being described as Digital Humanities. (Svensson 2012) This paper asserts that the Big Tent should be widened to include a broader spectrum of scholars, amateur or professional, who engage with the transformational nature of digital tools, whether engaging with new methods of collaborating and presenting interpretive data or building databases to explore the manipulable nature of the original texts. These pockets of activity demonstrate a potential audience for these tools and push the boundaries of what counts as fair use in ways that academic institutions typically shy away from for fear of lawsuits. The deformative acts (Samuels and McGann 1999) these projects often engage in can thus reveal the ways in which these texts reflect a Digital Humanities agenda despite their marginalized status as both amateur projects and remediated texts (Bolter and Grusin 2000) still protected by copyright. Furthermore, there is evidence of the acceptance of these projects through examining the number of citations to some of the most prominent projects such as FWEET, which has been cited as both an exemplar of hypertextuality (Krapp 2005) and a reference guide for Joyce’s enigmatic text comparable to Roland McHugh’s authoritative Annotations to Finnegans Wake. (Conley 2007) Thus, we can witness how these projects engage with the academy.
Case Studies
The present study focuses on two case studies to illustrate the range of productivity that has engaged the non-Digital Humanities community for two twentieth-century authors: James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov. These two authors represent polar opposites regarding their respective estates’ view of intellectual property rights and digital media. The Joyce estate has been involved in a couple of high profile copyright disputes leading to the dissolution of some major digital editions of Joyce’s work, most prominently, Michael Groden’s “Digital Ulysses.” On the other hand, FWEET, maintained by Raphel Slepon, a former medical researcher and programmer, runs counter to the usually aggressive policies of the Joyce estate. FWEET collates allusions from McHugh’s Annotations to Finnegans Wake (McHugh 1980) and other major reference guides to Joyce’s novel, as well as material collected from a range of independent contributors, into a database which allows the user to sift through a taxonomy of references, view all the noted allusions on a line-by-line basis, or search for particular tropes. The original text is obfuscated by the database’s interface and thus the website acts as a reference guide primarily rather than a readable digital edition of the text.
Meanwhile, the Nabokov estate has occasionally granted the use of his texts for digital work despite taking an aggressive policy towards intellectual property rights in post-Soviet Russia. Two digital Nabokov projects have been sanctioned since 1967: Ted Nelson’s demonstration of Pale Fire as a hypertext in the late 1960s and Brian Boyd’s Ada Online. Alongside these official projects, there have been a plethora of hypertext experiments with the whole or parts of Pale Fire. These examples of remediation begin to explore the generative network of Nabokov’s most complex novel and demonstrate the novel’s effectiveness as a precursor of hypertext literature. Both case studies highlight how two respected authors’ works are being transformed by digital media without the intervention of digital humanists. Through careful study of the digital reception of the texts, we can not only learn how these texts are being transmitted and circulated by a popular audience, but also start to understand how these texts, currently protected by strict copyright laws, can and will be part of a wider Digital Humanities ecology.

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”Widening the Big Tent: Amateurs and the ’Failure of the Digital Humanities.”’ Digital Humanities 2013. July 2013. University of Lincoln-Nebraska.

Simon rowberry Widening the Digital Humanities from sprowberry

PRESENTATION: Reading Queneau Reading Nabokov

May 31st, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

Abstract: As Jane Grayson has previously discussed in “Nabokov and Perec,” there is little overlap between the Oulipo and Nabokov biographically, although both parties appeared to have appreciated some of the other’s work. It is from a formal perspective that Nabokov and Oulipo authors have the greatest crossover, since both are known for their love and use of word games in their fiction. Rather than suggesting a comparative reading of Oulipian and Nabokovian texts, this paper will explore the possibilities of applying the interpretative possibilities of Oulipo, including Jean Lescure’s “n+7” method to Nabokov’s corpus, to perform what Jerome McGann and Johanna Drucker call a deformative reading. This paper will consider the fruitfulness of such a methodology for reading Nabokov’s texts, acknowledging that such an approach can often lead to creative misreadings rather than strict and rigorous interpretation. This can be off-set, however, by the use of equivalent misreadings in Nabokov’s works, such as Shade’s pivotal misreading in his poem, “Pale Fire.” Through careful negotiation of these tricky issues, I hope to reveal a potential reading of Vladimir Nabokov’s works.


Simon Rowberry. ”Reading Queneau Reading Nabokov.” Vladimir Nabokov and France. May 2013. Université Paris IV-Sorbonne

PRESENTATION: Pre-Historic Hypertext

November 6th, 2012 § 0 comments § permalink


Simon Rowberry. ”Pre-Historic Hypertext.” Invited Talk Narrative Research Group. November 2012. University of Bournemouth