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Most Valuable Publication? Versions and Critical Editions

The MVP began with an aim to understand the multiple states of modernist texts as an aid to interpretive work, as well as to develop tools and best practices for the scholarly community. This also included specifically pedagogical aims for student researchers (“players”) on the team and the post-secondary classroom environment more generally. Based on the copyright conditions in Canada that permit versioning a greater swath of modernist material than elsewhere, what of the digital classroom and extensible texts for learning environments in which students might take part in producing the work? What of the first year or survey classroom and textbooks demands in an increasingly mobile-oriented student population? In a more material sense, what too of students struggling under the expense of education or the limitations of print and bound courseware? In the long game, the students are our most valuable players, but the most valuable publication in the democratization of education may be the most available, the most mobile, the most engaged, and the most accessible – the Modernist Versions Project’s MVP may be the facilitator that brings modernism and versioning not to the classroom but to classrooms in the “Big Data” plural. Read more

Digital Modernists Feast

The Digital Modernists Feast held during DHSI2014 was a huge success, with over 30 scholars, librarians, students, and researchers working in modernism and digital humanities converging on The Local Kitchen in downtown Victoria for good food, abundant beer, and a whole tonne of funne (Canadian sp., right?).

A hearty thanks go out to everyone who came out, and those who sent their regrets (you missed the best time!). The SSHRC-funded Linked Modernisms initiative sponsored the event, billed as a crucial first step in creating linked modernisms: linking modernists.

Thanks again, everyone. We hope to reconvene as many as can make it at the MSA conference in Pittsburgh in November.

Gifford and Ross win SEED Grant

The MVP is proud to announce that co-directors James Gifford and Stephen Ross were awarded the University Provost’s SEED Grant at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Vancouver Campus. Tenable for 2014-2015, the grant funds three undergraduate student research assistants, new book scanning equipment, two training sessions in Vancouver and Victoria, and travel to the conference of the Modernist Studies Association. The first task to be undertaken with the funding is a full digital edition of the 1890 and 1891 variant editions of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Stay tuned…

Big Modernism Presentation

Come and hear Belaid Moa (Compute Canada) and Jana Millar Usiskin present on “Big Modernism” on Tuesday 8 April — the Day of DH itself! — in ECS 104 at the University of Victoria.

Bloomsday Ahoy! Pirated Ulysses Found by MVP Post-doc

Image by Robert Amos
Image by Robert Amos

This Bloomsday (June 16), UVic celebrates a rare Ulysses library discovery.

Matt Huculak, a University of Victoria post-doctoral fellow, just realized every literary scholar’s dream. Poring through the University of Victoria’s Special Collections catalogues earlier this year, Huculak discovered a rare pirated edition of James Joyce’s Ulysses in the pages of an obscure literary journal.

Huculak made the discovery earlier this spring in the university’s Special Collections library while working for the SSHRC-funded Modernist Versions Project, an international digital humanities venture headed by UVic researchers that will allow readers to compare the different versions and editions of modernist fiction and poetry online.

Huculak was scanning old library catalogues dating back to the early days of Victoria College–the University of Victoria’s precursor–when he spotted an entry for a rare magazine called Two Worlds. “I recognized the magazine title in the catalogue,” says Huculak, “but I couldn’t believe the University of Victoria had a copy.” The call number was so old even the librarians didn’t recognize it at first.

Read more

Theory of Versioning

The aim of the project is to collate and edit modernist texts that exist in multiple versions so that we can achieve new critical insights. The task here is much more than simply to allow comparison of texts to identify where variations occur. Instead, it is to facilitate new interpretive possibilities. That is, out of the collation of text A and text B we will generate a set of variants, that can stand as text C. We want to read text C to see what it can tell us about the evolution of a given novel, say, and then to link those changes into the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts that produce them. The theoretical issues that arise concern what counts as a text and how we can read the third possible text — the C text — that emerges out of the incompatibility between text A and text B. The aim is to read the gap between one version and the next, following Derrida’s imperative to attend to difference itself as the source of meaning rather than presuming that it is a merely negative product of the non-coincidence of two entities: text A and text B. Given modernism’s own fascination with radical breaks, discontinuities, and making things new, the theory behind our approach to textual variation is in many ways deeply modernist itself. Following the lead of such writers as Conrad, Forster, and Joyce, and the ways in which their innovations in narrative informed much of later twentieth-century theory, the Modernist Versions Project concerns itself with what gaps, silences, and difference itself can tell us. It does not pursue the holistic text of the genetic edition, nor the definitive edition of the “corrected text,” but rather the trace of what has been erased, of erasure itself, as the most productive point of meaning. In doing so, we hope to be able to restore to our understanding of modernism a key element of its production, an aspect which modernism itself elided, but which remains central to understanding it as fully as possible.