The following essays have evolved from papers given at conference sessions held during the 1998 Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Ottawa, Canada, and jointly sponsored by the Consortium for Computers in the Humanities and the Association for Canadian College and University Teachers of English. These papers continue an exploration that the two associations have, over several years of aligned sessions, pursued together — an exploration that is given voice in earlier collections that we have had the pleasure of overseeing: Technologising the Humanities / Humanitising the Technologies (from the 1997 sessions, published in electronic form by Computing in the Humanities Working Papers [September 1998] and, in print, by Text Technology 8.2 : 1-63 and 8.3 : 1-76) and Scholarly Discourse and Computing Technology: Perspectives on Pedagogy, Research, and Dissemination in the Humanities (from the 1996 sessions, a similar joint special issue of the print journal Text Technology 6.3 : 137-216 and the electronic journal Computing in the Humanities Working Papers [April 1997]).
This collection begins with Donald Theall's discussion of James Joyce's use of intertextuality and its implications for a consideration of Finnegans Wake. Noting that Joyce is a product of the same age as Vannevar Bush's Memex, Theall urges us to consider the work of a writer who may well have been the earliest to practice intertextual and interdiscursive poetic strategies so fully — anticipating a number of practices fully at home in the cybernetic realm.
The electronic medium offers unprecedented opportunities for new electronic critical editions. Pierre Kunstmann and France Martineau describe here their project at the University of Ottawa to create a comprehensive online scholarly edition of Yvain, ou le Chevalier au lion. Their edition project will include four dimensions: 1) colour images of the manuscripts and their transcription, 2) indices of lexical forms (lemmas, rimes, proper nouns, etc.), 3) morpho-syntactic studies of each passage, and 4) dictionary entries for the lexical items. Like the Charette Projet at Princeton, this project promises to become a highly accessible and rich repository for medieval studies.
Katharine Patterson reports on her fruitful inquiry into the networking of early- to mid-nineteenth-century women writers; this project has its origins in the "Anna Jameson and her Friends Database," a hypertextual database designed to reflect her approach to epistolary communication as well as to map Jameson's social network. Since the body of correspondence of any one writer over a lifetime documents hundreds of associations, comprising perhaps thousands of interpersonal transactions — and because each individual letter in itself may record many other interpersonal transactions, performed or desired — the mapping of associative links requires a reliable method of storing and retrieving data generated from the letter texts for, first, constructing individual social network profiles and then, later, for comparing them. As Patterson notes, database programs have the capacity to store, order, reconfigure, and retrieve vast amounts of data; hypertext theory and technology suggest new approaches to reading as well as representing epistolary texts. Together, Patterson urges, these technologies can assist in representing the social associations and affiliations of epistolary discourse.
In her "Sexism and Language: What can the Web teach us?" Fabienne Baider uses historical textual databases to study certain French adjectives, such as grand, gentil and honnête, which change in meaning depending on whether they are applied to women (grande dame, gentillefemme, honnête femme) or to men (grand homme, gentilhomme, honnête homme). The online databases offer quantitative and qualitative insight into the linguistic encoding of gender in French, which, in the case of the adjectives studied here, tends to cast women in a sexual role.
In his work towards defining publication in the electronic age, Rod Heimpel asks and answers a valuable question: How can the specificity of scholarly electronic publications be stressed without inviting claims of inferiority vis-à-vis paper publications? Drawing on examples from both scientific and humanities scholarly publication, Heimpel's response is to treat resistance to electronic publication as an essentially ideological or conceptual concern; the legitimization of scholarly electronic publication, he urges, must be approached as a discursive or rhetorical issue.
Concluding the collection is a small cluster of articles touching on matters of computer-assisted pedagogy, a cluster in which Sabrina Reed, Alexandra Pett, and Patricia Rigg represent, in written form, what was one of the most dynamic exchanges of the 1998 meeting. In the cluster, each author discusses her experience using technology in their teaching, noting the ways in which classes changed when computers became an integral part of the courseware — among them issues related to classroom dynamics, structures of authority, and beyond.
In addition to expressing our gratitude to the authors of this collection for presenting insightful talks that have led to engaging articles, the editors would like to thank those people whose input and efforts made a positive contribution to the collection — especially those who participated in the lively discussions that followed the conference sessions and, in doing so, provided the considerable direction and valuable feedback that is well-reflected by the papers herein. Specifically, we would like to thank Susan Brown, Joanne Buckley, Michael Groden, Joe Jones, Ian Lancashire, Steve Lane, Elizabeth Lasserre, John Lavagnino, Ann Okerson, Chantal Phan, Jean Sebastien, and Marshall Soules for their assistance, as well the Consortium for Computers in the Humanities and the Association for Canadian College and University Teachers of English.
This collection is jointly published as a special issue of the electronic journal Computing in the Humanities Working Papers and the print publication Text Technology.