- Edizioni Critiche Digitali. Digital Critical Editions ed. by Paola Italia, Claudia Bonsi
Edited by Paola Italia and Claudia Bonsi, this book is a collection of thirteen contributions focusing on digital projects about European (Jane Austen, Fernando Pessoa, Nietzsche, and Proust) and Italian (Leopardi, Manzoni, Gadda) authors. They are written by Italian and international scholars, but all the topics are tackled from a distinctly international cultural perspective.
The book is divided into three sections. The first presents a cluster of digital projects, introduced as case studies, assessing their theoretical validity and practical applications, underlining the strengths and weaknesses of each. The projects presented consist of both digital archives and digital scholarly editions, ranging from the archive of Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet to the digital edition of the Leopardi’s Canti, efficiently combining Italian and international case studies. The second section examines the “self-description” of such digital projects, such as the choice of the most suitable name for the resulting “digital object”, distinguishing between editions and archives. The third and final part presents the innovative project THESMA (TeraHErtz & Spectrometry Manuscript Analysis), dedicated to an analytical study of manuscripts, allowing scholars literally to read a book through its cover. Building on the experience of multi-spectral inspection, TeraHErz visualizes hidden layers by means of different optical techniques, seeing — so to speak — through the paper, e.g., allowing the reading of pages (or parts thereof) that have been stuck together.
The variety of the reported projects provides an opportunity to deal with various controversies and solutions from different perspectives. The strength of the work lies in the possibility of comparing innovative methodologies and assessing how (or if) they are used in the direction of a collective construction of knowledge. Citing Shillingsburg, Milena Giuffrida recognises the priority of the reflection on methodology in order to create a scholarly digital edition. Similarly Fiormonte, in another contribution, states that the discipline of Digital Humanities needs to unify in defence of the need to reflect upon the content of the digitization, avoiding the transformation of everything into data.
Simone Celani’s introduction to Digital Critical Editions explains how digital media overcomes the limits of a linear and hierarchical representation, abandoning the division between the text and the critical apparatus [End Page 163] to really “unveil a text in the making” (61). Most of the contributions underscore the notion that digital editions permit a dynamic, hyper-textual representation that achieves not just forms of textual publication but manages to enlighten the process of writing itself while enhancing our understanding of the context in which a work was produced.
The technical flexibility of the digital medium holds obvious advantages over the rigidity of printed text. This is evident in the case of the LdoD Archive (http://ldod.uc.pt): the digital archive is based on Fernando Pessoa’s Livro do Desassossego and focusses on the dynamic process of the actions of writing, editing, and reading. This foundational idea has led to an archive where the users can simulate the production and analysis of the literary work.
Taking into account the non-linearity of manuscripts, the prototype developed by Elena Pierazzo and Julie André for Marcel Proust’s manuscripts is based on a mimetic logic that through a few pages of Cahier 46 shows Proust’s writing and its transcription and allows readers to follow different paths while reading the various manuscript drafts. It means the user can be guided in reading while visualizing either a “reading sequence” or a “writing sequence”. Regarding the first one, it allows us to read the last version of the story directly on the manuscript; the last stage of this path is the most challenging, as it reconstructs a hypothesis about the various stages of writing.
It seems that digital projects seem to favor the understanding of the habits of the writer and to provide scholars with new tools to analyse the object of study in its complexity. More generally, DH is...