Structural TEI of A Draft of XXX Cantos

For the past two days, I have worked some longish hours on a digital project that I hope will dovetail pretty seamlessly with my dissertation’s overall argument.  For this project I will use TEI to embed references and source materials that appear within The Cantos.  The project is well underway and I plan to briefly discuss my progress and goals at the Digital Humanities Summer Institute Colloquium at the University of Victoria in Victoria, British Columbia next month.  Today I completed what I envision as the majority of the structural encoding (lines, line groups, page breaks, etc.), so I now find myself well beyond the type of encoding I’ve done in the past.  The aim of the project is to represent the source texts, source authors, and if possible, the reasons Pound selected each element from out of literary history to appear in The Cantos (this is where the argument of my dissertation will overlap).

As a guide, I used tei_lite, which provides very readable and detailed instructions.  However, my next step is to find a way to represent the external materials that appear within the text.  For instance, throughout the Malatesta section Pound includes quotation from official correspondence between different parties and these letters appear with and as text of the poem.  My immediate goal is to find a way to encode the sources and authors of these explicitly external elements and I am more than open to anyone who has advice on the best way.  Here is an example of what I’ve done so far for this type of section appearing in “Canto IX” on page 39:

<lg>
<l>“Magnificent and Exalted Lord and Father in especial my</l>
<l>” lord with due recommendation: your letter has been pre-</l>
<l>“ sented to me by Gentilino da Gradara and with it the bay</l>
<l>“ pony (ronzino baiectino) the which you have sent me, and</l>
<l>“ which appears in my eyes a fine caparison’d charger, upon</l>
<l>“ which I intend to learn all there is to know about riding, in</l>
<l>“ consideration of yr. paternal affection for which I thank</l>
<l>“ your excellency thus briefly and pray you continue to hold</l>
<l>“ me in this esteem notifying you by the bearer of this that</l>
<l>“we are all in good health, as I hope and desire your Exct</l>
<l>“ Lordship is also: with continued remembrance I remain</l>
<l>“ Your son and servant</l>
<l>Malatesta de Malatestis.</l>
<l>Given in Rimini, this the 22nd day of December</l>
<l>anno domini 1454 ”</l>
</l>

Once I determine what type of tags to use for this type of passage encoding these types of elements will be relatively straight forward, if hugely labor intensive.  For the time being, I will limit the encoding to “author” and “title” information, and perhaps eventually expanding to include dates and other citations including the pagination, page and section citation information, which edition of a work Pound used when quoting from a text like Ovid’s Metamorphoses or Homer’s Odyssey.

On the other hand, The Cantos contain many instances in which the borrowing is much less explicit in that it isn’t direct quotation and it sometimes appears in far smaller chunks transitioning back and forth from one source element to another.  The opening of “Canto 7” is a perfect example.

<l>Eleanor (she spoiled in a British climate)</l>
<l>”man-destroying and city-destroying, and</l>
<l>poor old Homer blind,</l>
<l>blind as a bat,</l>
<l>Ear, ear for the sea-surge;</l>
<l>rattle of old men’s voices.</l>
<l>And then the phantom Rome,</l>
<l>marble narrow for seats</l>
<l>” Si pulvis nullus ” said Ovid,</l>
<l>” Erit, nullum tamen excute.”</l>
<l>Then file and candles, e li mestiers ecoutes;</l>
<l>Scene for the battle only, but still scene,</l>
<l>Pennons and standards y cavals armatz</l>
<l>Not mere succession of strokes, sightless narration,</l>
<l>And Dante’s ” ciocco,” brand struck in the game.</l>

In this brief section Pound transitions between many sources, but they aren’t necessarily specific texts.  Eleanor is at once Henry Plantagenant’s wife and the “man-destroying and city-destroying” Helen of Troy, which gives rise to Homer and his attempts to capture the sound of the sea and the empty talk of old men.  This transitions to Ovid, Bertan de Born, and an image from Dante’s Inferno.  The challenges passages like this present are significant.   Beyond the baroque encoding it would require to indicate every reference, Pound is drawing on puns, isomorphies, and abstract historical similarities e.g. Eleanor=>Helen).  For now, the goal is to try and encode the sources and authors as faithfully as possible.  I feel having just author tags for when I can identify the author but not the text is a defensible practice, as is citing “man-destroying and city-destroying” as from the Iliad without necessarily indicating specific line, section, and page numbers.  The problems that still need solving are more about where to set limits on what to encode and then how to indicate where critical guides like Terrell’s A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound help.

In order to have something completed in my hands on a realistic timeline, for now I will confine myself to encoding identifiable source texts and authors.  I’m still unsure what the best tag structure will be for that type of work so if anyone has any suggestions, please contact me.  I will also leave open the possibility that I may eventually also want to encode the people, dates, places, and languages the text includes, but this also raises the question about having all encoding in one document, or if it makes sense to have multiple versions of the same text each encoded with different information.

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