On Stemmatics

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So this is a git network graph. Specifically, it is the network graph for Ivanhoe from c. 20 February to 1 March. The blue line is our Develop branch and the various branches are features, projects, etc. The first little pink dot is my first branch.  While programming development is far from complete, I forked off a branch to begin styling completed features with CSS. The next little pink dot was my introduction to the world of merge conflict. Gross.


© Alaric Hall and Katelin Parsons, 2013. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial licence

This is a stemma. It is a stemma of Konráðs saga keisarasonar.[1] Up at the top we have our putative archetype, hyparchetype, or possibly even authorial holograph.[2] The myriad of branches represent various copies and what have you. I believe the similarity of these images is both obvious and salutary.

Both images map out textual iterations created by humans. Both bear witness to merge problems and variations. Both require diverse groups of human beings to work together to iterate a text. While the technological means of iteration have evolved considerably, the problem of reliable iteration across time and space remains.

I am not implying that coding is just like manuscript copying. It isn’t, and digital textuality is not exactly analogous to manuscript textuality. I guess what I am saying is a bit more Eliotean. The end of all exploration will be to return home and to know it for the first time.[3] Mediums change, and as a bibliographer and book historian I certainly avow inseparability of medium and message, but it seems problems remain the same. How to meaningfully pass information from one human being to another and not to fail.

[1] I’ve never read Konráðs saga keisarasonar; this is just the best stemma picture I found on the interwebs. Full credit it is from a post by Alaric Hall Katelin Parsons over at Digital Medievalist. Full citation at the foot of this note. If you want to know more about this specific text/stemma or just want to see a really rad discussion of online editing and connect with one of the best online places for manuscript-y folks, hit it up. Hall and Parsons, Digital Medievalist 9 (2013). ISSN: 1715-0736.

[2] If you are George Kane

[3] Loosely “Little Gidding: V,” ll. 26-9 ish.

From Wilmore Kentucky
Asbury College, 2008, BA (History and Latin)
Oxford University (Wadham College), 2011, MPhil (English Literature: 650-1550)
University of Virginia, PhD, (English)

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