First, some brief comments about Jerome McGann’s interest in the critic/archivist divide and a plug for literary historicism; then, an attempt at the IVANHOE game.

Since our discussions have kept coming back to the question of payoff (of what new information is gained by reformatting texts to fit new digital formats), and we seem – at least for the purposes of the class – to be interested in asserting that their *is* a payoff, then it is precisely in the critical application of the editing process that such payoff lies. At various points in his text, McGann uses sentences smoother than my previous to express a sort of divide that has marginalized the editor and archivist by suggesting the critic or philosopher to engage in deeper and more scholarly pursuits (18). This claim continues to resurface in the book: at various points he laments the academic culture that has limited the perceived scholarly value of the editorial and archival pursuits that are best aided by the kinds of interventions promised by digital textualities (103, 213). It is thus perhaps a mission of the IVANHOE game and of its precursors to demonstrate how, “purely archival and editorial,” work can be blended with, “critical and reflective functions” (16-7). The promised plug: a common thread of mockery directed at the literary historicist is that his or her essays begin with narrativized anecdotes about something he or she found in the archive. There is, in other words, a community of scholars who is quite interested in the story of their own engagement with the dusty manuscript (I’ll try to update this post in a few days with a quote from an essay that does just this; plays something like the IVANHOE game as part of its ‘attention getter’).

Interested in assenting to McGann’s ideas and intrigued by this ‘game’, I’d like to play a very fast round for shits and giggles — the only thing that I don’t get is the 1915 thing in the appendix… like, I see that his dates and names correspond to real events and personages in the history of Bronte scholarship, but I’m not certain whether he has chosen to role-play a real person at a moment that is historically specific for a reason beyond, “we are in 1915 in order to be ‘into’ the beginning of WWI” (246). He then invents characters for 2000, so I’m not sure whether the rule is just to come up with a collection of historical personages and/or fictional characters…

Disclaimer: I’m sorry that I use something so specific to my own research that I don’t leave you guys much room to play with me — I’ll try to post additional moves later on and make this into an onanistic extravaganza that is fun to watch.

Player Profile: portraying a fictitious student/assistant of Thomas Finlayson Henderson (1844-1923), a specialist in Scottish literature on the Cambridge faculty in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century (prolific output in terms of scholarly works on Scottish Ballads and Vernacular, Burns, James VI & I, and [the] Mary Stuart). Henderson’s collections of Scott-related essays started coming out in 1907, so I date this piece 1906. If I were playing more seriously, I would have tracked down the names & partial biographies of one or two among Henderson’s real assistants so as to include details from their lives in my ‘moves’ (details, of course, that would tint their readings of the documents at hand, and open new critical directions based on their imagined experiences/viewpoints). My fictitious student/assistant is a bit lazy or perhaps is overworked, and has enlisted the aid of his leisured bosom friend, John Booby. The descendent of the much famed Squire Booby who acted as a model for Fielding’s character of the same name, John is a red-faced, coursing gentleman who can run down texts with hart-like tenacity.

Move 1:

February 6th, 1906.

Friend John,

I have received the plates to the Waverly novels that you so naively entrusted to the care of a veritable Baker Street Irregular of a lad – to think, had he absconded with the volumes (the smell of rich leather drives the East Ender mad, I’m told), our best chance to examine Mr. Tilt’s earliest collection of Waverly prints would have been forfeit. I applaud the spirit of your gesture, for such honesty as you expected should pervade even the darkest corners of the Empire’s capital. There is, however, a certain family flaw visible in your giving him less than an hundredth of the volumes’ value in payment and expecting him to deliver them intact. And what if such a grubby boy should be stopped on the London and Northeastern by a conductor who felt himself to be a truant officer? There may come a day (shudder I to think of it, friend John) when a gentleman may no longer hold up a sovereign and procure the messenger-services of the nearest-by ragamuffin.

Your procurement of the earliest 1832 Charles Tilt printing of Landscape Illustrations to the Waverly Novels confirms what Henderson has believed for quite some time. The more popular 1833 edition – the version that adds plates of the principle female characters to the 1832 edition’s landscape illustrations – and the second 1832 printing expurgate small portions of text that are present in the initial edition. One such portion, effectively a caption to an illustration of Edinburgh’s long gray thoroughfare, reads,

[Its admirers have placed it as second only to the High Street of Oxford. The comparison does not at all appear to us to be a fair one. On the score of the picturesque, the palm remains with Edinburgh; but for grandeur, magnificence, and some other qualities needless here to mention, it is far behind the palaced street of Oxford.]


This London publication doubtless became more popular as time went on, and this potentially offensive comparison was removed in later editions – I’m not sure how Henderson will receive this, but even if it has no bearing on his research, it will serve as something to talk about when ignoring the Mathematicians at dinner this evening.


So, those are real collections of plates that my fictional character mentions. Tell me, is what I did the IVANHOE game, or have I missed the point and written fan fiction?


One thought on “The IVANHOE Game

  1. Pingback: Move 1: Wait a minute, what’s this book about? | "Digital Humanities": Emerging Tools and Debates in Literary Study

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