Track Changes: Textual Scholarship and the Challenge of Digital Literary Writing

Literary scholars working in textual scholarship study the genetics of literary texts. Up until now, such research has been conducted based on texts that were produced using analogue methods. However, contemporary literature is produced in an environment where digital methods dominate. In our study Track Changes: Textual scholarship and the challenge of digital literary writing, we investigate the consequences of this digital work process for research methods into textual genetics. We – Huygens ING and University of Antwerp – will draw on our shared expertise in the field of text editions and textual genetics, alongside our complementary knowledge of computational literary theory (Huygens ING) and cognitive writing process research (University of Antwerp). The study will result in two doctoral theses, a collection of articles which will include synthesizing contributions, and a series of recommendations for literary heritage institutions aimed at facilitating efficient and ethical (privacy protecting) storage of digital literary materials and future research. The study will focus on three main questions: 1) How can we apply existing methods and theories of textual scholarship to analyze digital literary writing processes and in which ways will the analysis of these processes enrich the existing methods and theories?; 2) How do writing process dynamics (e.g. pauses and revisions) enable us to describe writing strategies?; and 3) How can we systematically extract intermediate versions of a born-digital text and how can we apply intelligent digital text analysis on these text versions creating new knowledge about the genesis of texts and the creative process?

This NWO funded project is a collaboration between the Huygens ING's Department of Literature, and the University of Antwerp's research groups Centre for Manuscript Genetics (CMG) and Writing and Professional Communication.