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A Christmas Carol Digital Edition

DIHU301/ENGL305: The Self-Conscious Text

TEI by Suemin Do

Working collaboratively, students in The Self-Conscious Text apply digital research methods to a range of scholarly practices, from visualizing and mapping to encoding and publishing. Through practice-based reflection students employ close reading methods as they plan their own descriptive markup, as well as distant reading methods as they use larger data sets to develop their own research questions. The course starts with an introduction to scribal and typographic conventions (and the great revolution that consisted of adding spaces between words and periods at the end of sentences!). Students then start to work with plain text—text that "knows very little about itself" or communicates very little to a computer. They then learn to add computer-legible structure to their text to create spreadsheet-driven maps, html pages, an analytic visualizations. The course concludes with an introduction to TEI, the xml markup language of the Digital Humanities, which gives scholars a 500+ element set to describe primary texts (among other things) to a computer in a rich and intellectually rigorous way.

This edition is best read using Firefox. TEI is a descriptive markup language, rather than a presentational one, and so the TEI in this edition has been transformed using a version of John Walsh's TEIBoilerplate, modified to integrate the edition's TEI with its HTML. To see the interpretive editorial encoding that underpins any student editor's TEI, or the HTML that underpins both the students' critical apparatus or adaptation commentary, hit Command + U on a Mac or Control + U on a PC.

The Assignment

The Fall 2014 DIHU301 students collaborated on both the research and production of this edition. While in other years the DIHU301 classes produced editions almost completely in TEI, this edition, for the first time, combines TEI and HTML in almost equal measure. In order to create the edition, students took up a human-centred design methodology: the edition is intended for use by a first- or second-year undergraduate class that has been given the essay topics below. The DIHU students came up with personas, or exemplary students from that class, and were given a list of essay topics that the personas would have to take up, using the digital edition, for their final term paper. DIHU301 students then had to design with the personas in mind, submitting a rationale for their design choices that explained just how both the text and the code in their individual parts of the edition would be of use to the personas, below.

The edition is a testament not only to the DIHU301 students critical, creative, and research skills, but also to their hard work and willingness to problem solve. I hope you enjoy their edition of A Christmas Carol.

Constance Crompton
Assistant Professor, Digital Humanities
Department of Critical Studies, Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies
University of British Columbia
November 2014

Personas' Essay Topics

The prospective users of the edition are students in a second year English class. The Christmas Carol Edition will have to serve as a research hub to help them answer the following essay questions:

1. Compare and contrast one of the three films in the archive to the text. How does the film's remediation incorporate, support, undermine, or critique the social message of the original text?

2. Address the role of celebrity in the circulation of the Christmas Carol story. Compare the cultural context of Dickens' fame with the cultural context of the fame of any star in the edition, making an argument about the effect of that fame on the meaning of the text.

3. Select a humorous passage from the text. Attending particularly to words that have fallen out of use or cultural events unfamiliar in the 21st century, draw on research-based evidence in order to make an argument about which Victorians would have found the passage humorous and which would not.

4. Develop a research question based on the archive's visualization or map.


Student 1: A mature student and single parent, Andrea is majoring in Computer Science, in which she's maintained a respectable average in the low 70s. She has always loved Victorian literature and is hoping that this elective course will boost her grade.

Student 2: Margery enrolled at UBCO right after highschool. She's detail oriented, but finds academia a bit baffling and would be glad if the edition materials had clear titles to help her better understand just what was in the edition. She won't cite our edition directly, but she will turn to it to help her find primary and (peer-reviewed) secondary sources. She's a bit anxious—she really wants to earn an A in this class.

Student 3: Lyndall is a 23 year-old super-student. Not only does she work two jobs, she's also managed to maintain an 80% average. She's majoring in English with a minor in Anthropology. She's a little worried about money: she's paying for school herself and has quite a few student loans, but would like to go to grad school. She needs to get a good grade in this class to help her get a scholarship that will cover at least some of the cost of her studies.

Student 4: Hans is an exchange student from Germany. He is majoring in Math. He's had an easier transition than most international students: he's been to the Okanagan before and is staying with his aunt and uncle on the Westside. He has a long commute by bus to UBCO and wants to be able to read our edition while he's in transit.

Student 5: Jung is a 20 year-old polyglot—English is his third language. He is majoring in International Relations. This is the second English class he's taken at UBCO, and he is a little bit anxious about it, as this is the first time he's read Dickens.

Student 6: Rameena is extremely organized, and indeed, she has to be: a good deal of her time is taken up with her long commute and her part-time job at the Gap. She is curious and detail oriented and is hoping for a career in Human Relations. She would really like to improve her writing skills to help her get a research assistant position on campus with one of her HR profs, as she figures that would cut down on her commuting time and give her some relevant job experience.