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REED-L  March 1996

REED-L March 1996

Subject:

Implications of Record Research

From:

william ingram <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

REED-L: Records of Early English Drama Discussion

Date:

Wed, 6 Mar 1996 16:12:20 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (58 lines)

     Like Elza Tiner, James Cummings is troubled by my invitation to
think about what the proper limits of our scholarly desires might be
if the constraints of funders and publishers were removed.  As he
contemplates my question on this head, he says, "I get the
impression that the reply is supposed to be" that we will want
everything.  That certainly wasn't my intent in asking the question;
such an answer would smack too much of undisciplined adolescence or
earlier.  I have no idea what the reply "is supposed to be"; my
reason for asking the question was to discover if we individually or
corporately have any useful notions about what the answer or answers
might be.  Having (as James Cummings says) "full transcriptions of
everything with photographic facsimiles, translations, and full
crossreferencing of every proper name, noun, and subject in some
form of hypertext index" strikes me as appalling.  For one thing, it
would take away all the very real fun of working in archives.  There
would be nothing left to discover, nothing left to get excited
about; we would become mere shufflers of universally available
data.  That's not my vision of the future.
 
     James Cummings's arguments also mix together my larger concerns
about disciplinary scope with the more particularized issues of
REED's mandate.  I would like, as much as possible, to keep these
two matters separate.  REED's editorial policy is not what's at
issue here.  I have no problem with REED's editorial policy; my
concern is with what I take to be the absence of alternative
constructs that extend beyond the limitations of funding and
publication.
 
     I'd like to second James Cummings's question about documents in
which no record of dramatic activity is found; I share his sense
that it would be most useful to have information about those
documents available, if only to save needless duplication of effort.
Our colleagues in the sciences value negative evidence as having
real utility; for some reason we in the humanities think of it as
absence or failure.  (Computer analyses of texts are helping to
redress this balance, as scholars point out to us that an author's
non-use of certain forms can be significant.)
 
     As for reconstituting the life of "Joe Bloggs, harper", and
whether it should be broadened to "Joe Bloggs, person", I think the
only way to know is to try.  Whether the whole life of Bloggs is
seen as important depends upon the approach James Cummings brings to
his reconstitution.  Cummings wonders what Bloggs's personal life,
"information about children etc", has to do with his life as a
harper; I propose that he will know the answer to that when he has
put all the pieces together.  I'm not certain we can decide *in
advance* that such material is or isn't germane.  Does Richard
Tarlton's life as an innkeeper have anything to do with his life as
a performer?  Does Andrew Cane's life as a working goldsmith have
anything to do with his life as the leader of a playing company?
We'll know the answers to those questions only after we've tried
constructing our narratives.  Elza Tiner is right; the relationship
is rhetorical.  But we need to try on the garment before saying
whether it fits.
_______________________________________________________________________
William Ingram, English Dept, Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor MI 48109-1045
e-mail: [log in to unmask]               fax (departmental): 313 763 3128
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