Transcribe what you…read?

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By Laura Whitebell

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As Eric discussed last week, a group of us have been working on Vala, or The Four Zoas : a project that has been occupying a large chunk of my emotional and intellectual energy lately. It’s pretty intimidating to tackle a work that is notoriously difficult and the realisation that our early transcription attempts break the way that the Archive currently handles and displays text has been disheartening. However, looking on the bright side, pushing a system to its limits actually helps you to understand it more fully, which not only affects future work but has helped me to think more deeply about past and current projects.

To illustrate what I’m talking about, our conversations about the element have made me realize that we usually encode Blake’s works from top to bottom, from left to right. This may seem obvious, and generally makes sense since he is often writing in English, but it does uncover a basic principle of the Archive that I had never thought about. Of course, The Four Zoas is not the first work to complicate our understanding of how text gets organized spatially: take a work like Laocoön where the words wind and …read more