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March 30, 2011 / katextuality

A Review of James Cummings’ “The Text Encoding Initiative and the Study of Literature”

James Cummings presents a somewhat clear and comprehensive insight into the world of TEI. As somebody with a very limited knowledge of TEI, I did find a lot of the material quite dense and hard to digest but overall managed to gather the main gist of the initiative and what Cummings was trying to portray about it. Cummings manages to draw from many areas of information to construct his argument which I found to be quite an interesting format to read.

Cummings expertise in the field is obvious and I did find that sometimes the examples he provided were slightly off the point and perhaps even used as a medium to show off his knowledge. However in other scenarios I felt they were extremely concise and stuck to the task at hand. I cannot discredit him too much for the subject of focus as it was obvious that he was continually going to bring the discussion topic back to literature and TEI’s place in it.

I must admit that an awful lot of the subject matter went over my head, but I can see how someone with perhaps a bit more interest and knowledge in this area may have found this article to be extremely helpful and informative. I found that as the article moved on, the language got progressively more technical and difficult and despite the fact that Cumming’s seeks to allude this by offering more coding and technical examples I couldn’t bring myself to fully understand it.

One point which did stick in my head was when he mentioned that one of the central missions of the TEI is to cope with the continuously differing needs of scholars and that, to my shame is the main point which I came away with. If I was asked to give a definition of TEI, I would have to classify it as a set of guidelines with varying capabilities of different ways of studying literature. Its role is to make texts as accessible as possible. Despite the fact that this is one of the few facts which I gathered from the text, Cummings does seem to offer a balanced argument of the initiatives pros and cons.




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