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Experimental bibliography

2 min read

The novel I chose for my bibliography project is The Sylph, by Georgiana Cavendish. The Sylph is an epistolary novel about a woman (Julia Grenville) who has married into high society and moved to London. She becomes disillusioned, and she begins receiving letters of advice from someone called "the sylph". I haven't read the book yet (I skimmed some pages), so I looked up what it was about online. With my experimental bibliography, I'd like to represent some aspect of the content of the book. Though the traditional bibliography doesn't completely capture the physicality of a book, it doesn't quite capture the content either, and I think the content is more important. There are a few things here to think about: the advice Julia gets from the Sylph, the Sylph's anonymity (until the end, presumably), the lowered moral standards Julia apparently finds in the new society she enters. Given the anonymity of the sylph, the event of a masquerade in the book, Julia's disillusionment with London society, and the use of trickery and keeping secrets (though I'm not sure how prevalent deception is in the book; I just know it's there), I think it would be nice to create a mask to represent the novel, or perhaps multiple masks if I wanted to represent a different thing with each mask. One idea is to create a mask by using its text, and cover a mask with text from the book--though this might imply that the novel itself is a mask, and I'm not really sure what that means. Another idea is to design multiple masks based off different characters or concepts in the novel. Some characters in the novel actually wore masks, so in a way some masks could be seen as items or props from the novel.


Tiny crafts + GIFs + soundtrack for "Pupil of Pleasure"

4 min read

In my experimental bibliography, I hope to materialize and thematize some of the concerns I have had throughout the semester about the seemingly intractable conceptual problems of creating digital facsimiles and representations of books. I want my project to create an affective reaction in the viewer or user of the project, who will feel the same intense desire I feel to touch the physical books bibliographic data and digital facsimiles attempt to capture; I want to touch on the inaccessibility to the uninitiated of bibliographic data; and I want my work to function in the space created by bibliographic data which is both deeply machine-oriented and deeply humanistic.

I asked Nora Battelle, who worked on the END this summer, about her experience with the bibliographic data she collected, since I felt my project was missing something. She explained to me that all of the data is extremely personalized and that everyone’s cataloguing records look different, as our traditional descriptive bibliographies in this class vary in style. Though the records were all the same in terms of all being machine-readable and all going to serve the same purpose, Battelle explained, each cataloguer has their own style and the types of things each cataloguer chose to notate were different. Though the aim of collecting the data is to capture all of the information about the book, that is simply not possible and cataloguers will all record very different things. Battelle also mentioned that each cataloguer is so distinctive that database users can tell that certain entries were written by the same person. Though it is a database, a collection of digital information that can be read by a computer, it is also discursive and personal and irrepressibly human. That is incredibly exciting to me and something I hope my project will reflect.

My ideal and first-draft conception of the project, then, is as follows: I will create a small (fits in one hand) representation of each category of bibliographic data the traditional descriptive bibliography collects — format, title page, notes, etc. (I imagine these like little sculptures, with, for instance, the format representation a sculpture of a sheet of paper folded a certain number of times). I will then film someone’s hand playing with each small sculpture. I imagine that watching these short videos (hopefully GIFs?), the viewer will want to touch the objects, much as I strongly desire to hold, gaze upon, and flip through the real physical objects represented by digital facsimiles in the ECCO. I also hope that presenting these small sculptures of each category without any context will make the viewer feel slightly alienated or without an understanding of the categories, in order to recreate the feeling of inaccessibility I get when looking at traditional descriptive bibliographic data. A separate set of audio files, which ideally would be only playable once the viewer has watched the GIFs, or which would run out of order and at random throughout the viewer’s watching of the GIFs, would have people describing — first using the traditional bibliographic descriptive language and then speaking in personal and discursive ways — the book. This will capture the essential humanity and personalization of bibliographic description.

I am very unsure of my ability to technically make all of these things happen, since I am very bad at crafting, especially on a very small scale and I have zero knowledge of filmmaking or editing. But, if i figured out a way to make all of these things happen, it could be extremely cool. My final project might not end up materializing all of this, but I will definitely try and make use of my friends with artistic and digital skills, if that’s allowed.


Book Cube

2 min read

Staring at my desk looking for inspiration for the experimental bibliography project, my eyes landed on a photo cube my mom gave me at the beginning of freshman year. The concept is simple: it’s a normal six-sided cube, with each face of the cube featuring a different photograph. Each side of the cube represents a part of my life: there’s a picture of me with my mom; with my dad; with friends at prom; playing baseball; as a young kid; and with my high school cross-country team.

The idea that occurred to me then was the equivalent, but for a book. Each side could represent a part of the traditional bibliography. I’m not sure exactly how to divide it up, but I think it would have a side dedicated to the title, to the subtitle, to the city of publication, to the year of publication, and maybe two sides for two different notes (epistolary form, half pages, and illegible scribbles on the title page are possibilities). Of course, the representations of these aspects of the book wouldn’t be just words on the sides—they would be some kind of artistic interpretation of them. Ideas I’ve had so far include an old style photograph that I would stage and edit for the title, a drawing (though it’s definitely not my strong suit) for the city of publication (Big Ben or something of that sort), etc. I’ll have to think a bit more about the specifics, but I think it could be pretty cool. It ostensibly gives the same information as the traditional bibliography, but in a totally different way—it’s a physical manifestation of the information, and the physicality of the book is a big part of what you miss with a traditional bibliography.


Experimental Description Idea

1 min read

For my experimental description, I'm thinking of drawing out the title page of the novel I chose, Disinterested Love, and surrounding it with the other parts of the bibliography not included on the title page. I will then explain the significance of each aspect of the title page and bibliography, trying to give the viewer a sense of how this novel fits into the era and how the printing and distribution of novels worked at the time.