TEI 2019

What is text, really? TEI and beyond


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How to encode the unsaid with the TEI

Anna Busch, Frank Fischer

Keywords: encoding, literature, the unsaid
Permalink: https://gams.uni-graz.at/o:tei2019.194

How to encode the unsaid with the TEI

Where does text begin and, above all, where does it end? Do we reach the end of the text where the characters on the paper end? At what point does the unsaid become tangible in literature, how does this find expression in the medial side and materiality of text, and above all how does the TEI deal with it? More precisely: What possibilities are there to encode the unspoken? Is this at all purposeful and does it not contradict the basic principle of the TEI, according to which the TEI encoding is to be considered detached from the representation and is to be removed from the interpretation?

Many texts in world literature play with the phenomenon of vagueness. These texts leave the statement in the approximate, they suggest things and thus hand over the narrative to the reader's imagination. The narrative communication succeeds in these cases through the unity of language, text statement and media representation, which can differ depending on the printed edition. The reader of Theodor Fontane's Effi Briest "knows" what happens between Effi and Crampas in the dunes, even if it is not written anywhere and is only indicated by the length of the paragraph. In Arthur Schnitzler's Reigen, the dashes not only suggest, they speak for themselves. And the kiss exchanged in Paul Claudel's L'Annonce faite à Marie, which is immanently important for the plot, regularly falls through the grid, whereby the two kissers, who otherwise do not speak a word with each other, do not occur together in an automatically extracted communication graph.

The power and relevance of these blanks (“Leerstellen”) in literature is undisputed. It is only while reading that the recipient, drawing on his own knowledge of the world and experience, redeems the potential effect offered by the text and turns it into a literary work of art.1 Only the cognitive challenge of the reader through the lack of unambiguity leads to the active execution of the action. The dialectic of pronunciation and concealment stimulates the assignment of meaning. How can TEI, as a tool for capturing sign sequences, text structure and abstract properties, deal with this phenomenon? Can it do justice to the unsaid and is that its task?

Based on the three works mentioned, the phenomenon of the unsaid in handwriting, printing and the respective TEI encoding is to be investigated. Theoretical considerations on the relationship between content, form and medium of text in comparison to non-text within the framework of the TEI are raised.