The prompt for this project is the Modern Language Association’s New Variorum Shakespeare Digital Challenge. The MLA Committee on the New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare is sponsoring a digital challenge and is seeking the most innovative and compelling uses of the data contained within its recently published volume, The Comedy of Errors. The MLA has released the XML files and schema for The Comedy of Errors under a Creative Commons BY-NC 3.0 license. Scholars may freely download these files from GitHub and use this material in their research.
Bill-Crit-O-Matic: The Idea
The core idea of this project comes from a reflection on a transitional time in my scholarly career, when I was a graduate student moving into being a scholarly commentator on texts. There was a moment during graduate school (I suspect others encounter it, too, at some point), in which reading standard scholarly editions of a text was no longer about reading the text. Instead, it was about reading the scholarship surrounding the text. As a reading practice, that reversal of privilege — the commentary becomes primary while the “main” text becomes secondary — is probably familiar to people who are familiar with medieval manuscripts and/or the Talmud and/or various other textualities that visually mix text and commentary in more sophisticated ways than our modern impoverished footnotes can sustain.
The guiding principle of this project is to turn the scholarship around Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors on its head. Instead of reading the playtext as the main (privileged) content, the site privileges the scholars and their scholarship on the text. The overarching mission is to find new ways to get familiar with scholarship of the Comedy of Errors. To find connections between their commentary. To enter the text not from the playtext, but via the scholarship and the scholars. It’s an inversion of the textuality of the printed scholarly edition.
Thus, this site is not and cannot be a replacement for the MLA’s edition. You cannot read through the playtext in any useful way, and you cannot read through the appendix or commentary either.
Think of it as an annotated bibliography meets match.com. Get to know the scholars in the MLA Variorum edition, where their profile is their own commentary on the text.