Personal Personography

TEI coding is confusing, but strangely mesmerizing at the same time. When Dr. Boyd was discussing TEI “personography” I became intrigued. I began wondering about the extent to which characters can be truly represented. As literary scholars, we are all able to make appropriate observations on character traits with regards to their positions in the text. Protagonist, antagonist, major, minor, static, round, flat, stock… These are all relatively universal terms to provide textual meaning to the actions of a character. But are they really universal?

We know that interpretation is key when analyzing literary texts. However, when a single interpretation is what defines an entire text (such is the case with one person developing a TEI personography), is this singular interpretation problematic?

If I was to write a personography about myself, it would include terms such as: female, young woman, student, healthy. I actually did try to adhere to the physical appearance of the personography in this blog post by using the proper coding style, but apparently the formation of the blog didn’t want to maintain the physical formation I had arranged.

While I know that this personography is fairly basic, even within these basic distinctions there is room for potential discrepancy. For example, I see my current main role as a student. To others, whoever is interpreting my “person” could view me instead as a friend, daughter, or (hopefully not) some sort of degenerate. I view myself as a young woman, but that again is a fairly fluid distinction. I also view myself as healthy, but healthy connotes different meanings to different people. So I ask, is there really any true universal way of creating a personography?

As we have discovered throughout the course, some things in the digital universe that we wish to have a clear-cut answer or ending sometimes do not. Much like analyzing literature, each analysis varies on the person doing the analyzing. Two people can read texts in very different ways. Are there standards set within personography in which those creating must adhere?

When creating a personography, it seems that being objective is pertinent. Separating yourself from the characters is a key factor in order to give the most appropriate character analysis. Is it important to have other scholars edit/revise these personographies? Or are we to trust one scholar alone to give the most effective description possible?

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One Response to Personal Personography

  1. duttpuneet says:

    Emily, you raise very interesting questions here related to personography, For instance, can we “trust one scholar alone to give the most effective description possible?”

    Flipping casually through old digital copies of newspapers today, I realized how much our historical time depends on descriptions as well. There were many racist and derogatory phrases present in published newspapers, in order to describe a character. What stops us from making the same mistake?

    For example, our discussion in class in regards to a characters gender. For me at least, I personally think I will stick to more safer descriptions that seem hard to contest, i.e. child, or lady, but even that could be controversial when you think about it.

    Essentially, then we come full circle to your question, and I think maybe that’s what the answer is. If we leave it up to plural scholars and not just us alone, then revisions can be a good thing. Trust more. In that way, Wikipedia works the same way. History is always changing, and never at stasis, and can be revised, edited, and changed as new information becomes available.

    But then that leaves me with another question of my own. Where can we go then, to really know, the ‘truth’ of that particular time? If things keep getting revised, how will we know how people today thought, and what they wrote about, if we keep changing things?

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