Speculative Bibliography Article in Anglia

Thanks to the efforts of issue editor Daniel Stein, my article on “Speculative Bibliography” is now available open-access in the latest issue of Anglia. This article makes a version of the argument David Smith and I advance in the first chapter of the Viral Texts book, which is available through Manifold. The Anglia article is shorter, a bit more polemical, and much less technical—a distillation and translation of why the kinds of textual modeling we describe in the book might matter to bibliographers and book historians.

The article turns from a recognition that curated digitization will never happen for a large portion of historical materials, and then tries to advance a framework for proceeding among the messiness of mass-digitized texts. In many ways I’m trying to chart a middle course between the kinds of large-scale textual analytics we might associate with scholars like Ted Underwood and the “scholarly edition of a literary system” proposed by Katherine Bode. The central idea is outlined here:

This article proposes speculative bibliography as a complementary, experimental approach to the digitised archive, in which textual associations are constituted propositionally, iteratively, and (sometimes) temporarily, as the result of probabilistic computational models. A speculative bibliography enacts a scholarly theory of the text, reorganising the archive to model a particular idea of textual relation or interaction.

And from there I draw on a lot of brilliant folks to unpack both “bibliography” and “speculative” as they might pertain to textual scholarship. In any case, I am proud of this condensed piece and grateful to Daniel’s guidance, as he proposed this alternative format when I had a crisis of scholarship mid-way through the composition process. Please read this article and check out the other brilliant contributions to this issue of Anglia.