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Critical Digital Edition: Memories and Adventures

Memories and Adventures is a 1924 autobiography by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the late-Victorian writer most famous for his creation of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was a physician, a Spiritualist, and a prominent public figure. His autobiography describes his adventures whaling in the deep Arctic, his experiences in medical practice, his religious epiphanies, and his efforts as a British apologist during the Boer war. Although Holmes is a figure of central interest to scholars concerned with fin de siècle culture, fan studies, and the literature of detection, Doyle’s autobiography has received relatively little critical scrutiny, and the majority of the scholarly attention it does receive is in introductions to collections of Holmes stories as a source of biographic material. To an extent, this is unsurprising—Doyle’s Spiritualism, for example, seems incongruous, given the empirical tendencies of his most famous creation. However, the book holds some special appeal from a history of science perspective, and an annotated edition, backed up with letters, images, and historical background, would provide an original biographical perspective on the complex figure who conceived the Great Detective.

Memories and Adventures

Memories and Adventures

Minimal Viable Product

 Memories and Adventures is an ideal length for a scholarly edition, and creating such a work would be a worthwhile contribution to Holmes studies. However, the creation of a digital scholarly edition could also be limited to the initial release of a small set of annotated Holmes stories rather than a full critical edition of Doyle’s autobiography, a move that could provide a proof of concept. Thus, my MVP could be a set of critically annotated Holmes stories presented on an existing cross-platform publishing platform, such as iBooks or an open-source alternative.

Larger Scope Project

A more substantial version of the project would be a Holmes digital archive or Doyle omnibus, which would be a much more substantial undertaking. Alternatively, I could focus more on the platform, rather than using preexisting tools to create a larger book-length commentary. This would actually be timely, since as of now there are actually few satisfactory or comprehensive alternatives for publishing critical editions online—most current platforms are focused on textbooks or lack features that make them attractive on tablets. (I’m looking at you, Scalar.)

Whether I go with the short stories or the full edition, an intertextual, archival, and multimedia approach built on a modern distribution platform would enable the digital edition to go beyond critical commentary to include some of the elements of an archive. A digital edition constructed around the capabilities of the modern tablet could incorporate high-resolution images and illustrations, “tours” of prominent locations, interviews with Doyle scholars, facsimiles of original editions, and other materials usually reserved for an archive.

 

 

 

 

Bio: Patrick Smyth

I’m a third year English PhD student studying the history of science in the 18th and 19th centuries. I also have an interest in new media, particularly new ways of approaching the ebook in general and the scholarly edition in particular. As a Digital Fellow with CUNY DHI, I work on digital initiatives around the GC. The Digital Fellows site is here. We have a blog, Tagging the Tower, and our workshop schedule should be going up soon.

Both my project ideas have to do with the aesthetics of science, including how science is portrayed in literature. The first idea is for an online archive or database of technologies as they appear in various works of science fiction. Visitors could view books by technology and see when new technologies were first introduced in literature. Ideally, they could also compare the advent of technologies in fiction with the real-world development of those technologies. I envision this database as primarily crowdsourced. Not sure how I’ll build it, though I’ve been experimenting with Django, a Python framework for building web apps. I also have some experience working with the Drupal content management system, although for various reasons I’d prefer not to build this project with it.

My second idea is a digital scholarly edition of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s memoir, which is titled Memories and Adventures. The book is interesting from a history of science perspective because of the contradiction between Doyle’s invention of Sherlock Holmes and his fascination with spiritualism, psychical phenomena, and the occult. I’d like it to be something of a linearly curated archive, where readers could branch off the central text to explore information about  Doyle, Holmes, the Boer war, and other subjects covered in the book.

I’ve researched a lot of platforms and systems for publishing on the iPad, and most have pretty big drawbacks. I’d have to either bite the bullet and pick one of those frameworks or try to come up with something on my own, which might be tough going.

It’s been great to read about everyone’s background and scholarly interests. Looking forward to class tomorrow evening!