Challenging Colonial Discourse Through TEI Markup in Maria Callcott’s “Letters”

Challenging Colonial Discourse Through TEI Markup in Maria Callcott’s “Letters”

By Jacob Murel

In his book The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy (2012), Urs App tells the story of the sixteenth-century murderer Anjirō (also, Yajirō) who fled Japan and joined the Jesuit order in Malacca. After being baptized and instructed in the Christian faith under Francis Xavier, Anjirō returned to Japan as a translator between the Jesuit missionaries and Japan’s Buddhist community. Anjirō’s respective descriptions of Buddhism to the Malaccan Jesuits and of Christianity to the Japanese Buddhists represented the two faiths as variants of one religion, overemphasizing similarities and drawing false parallels where important distinctions existed. As App writes, this mis-translation “bore doubly strange fruit. On one hand, it seduced the Jesuits into urging the Japanese to have absolute faith in the Buddha-dharma of Dainichi, and on the other it caused the Japanese to regard the missionaries as fervent Buddhist reformers” (14). After Anjirō left the mission for a career in naval piracy, Xavier questioned Anjirō’s translation. Soon enough, Xavier recognized the unwanted effects of Anjirō’s Buddhization of Christianity and so initiated his own program of Christianizing Buddhism. For App, Xavier and the Jesuit missionaries’ response to Anjirō’s translation laid the foundation for a Euro-centric belief in one “Oriental philosophy” that encompassed all Eastern religions and epistemologies and endured well into the twentieth, and many might argue twenty-first, century. Both Anjirō and the Jesuit missionaries responded as most people not unreasonably do when faced with the unfamiliar: they attempted to cast it in familiar terms. Of course, as often happens, this led to each party’s misunderstanding of those unfamiliar entities. The anecdote illustrates the translational errors and colonial repercussions at risk when textual scholars fail to maintain awareness of the cultural epistemologies of their own hermeneutical tools and the material under analysis.

Nuria Rodríguez-Ortega has remarked on the need for cultural (self-)awareness in digital art history: “[W]e need to be aware not only of the cultural epistemologies or determinations of ‘what’ we are analyzing, but also of the mechanisms that are put into play ‘when’ we analyze” (10). Her admonition equally applies to digital textual scholarship. As numerous scholars of TEI markup have remarked, markup code reflects a specific reading of the document it is intended to represent (e.g. Drucker; McGann, Radiant). In other words, the application of XML markup for representing a document does not arise from some disembodied position in metaphysical space free of ideological influence but reflects the concerns and aims of the culturally-situated encoder/team responsible for its production. Moreover, as an analytical tool born in the modern West, TEI comes embedded with its own cultural epistemology—that of an XML-based hierarchical system of strict classification—that is imposed on the encoded document. Markup’s function as a form of close, critical reading necessitates that text encoders maintain awareness of their own epistemological concerns as well as the cultural epistemology embedded within TEI as an analytical tool. Due to the hierarchical nature of XML markup languages, representing documents in TEI requires developing an established classification system for categorizing document features according to a standardized set of XML elements. In many cases, there may be little dissonance between the markup’s epistemology and that of the concept under consideration. For example, the obsessively systematic nature of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy or Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologicae makes both, by and large, conducive to TEI’s strict system of classification. But what of less systematic philosophies or terms whose original cultural usage leaves them open to carrying multiple and simultaneous referents? When applying markup in such cases, encoders must be increasingly conscious of the multiple epistemologies at play. Failure to do so leads to the use of familiarized terminology that, at best, misrepresents the unfamiliar in an Anjirō-style over-familiarization or, at worst, perpetuates the Jesuit missionaries’ ideological colonization of the foreign. By maintaining critical awareness of the cultural epistemologies at work, the markup scholar can represent a given text in a way that challenges the text’s intellectual colonization of non-Western and pre-modern cultures. One of the WWP’s recent publications exemplifies this potential as well as some of the challenges at stake.

As may be inferred from its title, Lady Maria (Graham) Callcott’s Letters on India, with Etchings and a Map (1814; henceforth Letters) is a collection of letters on Indian culture and history that draws upon research from high-profile European orientalists of Callcott’s day. The preface asserts that Letters was published following the success of Callcott’s autobiographical Journal of a Residence in India (1812). Given Callcott authored multiple travel narratives of her journeys to Chile, India, and the Hawaiian Islands among others, it is clear she possessed a breadth of first-hand knowledge of non-European cultures. On top of this experiential familiarity, Letters demonstrates Callcott’s grasp of the leading nineteenth-century European scholarship on the Hindu tradition in India. Throughout Letters, Callcott frequently interacts with various translations of classical Indian dramas—e.g. William Jones’ translation of  Kālidāsa’s Shakuntala—and essays by well-known British orientalists, notably Henry Thomas Colebrooke, such as in her early overview of sacred Hindu literature. Drawing from well-known British orientalists, Callcott writes:

I will now proceed to mention the books of the Hindoos, on which Sir William Jones and Mr. Colebrooke will be our guides. There are eighteen orthodox Vedyas, or parts of know­ledge. The first four are the Vedas, of which I propose hereafter to give you a particular account. The four following are the Upavedas, or treatises on medicine, music, war, and me­chanical arts. The six Angas treat of pronunciation, religious ceremonies, grammar, pro­sody, astronomy, and the explanation of the difficult words and phrases in the Vedas. Lastly, the four Upangas contain—first, eighteen Pu­ranas, for the instruction and entertainment of man; second, books on apprehension, reason, and judgment; third, moral and religious duties and laws; and fourthly, the books of law and justice. (C4v)

To this passage, she attaches the following footnote: “The names of the eighteen Vedyas are as follow, the Rich, Yajush, Saman, and Athervan Vedas; the Ayush, Gánd­harva, Dhanush, and St’hapaya Upavedas; the Sirsha, Calpa, Vyacarana, Ch’handas, Jyotish, and Niructi Angas; and the Purana, Nyáya, Mimansa, and Dherma Sastra, Upangas” (C4v). That Callcott prefaces these passages by declaring she “will now proceed to mention the books of the Hindoos” suggests she intends to classify the Veda, Upaveda, Vedāṅga (“Anga”), and Upanga as texts. The problem here lies in the fact that, unlike the Vedas, the Upaveda and Vedāṅga are not necessarily textual categories, at least not exclusively. The six Vedāṅga are, in the words of the modern Indologist Patrick Olivelle, “expert traditions developed to deal with the ever more complex Vedic ritual and to preserve and understand the Vedic texts whose language was becoming ever more archaic and abstruse to people many centuries removed from their composition” (Dharamsutras xxiii). Although these traditions initially developed to elucidate the Vedas, they eventually grew into independent intellectual disciplines with their own body of literature and commentaries on that literature. Callcott’s inferred classification of the Vedāṅga as six books would appear to run counter to their actual status within India’s native Hindu tradition. This leaves the TEI encoder in a critical dilemma.

In misrepresenting India’s Vedāṅga tradition, Callcott perpetuates, even if unknowingly, a nineteenth-century British colonial discourse concerning Hinduism in India. Rather than approach Vedāṅga from the perspective of the native culture, Callcott tacitly claims to know the native tradition and culture more definitively than those within the culture. Thus, Callcott partakes in a colonial discourse that asserts faux-intellectual authority over “Oriental” cultures and epistemologies. As Edward Said has famously argued, by subjugating Eastern cultures to this sort of Euro-centric intellectualism, colonial discourse attempts to justify the imperial domination of Eastern cultures through an understanding of the exotic Orient in need of the rational, strong, and civilized West (39-49). A key feature of this colonial intellectualism is the classification of Eastern beliefs, people, and languages using Western European cultural categories. Thus the TEI encoder’s critical dilemma: in representing Callcott’s colonial portrayal of Vedāṅga, whose epistemology should the markup aim to represent, Callcott’s or that of the native Hindu tradition? Moreover, given the modern Western outlook embedded within TEI, can markup viably represent Vedāṅga according to its native context? To begin addressing these questions, we must first examine how both Callcott’s contemporary European scholars and India’s Hindu tradition understood Vedāṅga.

The term Vedanga retains an ambiguous status throughout the work of nineteenth-century European orientalists, who frequently collapse any distinction between the Vedāṅga as disciplines or Vedic traditions and the Vedāṅga as literature. For instance, in Max Müller’s 1860 edition of A History of Sanskrit Literature, he begins his discussion of the Vedāṅga by distinguishing the six disciplines from their respective literary traditions. He writes,

The Brahmans say that there are six members of the Veda, the six Vedângas. This name does not imply the existence of six distinct books or treatises intimately connected with their sacred writing, but merely the admission of six subjects, the study of which was necessary either for the reading, the understanding, or the proper sacrificial employment of the Veda. (109)

Though initially speaking of the Vedāṅga as “subjects” and explicitly denouncing any misconception of the Vedāṅga as “six distinct books,” Müller’s rhetoric gradually transforms them into textual genres as he later describes them as “six doctrines,” immediately thereafter listing them under “the title of Vedângas” (113). In only a few pages, Müller classifies the Vedāṅga as subjects, doctrines, and individual objects.  A similar ambiguity arises in the writings of the esteemed Orientalist Henry Colebrooke, whose work Callcott frequently references. Colebrooke rarely speaks of the Vedāṅga as Vedāṅga rather than the general intellectual enterprises of which they are a part. For example, although he discusses the work of Pāṇini and other Indian grammarians at length, he never uses the terms Vedanga or Vyakarana (2:1–34)—the latter (literally translated as “linguistic analysis” [Coward and Raja 4]) being the Vedāṅga concerned with the Vedas’ oral and grammatical tradition—and instead talks “grammar” more generally. In fact, throughout Colebrooke’s extensive bibliography, I have found only one use of the term “Vedanga.” In explaining the ceremonial duties surrounding a Hindu priest’s study/lecture of the Vedas, Colebrooke writes, “In this manner should a lecture of the Védas, or of the Védángas, of the sacred poems and mythological history, of law, and other branches of sacred literature, be conducted” (1:143). In listing the Vedāṅga among the Vedas and “other branches of sacred literature,” Colebrooke appears to classify the Vedāṅga as one form of sacred Hindu literature. But he also includes in this list “mythological history” and “law,” which are subjects of study rather than a formal text. Much like Müller, it is unclear whether Colebrooke understands the Vedāṅga as textual categories or Vedic disciplines, or if he even considers these mutually exclusive. That individual texts often share the name of their respective Vedāṅga only appears to further complicate matters for European scholars.

Frequently, the same word may refer to both a Vedāṅga as a religious-intellectual tradition and as a text. The potential confusion this causes for Western scholarship, which relies on definitions and strict categorizations, arises in Müller’s explication of the individual Vedāṅga, during which he at times conflates them with their respective texts. This conflation is perhaps most evident in Müller’s discussion of Nirukta—called “Niructi” by Callcott—an etymological discipline concerned with the interpretation of Sanskrit words (Coward and Raja 105–10). Nirukta is also the title of the most famous work in this tradition typically attributed to a sixth-century B.C. writer named Yaska. Müller begins his section on Nirukta by describing the relationship between Yaska’s treatise and the Vedāṅga of the same name. He writes, “The fourth Vedânga is Nirukta or Etymology. In the same way as, according to Indian authors, Grammar, as a Vedânga, was represented by Panini’s Grammar, we find Nirukta also represented by but one work, generally known by the name of Yâska’s Nirukta” (152–3). This passage coincides with Müller’s previous distinction between a Vedāṅga and the texts that comprise its tradition. Only two sentences later, however, he conflates the Vedāṅga Nirukta with its respective texts when he writes, “Yâska also would seem to be one of the last authors who embodied the etymological lexicography of Vedic terms in one separate work. Niruktakâras, or authors of Niruktas, are mentioned by Yâska; and some of them must have been as famous as Yâska himself” (153). Here, Müller speaks of Niruktas as a way of describing previous etymological treatises from which Yaska drew or was inspired in composing his own eponymous work. In this way, in discussing Nirukta’s textual heritage, Müller turns the discipline of Nirukta into a literary category—it is no longer a religious tradition, but one specific genre of text. But Müller, and Colebrooke for that matter, are not necessarily ungrounded in their ambiguous classification of the Vedāṅga as both traditions and texts.

The Vedāṅgas are religious strains of intellectual enterprises—e.g. Vyākaraṇa is the study of grammar—but the Indian intellectual tradition does not appear to distinguish between these enterprises and their respective texts. The same Sanskrit term is often used by the ancient authors in India’s Hindu tradition to speak of both texts and a Vedāṅga tradition, and texts of the six Vedāṅga often share, or incorporate, the name of their respective disciplines. Nirukta is but one example of this. Another is Patañjali’s grammatical treatise, the Mahābhāṣya, which has in the past and continues at times to be called the Vyākaraṇa-mahābhāṣya.1 In his essay “The Sacred Writings of the Hindus,” Colebrooke frequently refers to “the Jyótish” as a text (1:106-10). He most likely does not refer to the Vedāṅga Jyotish—that is, Vedic astrology—but rather the Vedāṅga-Jyotisha, a foundational text in Vedic astrology that has two forms or parts, one contained within the Yajushveda, the other within the Rigveda. Indeed, even the Sanskrit word śāstra is used by ancient Hindu authors to refer to sciences, rules, and textual bodies (Olivelle, “Explorations” 169-170). The word śāstra, much like the above titles, embodies the lack of distinction between tradition and text in India’s native Hindu tradition, particularly with regard to the Vedāṅga. Even modern Indologists speak of the Vedāṅga as both “expert traditions” (Olivelle, Dharamsūtras xxiii) of ritual and exegesis and “the so-called ancillary Vedic texts” (Olivelle, Scriptures 13; see also Wilke and Moebus 472). Moreover, the shared name between tradition and text manifests an implicit reality: that the practicant comes to know the tradition through the text. In the end, nineteenth-century European orientalists’ ambiguous use of the term Vedanga to signify religious-intellectual traditions and textual corpora reflects the ambiguity with which authors in the native tradition spoke of the Vedāṅga. This ambiguity presents a challenge for the WWP’s encoding process.

As mentioned above, a document’s representation through TEI reflects the concerns and interpretations of whichever individual or group is responsible for the TEI markup. On top of this reading, however, TEI brings its own epistemology and philosophy of representation as an analytical tool. The strict hierarchical and categorical structure of TEI’s XML vocabulary demands the individuation of a document’s syntactic and narrative features into discrete units of classification (i.e. XML elements). In some instances, this presents little difficulties, but at times, XML’s individuation poses a challenge. To demonstrate this, we can return to the quote from this essay’s beginning in which Callcott discusses the forms of sacred Hindu literature. A portion of the WWP’s TEI markup for this passage is as follows (N.b. for the sake of clarity, I have removed attributes from the TEI samples):

<p>[...] There are
         <lb/>eighteen orthodox <name>Vedyas</name>, or parts of know­
         <lb/>ledge. The first four are the <name>Vedas</name>, of which
         <lb/>I propose hereafter to give you a particular
         <lb/>account. [...]
</p>

The paragraph’s corresponding footnote contains the following markup:

<note>
       <p>The names of the eighteen <name>Vedyas</name> are as follow, the <title>Rich</title>,
    <lb/><title>Yajush</title>, <title>Saman</title>, and <title>Athervan</title> <name>Vedas</name> [...]
       </p>
</note>

Here, readers will note the representation of the text’s layout and structural features by way of the <p> and <lb/> elements, used for representing paragraphs and line breaks respectively. The WWP’s encoding policy also calls for the representation of semantic features, in this case, the designation of text groups and titles of specific texts using the <name> and <title> elements respectively. Readers will note that the term Vedas is encoded using <name> while the individual Vedas mentioned in the footnote are encoded using the <title> element. In choosing to encode Veda this way, the markup reflects a specific understanding of what Vedas—that is, that Vedas is not the title proper of specific work but a general name.2

Of course, this is an editorial decision made by the WWP, but this decision precludes alternate interpretations of Callcott’s use of Vedas in this version. For instance, another encoder may have opted to represent the Vedas using the TEI <title> element. This decision would be based on the understanding that Callcott uses Vedas to reference the four principal Hindu scriptures (i.e. the Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda) collectively under one title, that being, Vedas. This encoding would approach Vedas similar to how modern readers may understand references to the Harry Potter series. Even though no one individual book of J.K. Rowling’s children’s series is titled Harry Potter, those two words may still be understood as a collective title for all seven volumes. The WWP’s encoding policy, however, reserves the use of <title> only for references to the proper titles (whether full, partial, or misspelled) of individual texts. Thus, when Callcott lists the names of the individual Vedas in her footnote (e.g. “Rich” and “Yajush”), the WWP represents each of these using the <title> element with the understanding that they are the proper titles of four specific documents, regardless of whether they are the official Anglicizations of the original Sanskrit—by modern standards, “Rich” is both a misspelling and short-hand, the modern romanization being “Rigveda.”3 By contrast, the WWP’s markup represents Vedas using <name> with the understanding that Vedas is not the title proper of these works but rather a collective grouping of the four principal Hindu scriptures, rhetorically similar (for illustrative purposes) to the phrase the Gospels as a reference to the four Gospels of the Christian Bible. Due to XML’s strict individuation, the choice to represent Callcott’s use of Vedas using <name> precludes an interpretation that considers Vedas to be a title. To put the matter more simply: to declare Vedas a group name in XML implies that it is not the formal title of a given text.4 The <name> element’s broad classification also suits it to encoding Callcott’s mention of Vedāṅga.

In Letters, Callcott only speaks of the Vedāṅga as sacred Hindu literature, and this narrow definition, not wholly in alignment with how the Vedāṅga are understood in the native Indian tradition, poses a difficulty for how an encoder applies TEI markup to represent the above passages. Continuing her explanation of Hindu literature and the eighteen Vedyas, Callcott writes, “The four following [the Vedas] are the Upavedas, or treatises on medicine, music, war, and me­chanical arts. The six Angas treat of pronunciation, religious ceremonies, grammar, pro­sody, astronomy, and the explanation of the difficult words and phrases in the Vedas.” Following her list of the four Vedas in the corresponding footnote, Callcott lists the Upavedas and Angas: “the Ayush, Gánd­harva, Dhanush, and St’hapaya Upavedas; the Sirsha, Calpa, Vyacarana, Ch’handas, Jyotish, and Niructi Angas.” Callcott’s apparent classification of the Upaveda and Vedāṅga as sacred literature is not entirely accurate. As discussed above, the European scholars from whom she draws often do not make a categorical distinction between text and tradition when discussing the Vedāṅga, and this lack of distinction appears to be grounded in the native Indian tradition they seek to represent. Thus, for Callcott to include the Vedāṅga in her list of “books of the Hindoos” (C4v) is not wrong, yet neither is it right. The term Vedāṅga (or Anga for Callcott), as well as the specific names of the six Vedāṅga, can refer to groups of texts, specific texts, and the intellectual-religious disciplines of which they were a part. If the markup follows Callcott’s ostensible use of the names of the six Vedāṅga, the <title> element would clearly be warranted. But employing <title> to represent the Vedāṅga precludes their status as intellectual-religious disciplines more broadly, in effect suggesting they are only text titles. Thus, the TEI markup would not reflect the reality of the Vedāṅga for the Hindu tradition Callcott seeks to explain. Additionally, this would not always be accurate—while there is an ancient text titled Nirukta (“Niructi”), I have not found any titled Kalpa (“Calpa”). While this encoding is faithful to Callcott’s understanding of the text, it risks perpetuating Callcott’s misrepresentation and, with it, a colonial discourse that classifies the Hindu tradition and literature according to Western European cultural categories, and thereby assert intellectual authority over that tradition. Callcott’s apparent (mis)representation of the Vedāṅga forces the encoder to decide to whom the markup will remain faithful, the author whose work the markup aims to represent, or the cultural tradition that the author attempts to represent.

In the end, the WWP markup represents Callcott’s use of Anga and her list of the six individual Vedāṅga using the <name> element for logistical and critical purposes. The <name> element was chosen due to its more general designation as compared to <title>—while <title> indicates the proper titles of specific texts, <name> indicates any proper noun that refers to a person, place, object, concept, etc.5 Thus, <name> is used for Vedas with the understanding that it is a proper noun but not a formal title. Similarly, the WWP’s markup of Letters uses <name> when Callcott mentions religions like Hinduism or Christianity as these are proper names that cannot be classified more specifically using TEI’s provided name-like elements, e.g. <title>, <persName>, <placeName>, <orgName>, etc. Given the wide breadth of inclusion, <name> is more conducive to Vedāṅga’s ambiguous linguistic referent in India’s native Hindu tradition. Using <title> to represent Callcott’s list of the individual Vedas form the first markup example is appropriate given that Rigveda, for example, is not the name of a religious-intellectual discipline or sacred tradition—it is only the title of one of the four Vedas. By contrast, the six individual Vedāṅga may, at times, be text titles (e.g. Nirukta) or genres, but they are also the proper names of much larger sacred traditions within Hinduism. Thus, in contrast to the list of individual Vedas from the first markup example, the TEI element <name> is more appropriate than <title> for encoding the names of individual Vedāṅga given both the <name> element’s more general representative role and the Vedāṅga’s much larger signification beyond individual text titles. But this decision also has a critical motive. If markup inherently presents a specific reading of a document, this means it can function as a reparative reading that corrects the past intellectual-linguistic colonization of non-Western cultures. By choosing to represent Callcott’s discussion of the Vedāṅga tradition according to its native culture rather than Callcott’s implicit colonial lens, the markup takes up the critical endeavor of correcting an erroneous nineteenth-century colonial perception of India’s Hindu tradition. Although the encoding records and makes digitally accessible Callcott’s Letters, the markup simultaneously presents a reading of the document that challenges Callcott’s limited Western-intellectual understanding of the Vedāṅga tradition. In this way, the decision to employ <name> over <title> in Callcott’s discussion of the Vedāṅga demonstrates markup’s potential for producing critical readings of texts that challenge those texts’ colonial discourse.

Callcott’s Letters provides a small example of how markup scholars can avoid reproducing colonial discourse of non-Western cultures. By maintaining awareness of the multiple layers of epistemologies at play when applying markup to a document, we can prevent falling into an Anjirō-style trap of casting the unfamiliar in over-familiarized terms. This is not to say markup can always account for ambiguity. XML’s strict and systematic hierarchy can and does often force the encoder to decide upon one interpretation of a document. If, as Jerome McGann has argued, TEI requires dynamic engagement with individual texts (McGann, “Dialogue”), this involves critical engagement with the epistemologies at work both within the document as well as the scholar’s analytical tools, e.g. TEI. To echo words from the Kena Upanishad, we could say that the markup scholar must seek to know not only the object of their examination, but that by which they examine.

Bibliography 

App, Urs. The Cult of Emptiness: The Western Discovery of Buddhist Thought and the Invention of Oriental Philosophy. Kyoto: University Media, 2012.

Callcott, Lady Maria (Graham). Letters on India, with Etchings and a Map. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1814.

Colebrooke, Henry T. Miscellaneous Essays. 2 Vols. London: Allen and Co., 1837.

Coward, Harold G. and K. Kunjunni Raja. The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, Volume 5: The Philosophy of the Grammarians. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991.

Drucker, Johanna. SpecLab: Digital Aesthetics and Projects in Speculative Computing. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009.

McGann, Jerome. “Dialogue and Interpretation at the Interface of Man and Machine: Reflections on Textuality and a Proposal for an Experiment in Machine Reading.” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 26 (2002): 95-107.

—. Radiant Textuality: Literature After the World Wide Web. Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

Müller, Friedrich Max. A History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature So Far as it Illustrates the Primitive Religion of the Brahmans. 2nd Edition, Revised. London: Williams and Norgate, 1860.

Olivelle, Patrick. “Explorations in the Early History of the Dharmaśāstra.” In Between the Empires: Society in India 300 BCE to 400 BCE, ed. Patrick Olivelle, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006, pp. 169-90.

—. The Dharmasūtras: The Law Codes of Ancient India. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999.

—. The Saṃnyāsa Upaniṣads: Hindu Scriptures on Asceticism and Renunciation. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992.

Rodríguez-Ortega, Nuria. “Digital Art History: The Questions that Need to Be Asked.” Visual Resources: an international journal on images and their uses, vol. 35, nos. 1-2 (2019): 6-20.

Said, Edward. Orientalism. Pantheon Books, 1978.

Wilke, Annette and Oliver Moebus. Sound and Communication: An Aesthetic Cultural History of Sanskrit Hinduism. De Gruyter, 2011.

About the author

Jacob Murel is a research assistant with the WWP and a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University. His work has been published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities, The Seventeenth Century, and numerous other peer-reviewed journals.

  1. In fact, this is the formal title attributed to the work in the The Sanskrit Library (https://www.sanskritlibrary.org/catalogsText/mahABAzya.html), a TEI-based digital library of Sanskrit literature.
  2. It may be worth noting that the WWP’s policy has a broad inclusion criteria for what can be included within the <name> element. Acceptable candidates for the <name> element include specific non-human creatures, collectives, dates, and abstract or conceptual things. Deciding upon the encoding for a religious name—whether of an individual or work—is often more intricate and dependent on the religious tradition to which the name belongs. For example, while individual books of the Bible (e.g. the Book of Job) are encoded with the <title> element, the WWP encodes Bible, or New Testament and Old Testament, with the <rs> element and an @type value of “title.”
  3. A comparable (and potentially more familiar) example for Western readers would be an author’s reference to the final book of the Christian Bible as any of the following: the Book of Revelation, St. John’s Revelation, the Revelation of/to St. John, the Apocalypse of St. John, or even (I daresay) the Book of Revelations. These are all variants of the book’s title (even if the last is erroneous). Presuming it is clear an author employs these to refer to the final book of the Christian Bible, WWP policy would prescribe the use of the TEI <title> element.
  4. Although the WWP’s encoding policy generally seeks to avoid coterminous elements, there are times when one or more elements will be used over the same portion of text to signify more than one layer of meaning. A common example of this in the WWP textbase is the markup for document imprints typically found on title pages. A publisher’s name is often wrapped in a <docRole> element with an @type value of “publisher” in addition to a <persName> element. Here, the double markup allows us to indicate that the designated text is both the name of a person (as opposed to a company, perhaps) as well as the document’s publisher. Vedas, however, would not receive this coterminous encoding as it is only the proper noun for a specific set of sacred Hindu texts—i.e. there is not text whose proper title is Vedas (although the noun veda is found in the respective titles of the four individual Vedas).
  5. See the TEI Guidelines regarding the name element: https://www.tei-c.org/release/doc/tei-p5-doc/en/html/ref-name.html.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *