Vladimir Nabokov’s
Pale Fire and the
Problem of Interface
Digital Humanities Congress
8th September 2012
Simon Rowberry
Si...
Anatomy of Pale Fire
• Foreword by Charles Kinbote
• 999-line autobiographical poem by the
late John Shade
• Non- sequitur...
Pale Fire as Hypertext
• Pale Fire fits the condition of many
definitions of literary hypertext:
• link-and-node network m...
504 explicit connections
37% notes referring to the poem
63% notes referencing other notes
69% of all references coming fr...
The Island Model of Pale Fire
Generalized model of connections in Pale
Fire based on Broder et al’s model
Commentary
(and ...
Transmission history
Year Publisher Type
1962 G. P. Putnam’s 1st edn. Hardback
1967 Ted Nelson Demonstration for HES
1994 ...
Apocryphal Versions
―Hello, This is my first posting to the NABOKOV list. I work in the
computer software industry, with a particular personal...
The Problem of Interface
• Old issues – consider the discourse
surrounding digitizing Ulysses in the
early 1990s
• Quick a...
Interface instructions
―Although those notes, in conformity with custom,
come after the poem, the reader is advised to con...
The Arion Press edition
Focus on poem:
“A second volume, providing a second
copy of the poem Pale Fire for
reference, is i...
Gingko Press
“This attractive box contains two booklets — the poem “Pale Fire” in a
handsome pocket edition and the book o...
Shannon Chamberlain’s web
adaptation
• Why didn't you highlight the parts of the
poem that appear (however tangentially)
in the commentary, like in the Russian...
University of Washington
Tundra Squid
N.B. This version is incomplete
and contains no index
Also, not the official translation
by Nabokov’s wife Vera.
Tiddly Wiki
• ―This is an experimental hypertext version of an
extract from Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov,
designed to exp...
Tiddly Wiki
• This hypertext edition has tried to remain faithful to the original,
printed edition, wherever possible, usi...
In America, a Kindle edition appears to have been withdrawn.
Questions raised:
• Should Kinbote’s instructions be
followed?
• How useful is it to attempt to follow
Shade’s fictional c...
Year Publisher URL
1999 S. Kazinin http://www.kulichki.com/moshkow/NABOKOW/pa
lefirehtm.txt
c.200
7
Tiddly Wiki http://pal...
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface
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Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface

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Vladimir Nabokov's Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface

  1. 1. Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire and the Problem of Interface Digital Humanities Congress 8th September 2012 Simon Rowberry Simon.Rowberry@winchester.ac.uk
  2. 2. Anatomy of Pale Fire • Foreword by Charles Kinbote • 999-line autobiographical poem by the late John Shade • Non- sequitur commentary • Index with no reference to the actual poem • ―Ontological Vertigo‖ – Robert Alter • A critical edition or detective novel? • Requires careful rereading • A limit text (career, modernism, hypertext) • Marketed as a strange text
  3. 3. Pale Fire as Hypertext • Pale Fire fits the condition of many definitions of literary hypertext: • link-and-node network model (1st generation) • Extensive use of paratextual devices (2nd generation) • Both uni- and multi-cursal (ergodic) - Aarseth • Both modular and continuous • 3 ways of reading in preface • Pre-empts many questions in hypertext scholarship
  4. 4. 504 explicit connections 37% notes referring to the poem 63% notes referencing other notes 69% of all references coming from the index
  5. 5. The Island Model of Pale Fire Generalized model of connections in Pale Fire based on Broder et al’s model Commentary (and foreword) Index Poem Occasional unconnected section 2 connections
  6. 6. Transmission history Year Publisher Type 1962 G. P. Putnam’s 1st edn. Hardback 1967 Ted Nelson Demonstration for HES 1994 The Arion Press Artist’s Book 1994 Jimmy Guterman Storyspace 1997-1998 Koichi Nakamura Unknown – pedagogic 1999 S. Kazinin Web 2004 BBC Radio 3 Radio Drama c.2007 Tiddly Wiki Web c.2008 Shannon Chamberlain Web c.2008 Tundra Squid Web 2009 G. S. Lipon Web 2010 Pale Tour Google Earth 2011 Gingko Press Artist’s Book
  7. 7. Apocryphal Versions
  8. 8. ―Hello, This is my first posting to the NABOKOV list. I work in the computer software industry, with a particular personal interest in Hypertext, and storing information and knowledge in computer systems. I have just completed my second reading of PALE FIRE, and I'm very interested in exploring the Index of the book by transferring this text to my computer and generating hypertext links to each line reference in the poem. I have typed out the first Canto and will complete the remaining Cantos in the next couple of weeks. Obviously this project has to remain on my computer because of the copyright of the text, unless I can persuade the publisher to make it available. A "Pale Fire" CD-ROM would be a great product in my opinion!... My question to the list is deciding which lines of text belong to each index card. In the preface, Kinbote says there are 80 cards containing the poem, and the commentary indicates a few card numbers here and there. In the meantime I will make a best guess since it wont be too hard to regenerate my hypertext as it will be done with a set of Perl scripts. Kind regards, Charles Cave in Sydney, Australia‖ Apocryphal Versions
  9. 9. The Problem of Interface • Old issues – consider the discourse surrounding digitizing Ulysses in the early 1990s • Quick and dirty • Most creative remediations for a post- 1922 text? • Only available versions– mainly on the Web and unofficial
  10. 10. Interface instructions ―Although those notes, in conformity with custom, come after the poem, the reader is advised to consult them first and then study the poem with their help, rereading them of course as he goes through its text, and perhaps, after having done with the poem, consulting them a third time so as to complete the picture. I find it wise in such cases as this to eliminate the bother of back-and-forth leafings by either cutting out and clipping together the pages with the text of the thing, or, even more simply, purchasing two copies of the same work which can then be placed in adjacent positions on a comfortable table‖ PF, 28
  11. 11. The Arion Press edition Focus on poem: “A second volume, providing a second copy of the poem Pale Fire for reference, is in the format of the ostensible manuscript, 4 by 6 inches, 84 pages, with the same type and paper. Both volumes are bound in full purple cloth, with inset gold cloth disks for gold titling, and are enclosed in a gold cloth slipcase.”
  12. 12. Gingko Press “This attractive box contains two booklets — the poem “Pale Fire” in a handsome pocket edition and the book of essays by Boyd and Gwynn — as well as facsimiles of the index cards that John Shade (like his maker, Nabokov) used for composing his poem, printed exactly as Nabokov described them.”
  13. 13. Shannon Chamberlain’s web adaptation
  14. 14. • Why didn't you highlight the parts of the poem that appear (however tangentially) in the commentary, like in the Russian version? • I've made a conscious decision to play Nabokov's game and follow Kinbote's instructions to the letter… If you're going to read the book Kinbote's way, you should do what Kinbote says. This means using the hyperlinks from the commentary to the poem, not the other way around. Or maybe I'm just too lazy.
  15. 15. University of Washington
  16. 16. Tundra Squid
  17. 17. N.B. This version is incomplete and contains no index Also, not the official translation by Nabokov’s wife Vera.
  18. 18. Tiddly Wiki • ―This is an experimental hypertext version of an extract from Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov, designed to explore the hypertextuality in that novel, using this remarkable hypertext tool, TiddlyWiki. This edition is limited to the Foreword, the first Canto of the Poem, and, of the Commentary and Index, only entries directly relating to that same first Canto. It seems like fair use, to me, though the rights holders may demur. But someone may find it interesting or useful in the meantime.‖
  19. 19. Tiddly Wiki • This hypertext edition has tried to remain faithful to the original, printed edition, wherever possible, using the features of electronic hypertext to suggest enhancements to the analogue experience. Naturally, mouse-clicks replace the action of turning the page…. Owing to its great length, I wanted to break the Foreword into smaller chunks: until a better idea comes along, I have rendered these arbitrary pages to match the pagination of the original edition exactly. I know that many people object to navigating texts arbitrarily broken into web-page sized chunks — I generally do myself — but I feel that the Foreword is a special case within the context of Pale Fire. I will continue to consider the merits or otherwise of this approach. Better still, perhaps, if I could leave the reader the choice of pagination, but that's a bit beyond my capabilities at the moment.
  20. 20. In America, a Kindle edition appears to have been withdrawn.
  21. 21. Questions raised: • Should Kinbote’s instructions be followed? • How useful is it to attempt to follow Shade’s fictional composition? • Does the text require additional paratextual devices to mirror the original’s complexity?
  22. 22. Year Publisher URL 1999 S. Kazinin http://www.kulichki.com/moshkow/NABOKOW/pa lefirehtm.txt c.200 7 Tiddly Wiki http://palefire.tiddlyspot.com/ c.200 8 Shannon Chamberlain http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/palefiremai n.html c.200 8 Tundra Squid http://www.tundrasquid.com/palefireindex.htm 2009 G. S. Lipon http://innerlea.com/aulit/paleFire/ 2010 Pale Tour https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/johnso73/www/paleto ur/kinbote.html

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