Reflection on Annotated pages and Annotation

If I was to choose the most valuable thing that I learned from this digital humanities class, it might not fit the overall purpose of the course, but, without hesitation, it will be the fact that I got to know John Donne. One of the reasons I found Donne so admirable is the deliberate errors that he exploited in his poetry. Befitting his reputation as a representative of the metaphysical poets, Donne incorporated highly creative, intellectual, and ironic metaphors (conceits) and paradoxes. He confused the readers (sometimes even annoyed them) and, at the same time, stimulated their thoughts. I could not help but admire his genius ability to adequately present the multiple perspectives of viewing this world’s essence in a single metaphor and poem. He was indeed a monarch of wit, not even missing out on the humor. Therefore, I chose Donne as the poet for the Final Project, hoping that people would also experience the same emotion that I did. My first goal was to lower the barrier to enter John Donne’s poetry a little by resolving the difficulties in reading his poems.

First of all, I chose Donne’s The Good-Morrow as my main text because I interpreted that the fundamental part of this Digital Edition Project was the annotation part. The reason is not that complicated and elaborate. I just thought that it would be a little easier to understand and explain since it had quite a lot of similarities with The Sun Rising, another aubade we discussed in our previous class. Also, despite being a love poem, it contained some religious interpretations. I expected it to be a suitable poem to exemplify the complex identity of John Donne. Later, when I was performing the distant reading part, I regretted choosing the text for these simple reasons, but I will discuss it in other pages about distant reading.

The next thing to consider was setting up my audience. It was decided with tremendous consideration as it was a significant factor determining the annotations’ orientation. I have a personal view that the most striking difference between poetry and other forms of literature is its connotation and musicality. Poetry is literature located on the blurred boundary between song and conversation, and I think its quality is fully appreciated and comprehended when we read it aloud rather than scanned with eyes. So, I started preparing annotations from the thought, “How about making a guide that suggests how to read poetry to readers?” The difficulty of the materials I planned to present was adjusted to match the high school to college level. Since I had minimal knowledge about poetry, I thought it would be appropriate to write as if I’m introducing Donne to someone who has encountered him and his poem for the first time. Even though the information provided on the annotated page would not be very abstruse, I put a lot of effort into researching the data with the desire to provide high-quality information. I looked at an extensive range of information, from simple analysis on the internet to Donne’s biography, from critical editions of Donne’s poem to journals about the images and references Donne used in The Good-Morrow.

The Landing page, the first place to present my poet and project to the audience, was the third point of consideration. I didn’t want to plainly John Donne and his biography related to the poem but wanted to interest my audience to engage with the information actively. Then, what suddenly came to my mind was, “What about situating the reader with a specific condition related to the poem?” By giving the reader a purpose rather than simply providing information, I thought it would help the readers to better sense my intentions behind the annotation and actively utilize the information accordingly. So, at the beginning of the page, I explained the historical background of John Donne’s poetry (especially about the printing practice and circulation of manuscripts) and who were the actual recipients of his poetry. Then, I suggested that the readers imagine themselves being members of John Donne’s poetry group and are appointed to read The Good-Morrow at their next meeting. I expected this setting would guide the audiences to search for the auditory information that might be useful to create their own style of reading and the imagery and references that the readers of Donne’s time would be familiar with and notice.

My annotations are divided into two pages to better represent my hypertexts according to the focus of the information they contain. I have distinguished them into’ 1: Definitions & Interpretations’ and ‘2: Auditory Devices & Tones.’ The first annotated page includes hypertexts related to word definitions (or words with multiple possible interpretations), allusions, interpretations of the lines and words in modern language, historical references, imageries that Donne incorporated, etc. The primary purpose of this information was to educate the modern readers with widely accepted (or rare) knowledge, notions, and imageries of John Donne’s era. I tried to be very descriptive in the annotations and added multiple images that could aid the audience to better picture the concept and imagery of the poem. Rather than simply presenting the definition, I tried to explain Donne’s possible rationale behind that word choice or the implication that those words could have. I intentionally excluded much information about John Donne’s biography to differentiate the poem’s speaker from John Donne himself. 

The second annotated page mainly focused on rhythmical devices and the formality of the poem. The most distinctive difference with the previous annotated page is that the text is color-coded according to the rhyme scheme and other important rhetorical devices like anaphora, alliteration, and chiasmus. However, I excluded assonance and consonance from the color code list because of its high frequency and various forms of usage. If all those information were color-coded, the page would be too distracting to navigate and read. Also, alliterations so distant from each other that almost seemed irrelevant were excluded. Below the color code list, I included a link to another page that fragmented the text according to its metric stress pattern. Another distinction from the first annotated page is that I incorporated a more suggestive voice rather than a descriptive voice. Rather than giving a fixed and thorough answer about the formality and tones, I controlled the amount of information and allowed the audience to make their own decision. However, I tried to point out the purposeful rhythmical variation like slant rhyme or irregular stress pattern that Donne makes to break the formality. I believed that pointing out these exceptions would liberate the readers from a strict following of the formality and create their original reading style.

Besides the annotations, I included several other links that direct the audience to the web page outside the class blog pages like youtube videos, documentary films, biography, manuscripts, other poems, etc. Some of them are sources that I used to collect the information for the annotation. Throughout the entire pages and annotation, I tried to provide sufficient and thorough knowledge to transform the audience into a member of Donne’s poetry community and develop their own reading strategy. But I also tried not to overwhelm them by providing complicated concepts that require them to read other college-level research papers to understand it (I still used them as the source for a reliable understanding of the poem).

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