Session 5-5

Sōseki's Worlds: A Digital Representation

  • Dawn Lawson (New York University)

The goal of this project is to create a robust digital environment centered on the life and works of Natsume Sōseki that will further research and teaching about him throughout the world. In April 2014, in part to coincide with the one hundredth anniversary of the serialization of Kokoro, a symposium was held in the United States at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Entitled Sōseki's Diversity, this gathering of some 150 scholars from three continents featured nine panels over three days and keynote addresses by John Nathan and Tawada Yōko. Plans for a follow-up conference in 2015 are under way. Our project will support and reinforce the widespread interest in these gatherings and serve as a virtual home for Sōseki students and scholars everywhere.

At JADH 2014 we will be presenting about the first stage of the project, which will consist of the creation of a bibliography of Sōseki works in English translation and the implementation of a tool for the side-by-side reading of his works in the original and English translation. (We look forward to expanding to translations in other languages as we attract collaborators who can assist us with them.) Zotero was used for the initial data entry of the bibliography. The comparison tool under consideration is called the Versioning Machine (see, which is a framework and an interface used to display multiple versions of text encoded according to the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) Guidelines. Using the Versioning Machine poses numerous challenges. Even if the texts we use are already encoded in TEI—and not all of them will be—the Versioning Machine requires the use of the critical apparatus tag set (tei.textcrit), which is unlikely to have been applied to those texts. In addition, we are not aware of a use of the Versioning Machine with Japanese text to date, and although we don't anticipate any particular problems, something might arise. We hope to have proof of concept by the time of this conference. As for evaluation of the project when it is mature, the number of visitors to the site and number of downloads (if applicable) will be potential assessment tools, and we will also conduct a survey about the usefulness of the materials in teaching and research.

This project will be a collaboration involving both librarians and scholars, including (among many others) myself, J. Keith Vincent of Boston University, Alan Tansman of the University of California at Berkeley, and Molly Des Jardin of the University of Pennsylvania. In addition to the bibliography and text comparison components mentioned above, Sōseki's Worlds might include geographical visualizations of the travels of both the author and his characters; a timeline; and other creative uses of technology to enhance both pedagogical and research use of his writings.

Sōseki and his works deserve as diverse and complex a digital environment as our technologies and imaginations can construct. Careful planning at the early stages, widespread participation and collaboration, and close cooperation between librarians and teaching faculty will make that possible.

Natsume Soseki, Soseki's Diversity, DH