Juxta

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Team.  This is where I talk about Juxta.

Juxta seems to be an online tool for comparing texts.  You put in two different versions of the same text, and Juxta helps you to visualize all the different ways that the texts are dissimilar.  You can upload text files, and before you can compare the two files, you have to do something called turning them into witnesses.  I have no idea what this means.  Maybe there’s some kind of digital authentication that happens behind the sense whereby a Hal 9000 blesses each text to be used in public comparisons on the open web.  Maybe Juxta is simply checking with their legal team.  It’s anyone’s guess.

I’m not a literary scholar, but I suppose the point of this is to help those so inclined see how an author’s vision changed over time, or perhaps how an editor changed things around to make a book, poem, essay, etc. more marketable.

To try to test this tool out, I used the first bit of Leaves of Grass.  I used this text mainly because it was given in class, but also it makes sense, as the 1855 and 1897 versions are very, very different from one another (at least how they look from the downloads – on 2nd viewing, there’s something fishy about the ’55 version that I can’t quite put my finger on).  Also, I haven’t read Whitman since I smugly dismissed him as too wide-eyed in college, and it was kinda nice to see these lines again, taking in the trademarked exuberance.

I’ll talk about how Juxta is different from Voyant and the art-rock-band-name-like TAPoR.

It’s hard for me to talk about what results where received from this tool.  I’m happy I finally got it to work.  And, again, I’m not a Whitman scholar and have no intention of becoming one.  In short, I was able to compare two texts in a way that had more digitized blue highlighter-esque graphics than if I had printed out the texts and just sat them beside one another on the kitchen table.  For example, I can very clearly see, thanks this this blue stuff, that the 2nd two stanzas in the first part of the poem where entirely added way after 1855.  After reading the famous opening salvo again, I’m happy that those stanzas made it in.  Certainly makes for a better read.

Sam

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