Lab #4: XML/TEI Encoding 1

This lab asks you to explore TEI as a tool for encoding texts. To complete the assignment, your will produce an XML document in which you have encoded a letter and a report in which you reflect on text encoding as a scholarly practice.


Please use the following directions to encode your letter in TEI:

  1. If you don’t already have a copy of the Oxygen XML editor on your computer


  1. Download the xml template file and open it in oxygen.


  1. The transcription of your text will go inside the <body> portion of the template. There are already some sample elements to get you started (<head>, <p>, a few others). You can also find a crib sheet of essential TEI elements here:
  • Pay attention to the elements for ‘diary entries, letters, etc.’
  • To insert a new element:
    • put your cursor where you want the new element to go
    • type a “<” character
    • choose the element you want from the menu and then type Return.
    • notice that a brief explanation of each element will appear in a pop-up box as you go through the list (this is one major benefit of using oxygen)
    • remember that elements have to be nested inside one another.


  1. You can find a (color) pdf scan of your letter at one of the links below:


  1. Transcribe your document; As you encode the document, think about the following:
  • how might you encode the physical characteristics and material aspects of your letter (think back to the romance novels lab)?
  • what are the main structural parts of the text? how is it divided up?
  • what are the various formatting conventions (indentation, spacing, font size, etc.) trying to communicate to the reader?
  • what textual features would you have difficulty finding through conventional search methods, if they were not explicitly marked?
  • how could elements of this letter relate to other letters in the corpus?


note: You can see contextual information and an encoded version of your letter at these links:




Lab Report:

For the purposes of the lab report, you will produce two documents. First, a link to the xml document that contains your encoded text (use dropbox, Google drive, or some other file sharing service as you cannot upload an xml document directly to WordPress; or you can email your xml file to me).

Second, a report explaining what you did in the above exercises and what you learned. I’m interested in your speculations about what using this method can reveal to us about texts and what was revealed to you (or not) about your letter. Some questions you may consider as you compose your report include:

  • What sort of decisions did you have to make as you encoded your text?
  • How might these decisions change depending on the type of text you encode (for example, how would this be different if you were encoding a poem, a novel, a technical manual, or a book of photographs?)
  • How is interpretation a part of textual encoding?
  • Why might a digital representation of a text/document encode material/physical aspects of the textual object?
  • What difficulties arose in digitally representing a physical object? How did you deal with these difficulties?
  • What are some possibilities for digital encoding like TEI? What kinds of projects can you imagine using text encoding?

You do not need a central argument (although it’s fine if you have one.) The goal of this assignment is to think about what kinds of knowledge TEI encoding can or cannot produce. In other words, you are encouraged to think about how this mode of textual analysis changes our attention to texts and the kinds of knowledge we derive from them. You may also wish to engage with essays we have read this semester if they are germane to your reflections (the McLuhan, Ong, and selections from Comparative Textual Media seem particularly pertinent).


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