Sunday, March 18, 2007

Some earthshattering minor details...

Now digital but still posing problems...
(Image from Wikipedia)

Well, the details shattered my small world. Let me explain.

Recently, I researched the theme of kinslaying in Beowulf and wrote an article -- titled "Cain's Fratricide: Original Violence as 'Original Sin' in Beowulf" -- that has now been published in Medieval and Early Modern English Studies 15.1 (February 2007). The journal, along with several offprints, arrived yesterday, and I was dismayed.

I'll explain why in my typically roundabout manner.

Round about the 20th of February, I received the penultimate, edited draft of my Beowulf article from Dongin Publishing Company for my last chance to proofread it. I found a few minor errors, mostly my own, corrected these, and returned the draft immediately. I was pleased with Dongin's professionalism, especially for the way that this publisher handled block quotes. Here's an example from my article:

Though Beowulf presents a world full of violence, a world repeatedly threatened by evil, nowhere does this epic poem even hint at the traditional story of the Adam and Eve's first sin and subsequent fall. Instead, we twice find references to the story of Cain slaying his brother Abel, whence come the evil, monstrous offspring that strive with God (ll 107-114), of whom Grendel seems to be one. Indeed, Grendel's violent intrusion into Heorot recalls that primeval intrusion of violence that ended the Golden Age:

[Grendel] intrudes into the narrative of Beowulf just as lord Hrothgar's poet is singing of the creation the world -- a bright song which begins with the shaping of the earth (91-2) and ends at its populating (97-8), before the introduction of original sin. Hrothgar's warriors are by conjunction immediately brought into this Golden Age ("Swá ðá drihtguman dréamum lifdon," "So the men lived in joy," 99), until Grendel suddenly intervenes. (Cohen, para. 3)
Cohen refers to creation's gentle moment penultimate to "original sin" in the poet's song, and the Beowulf text itself extends that gentle moment to include the time of Hrothgar's men living in joy until an act of original violence interrupts. This original violence committed by Cain is treated in the poem as a primeval act that explains all subsequent violence.
The Cohen reference is to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen's online article "Monsters, Cannibalism, and the Fragile Body in Early England" -- and I now see that some information was deleted in the citation, which should have read: Cohen, "Monsters" [Section: 'The Letter Killeth,' paragraph 3]. I hadn't noticed that when I proofread the edited draft, so that's my fault, I guess (but why would the publisher remove essential information?).

Anyway, I was quite pleased with the overall result, particularly for how block quotes were handled. Previously, I had encountered difficulties publishing in Korea because the publishers had always indented the line after a block quote. Thus, I expected to discover that Dongin had indented the line that begins with the words "Cohen refers to" because it follows the block quote of Cohen's statements on Grendel's intrusion into Hrothgar's idyllic community. The line, however, was quite properly un-indented.

I was so pleased with this small blessing that I complimented the publisher in the email of February 21st that I sent along with the attached, proofread manuscript of my article:

Dear Staff at Dongin Publishing:

Thank you for performing a job well done -- your editing work is among the best that I have encountered in my time here in Korea.

I have accepted corrections that were noted in red font, and I have made a number of other corrections myself. I hope that the resulting text will be acceptable. The alterations are not major.

Please let me know if there is anything else that you need from me.

Best Regards,

Jeffery Hodges
Alas, I wrote those words too soon, for when I opened the journal yesterday, what did I find but ... that feared, improper indentation following the block quote, as though the words "Cohen refers to" were the opening line of a new paragraph. Moreover, this error was pervasive in my article. Also in other articles ... but not all of the articles. For some reason, all of the articles by non-Koreans suffered from this error, while the articles by Koreans were correct. Why this should have happened totally mystifies me, and I'd like an explanation please.

Perhaps I'll even receive a reply, for I notified a Korean friend of mine who is a professor in a prominent Korean university, is a very good Medievalist, and is unafraid to inquire about the error. Here's what I wrote:
I just today received two copies of the journal Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, along with the offprints of my article on 'original sin' in Beowulf -- the one that you read and helped me on. Oddly, there were some changes in formatting that slipped in after my checking of the penultimate draft. For some reason, after each block quote came an indented line, as if a new paragraph were beginning.

Apparently, the program used for setting the pages for printing must have automatically indented (though only on mine, Skupin's, and Nokes's -- and possibly Brother Anthony's). This is not good, for it makes our final proofreading partly superfluous. Also, I had praised the printer for avoiding this very problem in the penultimate draft. My praise was premature.

This is not good, for it makes the journal look unprofessional. Can't the printer be told to watch for this problem? It happens rather often here in Korea, so publishers should be aware of the problem.

Sorry to complain, but perhaps you could relay the information.
I hope that my complaint will make the Dongin Publishing Company more careful in the future, but I won't get my hopes up too much since this problem occurs again and again.



At 8:39 AM, Blogger Hathor said...

Shouldn't they redo the journal?

At 8:52 AM, Blogger usinkorea said...

Wild guess: maybe this is a product of the copy editors having to converse in a 2nd language? Even if a person's skill level is high, it is still a 2nd language, and the editor is already dealing with editing a text in a non-native language.

With a Korean author, he/she could pick up a phone or shoot off a quick email and figure out a minor issue, that might crop up a lot, quickly and without the kind of pressure that comes with dealing with someone in another language...

just a wild guess.....

At 12:19 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

For what it's worth, I've had non-academic American copyeditors make this same alteration to my writing. In some cases, I liked the effect and signed off on the formatting change--but unlike you, I had a chance to say "yea" or "nay" to each instance beforehand.

At 3:46 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Hathor, they could do that, in principle, but Koreans are generally not so concerned with the 'little' details and perhaps wouldn't take it so seriously.

That's a bit of a problem for Korea in the long run of globalization...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:50 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

USinK, your guess is reasonable. One or two of the articles by Koreans were also in English and didn't have this problem, so perhaps a phone call went out.

But if they had noticed a problem with the Koreans' articles, then they could have checked the rest against the drafts that we sent them.


Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:52 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeff, yes, the problem can occur anywhere if the software program interprets the space as specifying a new paragraph.

But why the Korean authors lacked this problem is still a question for me.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Jeff said...

This comment has been removed by the author.


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