Walt Whitman at the Aurora: A Model for Journalistic Attribution

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Last year, the editorial team overseeing the treatment of Whitman’s journalism for the Walt Whitman Archive decided to add an editorial note to the metadata at the top of each text file, explaining the Archive’s rationale for attributing a piece to Whitman. In the note, we lay out all of the factors—including the piece’s attribution history—that influenced our decision to present the piece as likely authored by Whitman. We also embedded, within the TEI encoding, an expression of our level of certainty in Whitman’s authorship. Finally, we noted in the metadata whether and how the piece was signed by Whitman in the original publication. These measures are an attempt to foreground for users the inherent uncertainty of authorship in nineteenth-century periodical materials. But they also offer the opportunity to begin thinking about how we might move beyond traditional methods of attribution.


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