Jokes aside, I had read “Bartleby, the Scrivener: A Story of Wall Street” a few years back and to this very day the sheer novelty and oddity of the piece persists. As always, the plain text required a couple read-throughs to properly digest. Once that was out of the way I found myself properly satisfied with understanding the broad plot of the story, though admittedly I believe that a lot of the small nuances were lost on me due to my general lack of context knowledge. That being said, I was excited to move on to the annotated versions of the piece to help fill in some of the gaps in my understanding of the piece. What I found, however, was an experience so radically different from the plain-text read through that I am not sure the two can even be equitable.

First of all, I don’t think that I would have been able to get through the story by reading the annotated versions first. Although there was an abundance of information, at times I felt like there was a bit of an information overload. It became a chore– not through distraction– but through the sheer workload of trying to balance reading the annotations with reading the actual story without the flow of the narrative breaking apart. Constantly I found myself losing what was going on in the story after reading through the analysis given.  Slate had a more seamless annotation style than Genius did, opting for a dotted underline versus highlighting the passage. Despite that, the effect was essentially the same with having to choose between fully enjoying the story for what it was and reading to understand the context and literary techniques employed.  As a disclaimer, however, that isn’t to say that I enjoyed the annotated versions less than the plain-text version. It was all thrown up to understanding that the two are created for a different purpose. The annotated versions were no longer just a story and shouldn’t be treated as such. If I had wanted to read to simply “understand” the plot, then the plain version is superior. Reading the annotated version presents a different challenge: understanding how people have perceived his work. I don’t believe that the annotations should be taken as fact-of-intention, but they can be taken as “proof of impact” on readers. That being said, the Slate version differs greatly from the Genius version in their approach to this. While the Genius seems to be more all over the place the curated Slate version offers a guided annotated experience and is delivered with more professionality than the Genius version.

As far as using images to heighten the story and commentary, I feel like some of the usages of visuals in the Genius text were a little ineffective at driving points forward. Ironically, they made me realize how ineffectual my own annotations with images were.  Images seem like an easier option than linking to relevant texts, however, in actuality the opposite is true. A suitable image is likely hard to find because that specific picture has to carry the weight of representing more than just an object. Finding an image that can accurately represent an idea or feeling is a challenge within itself, let alone coming up with the context and wording to frame it. Most of the visuals used in the analysis were straightforward and used to illustrate the points they were making at a very superficial level.

Yes, thanks for that picture of a turkey, I was a little unclear on how they looked like.

Overall, themes of social commentary reared up very frequently in both annotation sites. When I read through the plain-text version I had simply taken it as a story without thinking too much about what could be the driving motivation behind the post. Although I try, sometimes I feel as if I’m not the most “literary minded”. Yes, I am capable of picking out uses of metaphor, anaphora, and a bunch of other literary techniques, but when I read a story I seldom enjoy reading with that explicit intention. Rather than scour a piece for hints of what the author could mean I would rather focus on the broad sense of emotion packed behind it and the way it interacts with the imagination. Switching to these annotated versions– for me personally– is like shifting gears in my mind to focus on the former rather than the latter. I’m not complaining though because I realize both go hand in hand and are equally important.

To sum it up: plain text reading emphasized understanding the plot and framed the story as just that– a story. The annotated websites shifted my focus to understanding the way that it impacted other people. It also served as a more defined window into the time and mind space of the author. Also, I don’t mean to knock any of the annotations posted on the websites, a bunch of them were incredibly informative and I know I still need a lot of work on my own annotations!