What the Class Said

This section of the website presents electronic editions of two sections of To The Lighthousethe first four chapters (chapters 1-4 from part one, “The Window”) and the last seven (chapters 7-13 from part three, “The Lighthouse”). These editions each present a sort of “reader’s map” of Woolf’s text: far from offering a definitive reading of the novel, they simply show how different student readers interpreted the text. Whether you agree with these interpretations is for you to decide—and once you have decided, you can make your own reading using the tools in “Have Your Own Say.”


These editions present the interpretations of some 320 students enrolled in the University of Toronto undergraduate English course, “The Digital Text.”

The first round of annotation took place in the Fall 2012 session of the course, and focused on the opening of the novel, chapters 1-4 from “The Window.” Following two two-hour lectures—one on Woolf and the development of modernist FID and one on the TEI encoding language—each of the 160 students enrolled in the course was assigned a 100-150 word chunk of this section of the novel (these are the spans indicated in braces in the electronic edition.) Each student was asked, as part of a graded assignment, to mark up every instance of character speech in TEI, recording the following features:

  • Type of discourse, whether direct, indirect, or FID
  • The identity of the speaker, from a list compiled of all characters in the novel and included at the end of the template TEI file
  • Whether the speech is aloud or silent

Acknowledging the possibility of multiple correct interpretations for a given passage, we assigned each chunk of text to three or four students, giving them the freedom to mark up the passage however best corresponded to their own reading: they were not asked to annotate the passage in a way corresponding to an “objective” or “correct” interpretation, but simply to encode their subjective understanding of the pasage. This tagging was graded, and each student was asked to prepare a short essay justifying their interpretive choices.

The assignment was repeated in the Spring 2013 session of “The Digital Text” with another 160 students. Working on the last seven chapters of the novel in this second round, we modified our tagset slightly (for instance, eliminating the narrator as a taggable “character” and allowing embedded tagging, the nesting of character speech within other spans of character speech) and increased the length of passages to approximately 250 words.

Click here to see the TEI tagging guidelines distributed to students in the Spring 2013 session of the course.

Students created their TEI annotations in the XML editor oXygen. They were submitted via a course website, and then aggregated and converted to HTML by Julian Brooke. They were laid out for presentation on this website by Adam Hammond.

Reading the Readings

On each edition, you will see a number of visual features indicating particular students’ interpretations of their assigned passages. Every span of character speech tagged by a student has a background colour and a distinctive outline. The background colour corresponds to a particular character, as indicated on the “Characters” bar on the left of the screen. (You can hide or show any particular character’s speech by clicking on the box next to their name.) The outline corresponds to direct, indirect, or free indirect discourse. Bolding indicates words perceived as spoken aloud, whereas italics indicate silent thought. (These features can also be toggled by clicking on the corresponding boxes.) If the visual cues become too confusing — as they often do in this complex text — hovering your mouse over any span of text will produce a small popup that gives a full explanation of the interpretation.

For every passage of To the Lighthouse, our editions give multiple interpretations. The spans of text indicated by braces . correspond to a particular student's assigned interpretation. Clicking on the opening brace cycles through student interpretations of that span; the number of dots next to the opening brace indicates the number of available interpretations of that chunk of text, and the dark dot indicates which you are viewing.

For more on reading our editions, see the “Understanding our Visualizations” page.