Narrative Analysis

What is BESS?

Biographical Elements and Structure Schema (BESS) is an XML stand-aside schema that tags at the level of the paragraph. A team of editors creates separate XML files resembling abstracts of these short narratives (3-120 paragraphs). This allows us to compare versions of the same life across decades, and diverse lives in the same collection or the same social categories, and will build a kind of morphology of biography comparable to the structural narratology of Propp and others who studied the "functions" of the folktale. The elements of BESS:

Editors choose from a controlled vocabulary of types of these elements.

<event namedEventKey="E00032">
    <type>marriage, arranged</type>
    <agentType>male professional, named</agentType>
<event namedEventKey="E00033">
    <agentType>officer, military</agentType>
    <agentType>lover, male, named</agentType>
    <dateSingle standardDate="1837-07-23">July 23, 1837</dateSingle>

BESS markup of the Event element in paragraphs 6-7 of “The Spanish Dancer: Lola Montez,” in Edmund D’Auvergne, Adventuresses and Adventurous Ladies (London and New York, 1927). We note types rather than names of agent and location. Some countries characterize female types, so are named; Lola is classified as an Irish beauty. Events shown in red rarely occur in lives of Sister Dora’s or Herschel’s “siblings.” Many event elements have no namedEventKey attribute; events are named and assigned GIS/time data if they recur in versions of one person’s life.