Citation Challenges

Citing in the Humanities: Things to Consider

Style manuals

The following style guides are the most often used in the humanities.  When in doubt, check with your instructor.

Many scholarly books use headings and subheadings to distinguish different parts of a text, especially when a text is published as a volume in an anthology, as part of a series, or is part of a greater body of work. If it includes or is a translation, documentation can really be confusing. Classical, religious, and philosophical texts can be especially difficult.

For example, I want to use the quote, “But those that love passionately often destroy the objects of their passion,” from page 101 of Armstrong’s translation of the second tractate of Plotinus’ third Ennead entitled “Providence (I)” and I need to prepare the citation according to the MLA Handbook (6th ed.).

Plotinus. Ennead III. Trans. A. H. Armstrong. Loeb Classical Library 442. 1967. Rpt. with corrections.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1993.

I also have to make sure I am citing the version that matches the translation I am quoting. If I am using the same passage but from the translation by Mackenna and Page found online at the Internet Classics Archive, and even though I still need to use the MLA Handbook (6th ed.) for my works cited page, the citation ought to look different.

Plotinus. The Six Enneads. Trans. Stephen Mackenna and B. S. Page. The Internet Classics Archive.
Ed. Daniel C. Stevenson. 2000. 12 May 2005 <http://classics.mit.edu/Plotinus/enneads.html>.

As before you usually don’t need to make reference to the section titles given by the translator. Frequently one can also ignore a note like there is on the on-line version, “Written 250 A.C.E.” This is an approximate date of origin, but you are not referring to an original manuscript. Although the Mackenna translation was published and revised in a later edition by B. S. Page you do not necessarily have that information which is why it is left out above. You would use the paragraph numbering in preparing the reference, i.e., Ennead 3.2.17 par. 2, and this becomes particularly important with use of an electronic text.  In notes, as a rule of thumb, use the numbering system provided by the text, e.g., line numbers, etc., You will also want to make sure the title you give is for the page the URL takes you to. Find out, too, what the unique standard numbering is for the text if there is one, in this case Ennead three, tractate two, and that may require some investigation or a conversation with your professor or a librarian unless you are already familiar with the specific text.

Here is another interesting example this time it is of a printed version of a speech that was later published and here reprinted in facsimile with an added introduction, presumably written by the editor. The heading gives the name of the speaker, William Wilberforce, and then gives the title, Speech on the motion for the abolition of the slave trade, 12 May 1789 [containing] Twelve Propositions submitted … by Mr. Wilberforce, to the consideration of the committee, to whom the report of the Privy Council … [italics are used in the book], and then parenthetically gives the place and year the speech was delivered, (London, 1789). The facsimile publication according to the list of primary texts seems to be A Letter on the Abolition of the Slave Trade (London: J. Hatchard, 1807). The running title for this work on the pages in the anthology is “Wilberforce: Speech in the House of Commons,” and the facsimile is titled Debate on the Abolition of the Slave Trade followed by the date “Tuesday, May 12.”

This work with the editor’s introduction is on pages 135-151, “Part I: Anti-Slave Trade” of The Abolition Debate which is volume 2 of Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period edited by Peter J. Kitson. Although primarily a collection of historical documents, in this case the introduction to the speech is important because the work is in the third person and reads more like a report from a secretary rather than as an oration. Wilberforce was a Member of Parliament and this may very well be the text he submitted for the record, but the editor on page 135 indicates two very important points. “On 12 May 1789, Wilberforce moved twelve resolutions condemning the slave trade in an elaborate speech of three and a half hours,” and later in the introduction a clarification is given. “The extract included here is a summary of [the] speech and includes the Twelve Proposals.” The following example is also based on the MLA Handbook (6th ed.).

Wilberforce, William. “Speech on the motion for the abolition of the slave trade, 12 May 1789.”
Slavery, Abolition and Emancipation: Writings in the British Romantic Period. Ed. Peter J.
Kitson. Vol. 2. London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999. 135-151.

Formats that allow you to read a text but also includes more than just one thing are often misunderstood and therefore mis-cited. It is easier to just make reference to the work and ignore the context in which it was found. Unfortunately this is not only academically dishonest; it is encouraged by confusion over the larger work or the broader context in which it is found. One must always attribute the source accurately and can get a better handle on things like anthologies and web sites by taking a step back and thinking about what it is one is really using as a source of information. Church documents are a really great example of something that confuses a lot of undergraduate library users.

If I know that I am citing a church document promulgated by the Catholic Church I should just think of her as the author, right? Not always. Is it a papal pronouncement, a council document, or a statement from one of the various Vatican ministries, often called congregations? I have to know what it is that I am using and who produced it. I also need to look at the context of where it was published. A document that bears the name of a specific Pope discovered in a book or on-line will need to be treated differently than say just a letter, speech, or web page. You are dealing with an edition and a corporate author, and it may mean treating it more like a government publication. Here are some examples of documents of the Catholic Church in English translation using only the information given in the specific sources. Various possible contexts for finding the same documents are given.
 

Catholic Church. Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Declaration on Certain
Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics. 29 Dec. 1975. Vatican Council II. Ed. Austin Flannery.
Rev. ed. Northport, NY: Costello; Dublin: Dominican, 1998. Vol. 2 of The Vatican Collection:
More Post Conciliar Documents. 2486-2499. Trans. of  Persona Humana.

Catholic Church. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The Message of Fatima. [26 June
2000]. Vatican web site. The Holy See. 12 May 2005 <http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/
congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000626_message-fatima_en.html>.

Catholic Church. Vatican II. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. 7 Dec. 1965.
Vatican Council II. Ed. Austin Flannery. Rev. ed. Northport, NY: Costello; Dublin: Dominican,
1996. Vol. 1 of The Vatican Collection: The Conciliar and Postconciliar Documents. 903-1001.
Trans. of Gaudium et spes.

Gaudium et spes. 7 Dec. 1965. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Social
Justice. Ed. Vincent P. Mainelli. Official Catholic Teachings. Wilmington, NC: Consortium-
McGrath, 1978. 103-195.

Gaudium et spes. 7 Dec. 1965. Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. Second
Vatican Council constitution. Paul VI. Vatican web site. The Holy See. 12 May 2005
<http://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_cons_19651207_
gaudium-et-spes_en.html>.

Persona Humana. 29 Dec. 1975. Declaration on Certain Questions Concerning Sexual Ethics.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Vatican web site. The Holy See. 12 May 2005
<http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_
19751229_persona-humana_en.html>.

Pacem in Terris. 11 April 1963. On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and
Liberty. Encyclical. John XXIII. Social Justice. Ed. Vincent P. Mainelli. Official Catholic
Teachings. Wilmington, NC: Consortium-McGrath, 1978. 63-102.

Pacem in Terris. 11 April 1963. On Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and
Liberty. Encyclical. John XXIII. Vatican web site. The Holy See. 12 May 2005
<http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_xxiii/encyclicals/documents/hf_jxxiii_enc_11041963_pacem_en.html>.