October 25, 2007

MA Lecture: Textual Editing (Wed 31st Oct)

For the first part of this lecture I’m going to talk a bit about textual editing, what it is, why we need to think about, the kinds of controversies it causes – it is a very controversial issue and I have some recent examples of this to show you. Then I’m going to ask you to get into small groups and to have a go at editing yourself. I will then be asking for feedback. To finish I will talk a bit about the theoretical basis of editing – the disputes that go on and how they relate to some of the more practical things we’ve talked about.

*What is textual editing *

Keats images. http://englishhistory.net/keats/manuscripts.html
The process of taking the raw text and making it accessible for the reader. Not just about the trappings of a text (paratext) ie. introduction, annotation, bibliography etc. It’s about the actual words on a page – their content, the way they look. Which words you choose to reproduce and in what order. On the surface it sounds quite straightforward – you take your manuscript and type it out and you come up with a printable text. But in reality it’s not that easy. You may have more than one version of a text, you may not be able to read it that easily, what you have might not make sense. Then you have to start making decisions and before you know it you have something that’s nothing like that with which you started. Balancing act between the integrity of the text with which you’re working and the demands of the readership for whom you’re producing the text.

What editors have to deal with:

Isham – photos and case study. http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/projects/isham/

Why look at editing?

Most of you will never have to edit anything. But all of you work with edited texts and it’s useful to be aware of the factors shaping the texts you are using. As literary scholars we need to be aware of this process so that we can understand the nature of the text with which we’re working.

“textual criticism and bibliography are conceptually fundamental rather than preliminary in the to the study of literature”

Fredson Bowers, Textual Criticism and Literary Interpretation (Chicago, 1985)

“editors are not always people who can be trusted”

M.L.West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique (Stuttgart, 1973)

Behind every edited text a set of decisions have been made and these decisions will have been governed by the agenda (conscious or unconscious) of the editor. These decisions do not exist prior to or outside trends in literary criticism and they will influence the way you read a text and also the way you understand the author of that text In many cases the decisions made will be consciously geared towards a specific political, religious, or aesthetic agenda. We’re all familiar with censorship – this is editorial intervention at it’s most extreme and controversial. Russian example. But it goes on everywhere and it’s not always so obvious that it’s happening. Fine line between acceptable editing and the controversial. Highlighted recently by controversy in the media. Culture minister – James Purnell – inserted into photo.

The queen storming out or into a photoshoot with Annie Leibovitz.

Man dying in ITV film – Malcolm Pointon. Contemporary obsession about ‘the truth’ – but in editorial terms this isn’t simple or straightforward.

Controversy: Topical case-study. Raymond Carver.

By highlighting these decision processes, my aim is to generate a healthy scepticism/paranoia regarding the texts that you’re using. I would say that editors can never be trusted – their edition is an interpretation of the text against which we as literary scholars have to position ourselves in the same way that a book or an essay by a critic has to be assessed and evaluated. Every single text is a different issue – different authors, different editors, different time frames and contexts.


In a few minutes I’m going to ask you to organise yourselves into groups of four or five. I will then give each of you one of these (handout pack). The pack contains an editorial profile (eg. feminist, traditionalist, post-structuralist) and three poems that need editing. Bearing in mind the character and agenda of the editorial identity assigned to you, I want you to think about how you would edit the poems. This isn’t about how you would introduce or annotate the text. It’s about how you would manipulate more subtle aspects of it to convey or to reinforce your agenda.

I’m not so interested in what you personally would do or in what you think is common sense. Be as radical and as extreme as you like, I’d like to see you push the text as far as it will go to meet the agenda you’ve been set.

History of Editing – theory.

Two key things to bear in mind while I’m talking. Editing is primarily concerned with the minutae of texts. Decisions about which version of an author’s text to used based on a single variant. Punctuation – is that really comma or is it a grain in the manuscript. How will these things effect the text. But these decisions have generated massive and heated debates and these debates have been dominated by a few important figures each fiercely concerned with defending their own position.

Editing is also by its nature anecdotal. The focus on minutae. The fact that generalisations have to emerge from specific cases – each text is very different. Will have had its own circumstances of production. Editors have experience of working with one or two specific authors or editions. The main Anglo-American editorial theories of the twentieth century emerged out of the identified need to produce an authoritative edition of Shakespeare’s works. Similarly in Germany, principles out of the decision to create a full works of Goethe.

Two types of edition – critical and non-critical.
Critical editions are concerned with establishing the best copy-text. They will survey all of the available works and from this will then proceed to annotation etc. For many people the process of establishing the text IS editing and the rest is an added extra.

Non-critical editions are editions where an editor takes an existing text – either because there’s a reliable one already established or because it doesn’t suit their purpose to do all that work. They may want to turn a scholarly edition into a teaching text for example. Or it might be that there’s only one version of a text available – Sir Gawain and the Green Night for example. In this case the editor’s job is to produce the most faithful version he or she can – not as easy as it sounds. I’m going to be focussing primarily on critical editing although we’ll go back to the idea of a non-critical edition during the exercise later on.

During the last thirty years the central debate of critical editing has been dominated by two largely opposing sides dominated by a few central figures. Their ideas about editing fall into two broad camps. In his book Bibliography and the Sociology of Texts (v. important book, v. short, you should read it), D. F McKenzie compares two different approaches to a text:
One is the text as authorially sanctioned, contained, and historically definable. The other is the text as always incomplete, and therefore open, unstable, subject to a perpetual re-making by its readers, performers, or audience.

The first definition of the text fits in with the Greg-Bowers school of editing based on authorial intention. ‘New bibliography’. After WWII W.W. Greg set about establishing the definitive text of Shakespeare. Fredson Bowers followed after him and closely aligned himself with Greg. Greg dealt mainly with renaissance texts = Bowers developed his ideas to take into account later modern books – primarily American texts.

Intentionalist. Based on authorial intention – means selecting the text which best represents the author’s final intentions. final manuscript/first printed version/final printed version. ‘Rationale of Copy-Text’. Sig of copy-text. What if you don’t have any manuscripts – stemma – tracing back through existing editions to a supposed original text. Unravelling the history of textual transmission and identifying where corruptions have emerged. Shakespeare – the fist folio which presumably rely on more authoritative texts.

He is one of the main proponents of ‘eclectic’ editing – once you have selected a copy-text you can then substitute in parts from other texts if you think there have been misakes etc. Obviously highly subjective. The idea is that you can reach an absolute ideal of the text which stands as a monument to its author.

Massive influence of Greg-Bowers – Tanselle. Dominated twentieth-century editing.

For Philips, there are five significant sources of her writing which need to be taken into account:

NLW. MS 775B or the ‘Tutin MS’ – fair copy MS in KP’s hand. pre 1660. Over fifty five poems.

NLW. MS 776B or the ‘Rosania Manuscript’ – fair copy in the hand of a professional scribe. 96 poems. Compiled after her death by ‘Polexander’ for Mary Aubrey Montagu soon after 1664. Comprises her translation of Corneille’s Pompee, five verse translations, unfinished translation of Corneille’s Horace and 91 original poems. Bears little relation to the other copies of her work – which are all much more similar.

University of Texas is HRC 151 Philips MS 14, 937. In the hand of KP’s friend Sir Edward Dering. Presumably copied from her originals when she was in Dublin 1662-3.

There are also two important printed sources – Poems by the Incomparable Mrs K. P. 1664 when she was still alive by Richard Marriott. She was not happy about this at all and complained vigorously. But why? Generally attributed to feminine modesty but she had previously accepted the printing of commendatory verses in Royalist anthologies (Comedies, Tragicomedies, with other Poems by Mr. William Cartwright (1651) and Henry Lawes’, Second Book of Airs and Dialogues (1655)) and her translation of Corneille’s La Morte de Pompee was published in 1663. Possibly at the instigation of her friend Charles Cotterell. The edition contains the names of the people to whom the poems are addressed.

Poems by the most deservedly Admired Mistress Katherine Philips, The Matchless Orinda was published 3 years after her death in 1667 edited by Charles Cotterell – it resembles almost exactly the earlier edition.

Two main criticisms:
Authorial intention. Implies goal or organic development. Very specific concept of authorship and the creative process.

What about people like Virgil who asked for their work to be destroyed. The logical conclusion of following the author’s intention would be that we’d have to destroy all his texts.

What about Goethe who supervised the modernisation of his texts fifty years after they had written them. Does this mean we can go on modernising them indefinitely.

What about authors who have had pressure put on them to change? Editorial pressure. Dickens changing the end of great expectations to a happy one. Censorship. Politics.

What about outside intervention? Amanuenses? Typesetters adding punctuation? Common practice in the c17th. Scribes? Frequently used to correct spelling.
Doesn’t this undermine the whole notion of authorial intention?

Idea of versions. What about Wordsworth rewriting the Prelude 45 years a part – first completed 1805 a new version prepared in 1839 and then published 1850? Does this mean that the first version doesn’t matter any more? How do you establish the criteria for what is a different version. Logically one small change makes a text an entirely new version. Texts aren’t the sum of their parts – they’re the sum of the spaces between. A change in one word may have implications for the whole text. Particularly true of dense forms such as Sonnets.

Burton constantly rewriting his own text.

Two versions of king lear, three versions of hamlet.

Distinction between manuscript and print.

It’s perhaps better to think about each version of a text as a different text.

Hans Zeller. His model of textuality. Contamination vs purification.

*McGann – social textual criticism. (new revisionist)* Important text = Jerome J. McGann, A Critique of Modern Textual Criticism (Charlottesville, 1983). Each different manifestation of a text is a unique and important document in its own right. The text is not an object but an event; if the Mona Lisa is in the Louvre in Paris where is Hamlet? It is impossible to separate a text from its immediate social context and this needs to be reflected in the editing.

Taking these things into account, bibliographers such as Jerome J. McGann state that:
...texts are produced and reproduced under specific social and institutional conditions, and every text, including those that may appear to be purely private, is a social text.

Does not reject the sig of authorial intention altogether – one of many different factors. Has to be considered on a case by case basis.

What are the effects of this on the texts that we’re reading?

What are the ‘specific social and institutional conditions’ under which a text is produced and reproduced?
Purpose of the text.
Mode of presentation – manuscript/print.

If you reject the eclectic method of editing ie. one in which you select the best reading then the alternative is one that reproduces the ‘perpetual re-making’ of the text, acknowledging its many different forms and documenting all of its variants.

“While copy-text ideology has dominated Anglo-American scholarly editing for most of the twentieth century, there are signs that, under the influence of structuralism, post-structuralism, and other non-intentionalist versionist dispensations, it may gradually be ceding to one or other of the various fragmentalist, revisionist methods”. (Greetham, 1992).

Criticism – one criticism of the Greg school is they haven’t produced any critical vehicle for representing texts in a scholarly edition. If you place equal value on fifty different versions of the same text you’re going to have problems representing it.

The most straight forward example of this is if you have one text and you want to record all the changes made in it. You run the risk of ending up with something that looks like this. Defeating the most important objective of editing with is to make the text legible. Documentary editing.

Hans Walter Gabler edition of Ulysses – clear text in one page. ‘Synoptic apparatus’ on the facing page. ‘Editorial death-wish’ – you’re making the reader do the work. Suggests that no editorial decision making is necessary and something else, a computer maybe, will stop the editor having to think. Thesis – in notes and a series of drafts.

More usually you end up with a combination of the two processes: a best text is selected and then variants are listed elsewhere. This inevitably sets up a hierarchy of readings where one is privileged over the others.

Other possibilities = parallel editions. Different editions of different versions.

Editing: Decision making processes.

If you’ve gone through the process outlined above – chosen the rationale for your copytext. Then what?

What decisions get made in the process of editing?

Select the material for inclusion. What is canonical? What isn’t? What about apocrypha? Decide which order it is going to be presented. Chronological?


For Greg these are ‘accidental’ varients. Greg ‘Rationale of Copy-Text’ published in Bowers’ Studies in Bibliography
Greg talking about early modern texts. Substantive and accidental variations. Suggested using an authorial manuscript for accidentals – spelling etc. All later texts should be checked for emendation of substantives – suggests changes to the copy text.

Significance of spelling. It may be that you’re doing a modern spelling edition or it may be that you’re selecting one form of spelling over another. Example from Shakespeare – Q1. Edward IV – adopted symbol of the sun. ‘Sonne’ = variant spelling of sun or does it mean son. Clearly a pun but how to represent it in the text?

Punctuation – can have a particularly insidious influence on the reading of a text. Philips example.

Common practice for early modern texts to regularise u/v and j/i – Shakespeare example.


Annotation. Surprising under-theorised till quite recently. Spivak. Points to the agenda of annotation. Also true of indexes.

Introduction. Usually presents a more clear idea of the editor’s agenda.
Every text should have a note outlining its editorial principles.

Format – hard-back/soft-back etc.

The decisions made about all of these things will be affected by the factors governing why you decided to edit a particular author and text in the first place, ie. readership, publisher, ideological/political motivations. If you’re editing the Nation’s Favourite Love Poems for the BBC then you need very different textual apparatus than you would for an edition designed to be used by university students and published by OUP. Even a book’s font will reflect the content of a book – have you noticed the square, widely spaced font used by publishers of popular fiction such as HarperCollins? Its very different from the font used by Cambridge Uni Press.

The future: electronic texts.

Digital Texts – hyperediting.
Finally, we are entering a period when electronic texts are being developed and used. Hailed as the greatest innovation since Guttenburg and the printing press. We have EEBO, or Early English Books On Line which, when complete will contain a facsimile copy of every single English Book printed before 1700 (check this). ECCO – eighteenth-century collections online. Facsimiles.

Advantages: being able to see the original text. Facsimile. Example from Donne.

Every single printed version of a text.
Protects the originals.
Accessible anywhere to those who own the right to access it.

Disadvantages: Difficult to use
Loss of the physical text.
What if you don’t have access to expensive programs?

We also have databases such as LION (Chadwick-Healy database), or Literature Online which includes transcriptions of texts.

Fully searchable.
Easily accessible
Preserves the original text.

Disadvantages: total loss of format.
Poor transcriptions.
Weird choice of texts seventeenth century poetry reproduced from nineteenth century editions – Denham.

Projects involving the work of a single author: Rossetti Archive.
Digital Donne
Anne Locke
Walt Whitman Archive.
Archive rather than an edition – endlessly reworkable. No single focus – ability to include all versions of a single text.
Chaucer. Pictures. Also the potential for sound: ballads.

Show image of Isham manuscript. Project to produce an online parallel edition of this text – which exists in two versions. The challenge is to produce an edition of this manuscript which is legible and useful. Problem with putting facsimile editions of mss online – many archives/libraries don’t like doing it. Copyright. Leeds Brotherton are putting facsimile images of all their texts online.

The politics of online texts. Brown women writer’s project. When print was invented – attempt to reproduce the conventions of manuscript. Electronic editions give us the chance to get away from this.

- No comments Not publicly viewable

Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

Search this blog

OED Word of the Day Go to 'Word of the day'

Word of the day
The word of the day from Oxford English Dictionary

Most recent comments

  • I agree with you Essay Writing by James on this entry
  • Hi there. I got a Google Alert on your link to our project. Unfortunately, all the writers and artis… by Mike from Monster Doll on this entry
  • Whenever i see the post like your's i feel that there are still helpful people who share information… by Masters Dissertation on this entry
  • He IS an interesting character! Bonkers, but interesting… by on this entry
  • I'm not sure if you're inviting comments or not because you said *I'm not sure if anyone was listeni… by Sue on this entry

Blog archive


October 2007

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Sep |  Today  | Nov
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31            
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder