The Book as Artefact, Text and Border

The Book as Artefact, Text and Border

The Book as Artefact, Text and Border

The Book as Artefact, Text and Border

Synopsis

Books do not just contain texts: books themselves are cultural artefacts, which convey many meanings in their own right, meanings which interact with the texts they contain. Awareness of the many significances of books as cultural and textual objects reshapes the traditional disciplines of textual theory, analytic bibliography, codicology and palaeography, while the advent of electronic books, and digital methods for representing print books, is introducing a new dimension to our understanding. Seven essays in this volume, ranging over medieval Portuguese and Swedish manuscripts, eighteenth-century Icelandic editions, Australian playtexts, Thackeray and Anita Brookner, and Stefan George, consider these questions from the broad perspective of textual scholarship.Texts may exist on the borderland of word and not-word; or they may spring from borderlands of nation or culture; or they may be considered from the margins of neighbouring disciplines. So readers must set the texts within contexts, to see the play of text against border. Essays in this volume explore different texts against varying backgrounds -- Pound's Cantos, Joyce's Ulysses, Trollope's An Eye for an Eye, Woolf's The Waves -- while essays by McGann and Lernout argue the dimensionality of text on the intersection of print and digital media.Implicit in all these essays is the contention, that textual scholarship must influence literary interpretation. Two final essays focus directly on this, in the cases of Melville's Moby-Dick and Emily Dickinson's late fragments. An extensive reviews section completes this volume.

Excerpt

Paul Eggert

Scholarly editors have traditionally treated texts as ideal: that is, as existing independently of the materials on which they happen to have been recorded. This observation applies differentially to the German and Anglo-American traditions. As its methodology and theory was gradually developed after World War II, the German historical-critical approach came to put all its stress on historical versions, selecting one version to serve as the reading text, and recording the others in an ingenious form of non-lemmatised apparatus. Much effort was put into theorising versions. The historisch-kritisch Edition represented a marriage of the synchronic and the diachronic dimensions of text that a combination of philological method and Prague Structuralism had sensitised editors to look for and to record. The problem seemed to be solved. But the book, as carrier of text, fell out of the editorial purview.

In the Anglo-American tradition, things went in a different direction. Type-facsimile or photo-facsimile editions were supposed to take care of the work’s documentary status, which was secondary and of merely bibliographical interest; but editorial mediation of one kind or another would be required if the text of the work itself was to be made available to readers in a new act of publication. The work, in being a work, had an ontological status that justified this editorial extraction of text not just from its material embodiments but from its historical versions as well. The accompanying imperative—that a single text had to be prepared for a new readership—pushed, by the 1960s, towards a seemingly unstoppable conclusion: that the text so established should rest on the editor’s judgement of final authorial intention. Variant readings from rejected versions would be recorded in the apparatus criticus; but versions were not alternative versions, they were rejected versions. All the historical . . .

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