New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1992-1996

New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1992-1996

New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1992-1996

New Ways of Looking at Old Texts: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1992-1996

Synopsis

Topics include editing Renaissance manuscripts, electronic editing and publication, editing early modern commonplace books, forms and formats of Renaissance historiography, editing early modern women writers, and forms and formats of early modern historiography. A special publication of the Renaissance English Text Society

Excerpt

Like its predecessor volume, New Ways of Looking at Old Texts [I]: Papers of the Renaissance English Text Society, 1985—1991, the present volume, New Waysii (alternate titles considered were: Newer Ways … and New Ways … the Sequel), prints papers given at the national mla conventions from 1992 through 1996. It is a slimmer volume, as it covers five, not six, years, and it includes no occasional lectures. Nonetheless, the claim made on behalf of the earlier volume (“read chronologically [the essays] supply a useful proxy for developments in the field …”) remains valid for this collection as well. Although thirteen of the fifteen contributors write as practicing editors and all address editorial issues—or, in one case (Gants), bibliographical issues—the topical range is extensive. Recurrent editorial topoi—choice of copy-text (Pigman, Solopova, Levenson), choice of editorial models (Hill, King, Urkowitz, Lavagnino), historical philology and “old spelling” (Richardson), annotation (Faulkner, King), the role of external fact (Faulkner, Werstine)—reappear, and newer ones—the impact of poststructuralism (Levenson, Urkowitz), canon formation (Taylor, Briggs, Paster), the structure of electronic texts (Lavagnino, Urkowitz), the use of computer-based analysis to construct a stemma (Solopova)—make their debuts.

A obvious limitation of such a collection, especially when nearly all its contributors are working editors, is the all but irresistible inclination to construct essays on a this-is-what-I-did-and-this-is-why-I-did-it model, as if editing were merely a matter of procedure and methodology, uninfluenced by ideology, detached from wider literary and/or scholarly issues, comfortably empiricist in its ontology and positivist in its epistemology. Pigman, Levenson, Solopova, and myself fall into that category, but two of us—Pigman and myself-—are responding to the topic set for the session, “Problems in the Selection of Copy-Text,” that invited such a rhetoric of response. (At least in my case, the topic is inverted: “what-I-didn’t-do-and-why-I-didn’t-do-it.”) Nonetheless . . .

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