What is Editorial Completeness?
We’re delighted to have a new guest post from Robert Langenfeld, Editor of ELT 1880-1920, to accompany the journal’s latest issue, Volume 59, no. 4.
“Challenges in Editing Late Nineteenth- and Early Twentieth-Century Prose Fiction: What Is Editorial “Completeness”?” Josephine M. Guy, Rebekah Scott, Kathy Conklin, and Gareth Carrol, University of Nottingham.
Guy, Scott, Conklin, and Carrol join forces to analyze controversial questions about multi-volume variorum editions of late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century writers such as Wilde, Conrad, Woolf, James, and Wyndam Lewis. What prompted such ambitious, costly editions that take years to complete? Oxford University Press’s The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde was commissioned in the late 1980s. Twenty years later it is still ongoing. And how do editors and their publishers plan to compete with the many popular and scholarly editions readily available and affordable? Controversy has also emerged about the readership for these projects and how editorial principles have changed.
At center is the thorny question of the role of an editor’s value-judgments and the “completeness” of an edition. On what grounds can a variorum edition claim to be “definitive”? Is there a better means of determining the “meaningfulness” of textual variants than a reliance on editorial judgment alone? For example, can the use of so-called scientific techniques to study literariness (corpus linguistic tools, eye-tracking, electroencephalography) be practicable for decision-making in editing canonical texts?
Guy and company offer a timely consideration of variorum editions, the kinds of textual data such editorial scholarship provides and its relevance to literary critical judgments.
It is an important article—for editors and for readers with varying interests in the 1880–1920 period and fields related to the Transition era.
Editor, ELT, 1880-1920