Edwards – Question 3
3How do you reconcile originality or creativity with values and practices often central to archival representation such as “authentic” or “faithful” representations of source materials and respect des fonds?
A. S. G. Edwards
Professor of Medieval Manuscripts, School of English – University of Kent
¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 As before, this depends on intention: whether the aim is limited to faithful transcription of an original (or originals) or whether it seeks some more interventionist engagement with these materials. I am unclear what the aims of “authentic” or “faithful” representations of source materials can have to do with “originality” or “creativity”; indeed, the aims seem to run counter to each other. Archival representation, in a form other than digital, differs from other treatments of source materials in its attempts to represent the original through quasi-diplomatic forms of typographic convention (as noted in Question 1). Other forms of representation generally involve some type of editorial intervention. Such interventions can become “creative” insofar as they involve the representation of archival materials in the form of a critical edition, where such materials provide the bases for kinds of editorial engagement involving varying degrees of conjectural emendation. This is evident in some modern forms of “deep editing,” most notably perhaps in the Athlone Press edition of the B-Text of Piers Plowman by George Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson (1975), an edition that in its “creativeness” includes a large number of readings unsupported by any of the extant manuscripts, but which are justified by (among other factors) the editors’ sense of the kinds of alliterative lines that Langland intended to write. But such “originality” has little directly to do with the archive. Indeed, at times such conjecture may seek to transcend the archival materials themselves.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 What matters to such editors is not the archive of the sort embodied in the Piers Plowman Electronic archive,1 a systematic attempt to represent both manuscript images and transcripts of them, but the variant, the assemblage of a corpus of divergent readings from the archive. The archive itself may be a convenient means through which to assemble such a corpus as an electronic repository. What matters for the editor and the user of a critical edition is not a comprehensive assemblage of textual material, but the specific evidence of substantive variation between witnesses that can be culled from it to provide evidence for the recovery of original readings. In this process, the act of collation is the starting point for any act or acts of editorial “creativity.” The question for the editor is the extent to which any “archive” of transcripts or assemblage of manuscript images should constrain the exercise of editorial conjecture. How far beyond such material evidence can an editor go in the construction of a critical text?