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15-16 | 2021
Textual Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century

Edited by Wout Dillen, Elli Bleeker, Laura Esteban-Segura and Stefano Rosignoli

Editor's notes

[For more context regarding the composition and publication of this issue, please refer to the Editors' Preface.]

The editorial team of Variants: The Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship, is proud to finally present you with its double issue (15–16) titled “Textual Scholarship in the Twenty-First Century”. The issue opens with a promising look at what textual scholarship in the twenty-first century may yet hold in store for us, as early career researcher Lamyk Bekius explores the possibilities of critically analysing born digital writing processes in her essay titled “The Reconstruction of the Author’s Movement Through the Text”. There, she takes a closer look at the incredibly detailed output of a keystroke logger that tracks an author’s movements through the text in the smallest level of detail. As becomes clear in Bekius’ remarkable essay, the difficulty here lies not just in learning to read and understand Inputlog’s intricate output, but also for a large part in visualizing the information and making it understandable for others. The preliminary implications of these difficulties are investigated further in a Work in Progress contribution by Dirk Van Hulle, who suggests to visualize such analyses as “Dynamic Facsimiles”: filmic renditions of logged keystrokes as animated transcription videos. Van Hulle’s own full length essay in this issue stays in the realm of genetic criticism as he contemplates what happens when a literary author composes several works simultaneously. Drawing on similar phenomena that are treated in the disciplines of bibliography and the history of the book, Van Hulle coins the term “Creative Concurrence” to denote the cross-pollination that may occur when such writing processes start to inform one another.

From authorial writing processes we then move on to editorial interventions. In “Creators’ Intentions and the Realities of Performance”, Ronald Broude provides us with a series of examples of typical problems that are posed by the editing of opera texts by focusing on Gilbert and Sullivan’s Savoy Operas. Mapping the textual development of these operas offers readers “an unusual opportunity to study the dynamics of performing works over a substantial period”, writes Broude. Paulius V. Subačius goes on to examine the challenges of editing a collection of poems where the author (in this case: the Lithuanian poet Maironis) keeps rearranging, recomposing, and republishing his canonical collection of poems. And Dariusz Pachoki follows these inquiries into editorial difficulties by questioning whether the editor always knows best. In an exploration of the quarrels between twentieth century Polish émigré writers and the editors-in-chief of the only two literary journals that would publish them at the time, Kultura and Wiadomości.

The issue then moves on to two essays where the authors use stemmatological analyses to expose the textual history of the poetic texts they study, propose scholarly edited versions of the poems in question, and consider the new implications their findings may have for our understanding of the texts. First, Anthony Lappin offers a thorough treatment of John Donne’s poem “Wilt thou forgive...”. He shows that copyists slowly but surely “de-Donnified” it: over time, the poem in which Donne questioned faith was transformed into a religious hymn that fitted better with the author-image of Donne as a pious sermonizer. Secondly, Mark Bland investigates lingering questions of authorship attributions with regard to three seventeenth century answer poems. Using stemmatological methods, Bland is able to provide insight into the texts’ transmission history and, in doing so, also sheds new light on the networks of manuscript circulation at the time. And for the final essay in this issue, we return to the digital world we started from, when Anne Baillot and Anna Busch use their contribution titled “Editing for Man and Machine” to explore the affordances of digital scholarly editions. The accessibility of digital scholarly editions is a long-standing issue but, Baillot and Busch argue, anticipating multiple user scenarios can contribute to an edition’s durability. With examples from the edition project “Briefe und Texte aus dem intellektuellen Berlin 1800–1830”, they illustrate new ways to make the content (textual transcriptions, facsimiles, metadata) of a digital edition accessible for human and algorithmic audiences alike.

After this rich collection of essays, we open the Work in Progress section of the issue. Besides Van Hulle’s aforementioned discussion of digital facsimiles, this section includes two more pieces. In the first one, Hugo Maat proposes an experimental and arguably less time-consuming new way of translating historical source materials to improve their readability that he devised in the early stages of the development of a digital edition for the correspondence of William of Orange. In the second one, Michelle Doran reflects on the influence of Web 2.0 technologies on the field of digital scholarly editing. In particular, she discusses whether Twitter can function as an extra access point into the digital edition of “The Poems of Blathmac”, an Early Irish poetry text. 

After these Work in Progress pieces, we move on to the reviewing section of our journal. This section opens with a review essay by our review editor Stefano Rosignoli, who reviews three connected modules of the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, as well as their respective monographs in the project's Making of series. Finally, the issue closes with five more traditional literature reviews. The first three offer appreciations of scholarly editions: one by Christian Baier on an edition of a work by Thomas Mann, one by Manuela Bertone on an edition of a work by Carlo Emilio Gadda, and one by Jonas Rosenbrück on a new volume in the so-called “complete critical edition” of Walter Benjamin’s Werke und Nachlaß. The last two reviews tackle new theoretical works that have been published in the field: Barbara Cooke offers a review of a new collection of essays by Peter Shillingsburg, and Hans Walter Gabler comments on Paul Eggert’s recent reflection on the intersection of scholarly editing and book history.  

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