Bibliographic Supplement to English 215's Assigned "Texts, Themselves"

         In class, we will discuss online reading, the authority of online documents, "wikiality," the status of "rare books" and all printed books as sources of scholarly evidence.  The pace of digital text production has so far outstripped printed, physical text production that it threatens to overwhelm its readers' capacities to read it other than as "efferent" readers, rather than "aesthetic" readers (Rosenblatt).  For a graphic representation of the first twenty years of the Internet and the relative quantities of text produced in all media, click here.

        In particular, we will reconsider the first and second editions of Hemingway's In Our Time to follow the fortunes of "On the Quai at Smyrna..  The Hemingway text we were working with (descending from the second edition, with modifications) is generally considered "authoritative" and is the one most critics would study and write about.  The fact that Hemingway published his way to this state of the text might be considered a mere curiosity by New Critics, indicative of the premature state of "the work" as first published.  Accepting the most recent edition published during an author's lifetime is an accepted critical standard for deciding "which state of the text is 'the work'."  Nevertheless, seeing earlier states of a work's development, including authors' hand-revised manuscripts, might offer relevant clues to the meaning and significance of the most recent edition.  Would Hirsch allow that as evidence?  Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, which served Tyson as a demonstration text for all of our theories, was originally published in hard cover with a now-famous dust jacket.  Based on a painting by the otherwise unknown Francis Cugat (brother of the band leader, Xavier Cugat!), copies of Gatsby with the "Celestial Eyes" dustjacket are one of the rarest finds in the American literature rare book trade.  A case has been made, by Charles Scribner III (a descendent of the publisher) that Fitzgerald saw the cover before final edits were completed on the novel and that the painting influenced the "eyes of Doctor Eckleberg" passage.  Which theories might allow that evidence to be used?

        The variant editions of Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter" (including another American author's possible influence on Hawthorne's publication of the story) create another problem related to determining "which state of the text is 'the work'."  Because "Rappaccini's Daughter" was published in two significantly different states, first as in a magazine as one among many stories by many authors, its initial "Reader Response" criticism might have included the strange preface that the began magazine version. Nevertheless, when Hawthorne republished the story in a sequence of his own stories, he dropped that preface and, like Hemingway when structuring In Our Time, Hawthorne juxtaposed the story with specific other stories that most readers would have read first before getting to the Italian scientist's daughter and her confused, persistent suitor.  This is a far more important case of "which state of the text is 'the work.'"

          The Emily Dickinson poem you know as "XVI"  The variant states of this poem's text result from editorial decisions made after Dickinson's death.  Only a few of her poems were put into print under her own editorial eye, and the rest remained in separate, tied-up manuscript bundles, called "fasicles" by bibliographic scholars.  Turning individual poems in the fasicles into print editions changes the experience of reading them, but it is also crucial to turning them into literary "commodities" of the sort New Criticism and Reader Response Criticism (and most of the rest) require to do their jobs.  If you are intrigued by the variants between the Dickinson Bianchi-Hampson (1924) edition of the poem we knew as "XVI" and the scholarly edition by Johnson (1955), you might want to see some photographic facsimiles of unedited manuscripts of this author's poetry.  New digital media platforms now challenge "normal print reading practices" with a completely different way to experience a text, such as the Touch Press iPad edition of Shakespeare's sonnets, though again it would be unlike any reading experience known to Shakespeare and his contemporary readers.  Does that matter and, if so, how/why?

         We also will discuss printed books as "collectibles," and print literature as an endangered textual species in the libraries of the future. Ask yourself this crucial question: do texts need books?   Click here for an instructive graphical representation of the volume of text produced in various formats (print, digital) since 1986.  If you were hoping Google Books would save "the book" for posterity, "The Art of Google Books" offers some sobering and aesthetically challenging examples of what can go wrong when one of the world's largest tech companies and some of the world's great university libraries unleash a horde of low-paid scanner operators upon their collections with instructions to do it all, fast, now.  Some liberties have been taken by the contributors to this Tumblr site, but enough are just the "chaff" produced by a massive, uncontrolled and probably uncontrollable attempt to mimic 550+ years of slow, more or less careful print production of texts.

        For an example of a successful instance of "Gresham's Law" operating on text quality, see "How the Moby Shakespeare Took Over the Internet"  and his related chapters on the 1866 Globe Edition, upon which the Moby Shakespeare was based (Eric M. Johnson, George Mason University M.A. Thesis).  Almost all online Shakespeare texts are based on this one, but has anything important happened in Shakespeare's textual scholarship since then?