The digital age heralded a shift in the way that literary texts would be edited. Its primary undertaking was to liberate the scholarly edition from the confines of the book and to free the textual scholar from the printed volume’s natural inclination towards the single focus of the definitive edition.
“HyperEditing,” Jerome McGann concluded in 1995, “is what scholars will be doing for a long time” (McGann 2001). But has the promise represented by pioneering literary archives of the 1990s (Blake, Rossetti, Whitman) stalled or failed to materialise? If the specific jargon has vanished, McGann’s more recent injunction that “the whole of our cultural heritage has to be recurated and reedited in digital forms” (McGann 2014) preserves an insistence on the need for editors to produce accurate and reliable digital records of our literary inheritance.
This paper has three specific lines of enquiry: it analyses the ways in which digital media can help scholars to improve the way in which they edit and present literary texts from the Romantic period. At the same time, it considers the relationship between developments in technology and perspectives in textual theory which have deemphasised the single focus and authority of the lone editor. Finally, it will examine how the affordances of digital media and methodologies can adjudicate the uneasy connection between textual criticism and the Romantic ideologies of composition.