Conference Contribution Details
Mandatory Fields
Tonra, Justin
Society for Textual Scholarship International Conference
“A Text Without a Country, or, What are the Boundaries of an Electronic Edition?”
Boston University, USA
Conference Paper
Optional Fields
The emergence of electronic editions of literary works has presented the scholarly editor with a whole new range of possibilities and problems. Freed from the restrictions and requirements imposed by publication in book format, the editor is in a position to take advantage of those features of the medium that enable the full representation of sources and documents that in a print edition might be processed by the editor and then relegated to a footnote or endnote. Though the editor need no longer make decisions like this, my paper will demonstrate that equally important and significant editorial obligations lie elsewhere and that the scholarly electronic edition is not a site for editorial neutrality.   This paper will explore what some of these obligations might be, while investigating some of the issues raised by electronic editions. I will be discussing some of the specific editorial problems and possibilities that I have encountered while working on the Thomas Moore Hypermedia Archive (a project aiming to collect the complete poetical, musical and prose works of the Irish poet), for which I have been working on an edition of Moore’s long poem of 1817, Lalla Rookh. This edition aims to provide digitised facsimiles and transcriptions of the three extant manuscript drafts of the poem, along with print editions, and critical secondary material. The hypermedia format will facilitate the inclusion of other material relevant to the social and cultural history of the work: in addition to the many illustrations that accompanied different editions of the poem, this section of the archive aims to include resources relating to some musical and theatrical works which took Lalla Rookh as their inspiration.   The first part of the paper will examine my role as editor of the Lalla Rookh electronic edition. It is my responsibility to source and collect the primary material relevant to the edition, to oversee its digitisation and to encode it with a mark-up language which will allow different tasks to be performed upon it within the archive. One of the benefits of this kind of edition and its associated XML mark-up is that it can present both a bibliographic and a lexical approach to an individual work, as it can show the textual development of the work alongside the different physical forms its editions took throughout its print history. However, the application of mark-up to the text also requires subjective editorial decisions of a similar kind to those taken by the editor of the book-bound text. Given the seemingly limitless potential for including documentary material and the apparent open-endedness of an electronic edition, this paper will address some questions about what form my role as editor might take in the edition and how this role differs from that of the editor of the scholarly print edition.   A related question that the second part of the paper will address with equal consideration is how to establish where the boundaries of the electronic edition might lie. In theory, the ideal circumstances for the creation of an edition of this kind seem to presume the availability to the editor of every primary and secondary resource related to Lalla Rookh, but how close to this ideal can it realistically come? If inclusiveness is one of the desirable goals of the electronic edition, what compromises must be made when certain documentary material is unavailable? How does the editor cope with an edition that is by definition dynamic and incomplete, and, finally, where and when does the editor ‘stop’ editing?
Publication Themes