Uncle Tom’s Cabin Project (Entry 2): Editorial Approach

This is the second draft entry in a projected multi-part posting. During next week these documents will be refined. This posting on “Editorial Approach” is accompanied by a previous posting on “Composition History” and a subsequent posting on an “Experiment.”

I am proposing–attempting to imagine–an editing and humanities computing experiment that would offer an alternative form of evidence for my belief that some installments of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s National Era version of Uncle Tom’s Cabin are later authorial revisions of the 1852 Jewett edition text.

    Editorial Approach

  1. While some editorial approaches (such as German genetic editing) generally hold that one respects authority of individual documentary record (book has one version of text, serial has another, no mixing), other approaches (Greg-Bowers-Tanselle) hold that authorial intention is a valid historical interest and that authorial revision would tend to place greater emphasis on larger concerns (wording) and less interest on punctuation and type styling. This is not true of all periods or all authors, but I think (based on my review of the UTC manuscripts) there is an element of truth in it for Stowe.
  2. Hershel Parker in Verbal Icon privileges the revision moments most nearly associated with active composition. If an author botches a text (maims it) because an editor complained, Parker thinks the study of authorial intention should reject those changes. I think he goes a little far, and a skeptic might consider this a divine afflatus theory of composition, but it has some merit. Those changes made months later may no longer reflect active engagement with the text. Revisions easily muck up ideas that may have been better presented in an unrevised text.
  3. What do scholars need? A few years ago, I thought that an edition of the newspaper version of Stowe’s text was needed most. So that’s what I did in my dissertation. Now I think a study of the variants is needed most. That’s why I am proposing a fluid text edition along the principles advanced by John Bryant. While the edition would also include scrupulous documentary versions of each text, it would also include an editorially prepared text.
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