2015-2016 Research Plans for Scholarly Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin

On Monday August 31 I begin my first ever research leave, and I thought it might be salutary to post my rationale and plan for the work that I am to undertake here on ye olde blog, both to show a few people, if not the world, that university faculty engage in research and to give myself a public kick in the rear so that I will stay on task.

Before sharing the details of my original proposals (which have been modified slightly during transition from LaTeX to blog post format), let me explain the university lingo that decorates the discussions below. At Kent State, our name for a sabbatical, a semester release from teaching to pursue whatever work a faculty member chooses, is Faculty Professional Improvement Leave, which is abbreviated FPIL. I became eligible to apply for FPIL in Fall 2014, after seven years. Or, maybe tomorrow Monday I could be begin funded research leave as Research and Creative Activities. I am doubly fortunate in following two terms to have applied for and received funding for a second semester leave. The explanation when seeking that funding must be more formal, as it goes before a faculty committee to be judged: a proposal has to be pretty strong to get it. FPIL eligibility, by contrast, is determined by departmental programmatic need and rarely denied.

Personally, I consider this my first sabbatical to have followed 7 years of teaching at Kent State, 4 years of PhD study, and 2 years as a post-doc, though no one counts that other work times as work. Regardless, it is humbling to have institutional endorsement that I am trusted to do work. Maybe trust isn’t the exact word. The university is confident that I’ve been co-opted, and my freedom is mostly an illusion. I am well aware of my privilege as a tenured faculty member, but there is a sense in which I cannot stop working. It’s now as much who I am as what I do. My main regret is that I don’t do much directly to bring justice into the world, but I rationalize that by spending my time illuminating the process by which a literary work with real social justice aims came into being I serve a somewhat higher purpose. On the other hand, the work has little or no potential profit. I’m doing work that needs to be done to study cultural heritage, and I’m trying to do it right.

Another semantic complication is that I was officially appointed to FPIL in the fall 2015 and Research and Creative Activities Leave in spring 2016. I asked my chair to reverse them so that I can serve on the departmental graduate committee that reviews applications (by policy, when on FPIL one is encouraged to abandon all departmental committee work). Our department faculty is stretched so thin that I wanted to arrange so I could read graduate school applications. Regardless of semantics and this somewhat minor impulse to self-martyrdom, these are my plans for the ensuing two semesters. I also apologize for the mélange of citation styles that follow, but no more hours are available for blog post prep.

Fall 2015 Research and Creative Activities Proposal

Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Critical Edition” will, for the first time, produce an authoritative edition that argues for the literary artistry of a work with few rivals for cultural significance in American history. A semester-long research appointment would enable me to submit an effective proposal for a print edition with Cambridge University Press [or comparable] and have the work of the entire edition well along so that I can finish the edition within an expeditious time frame of 12 months (including an FPIL semester and summer) after the proposal is approved. In the summer preceding the grant, I will research publication history, and during the grant period I will to prepare a selection from the edition according to standards for an authoritative scholarly edition. The edition, if accepted for publication, will affirm Kent State University’s Institute for Bibliography and Editing (IBE) as a center for the preparation of authoritative editions of major English-language writers and will be able to compete effectively for external grant support for a digital project that draws from the work.

The growth of scholarly interest in Uncle Tom’s Cabin as a culturally significant literary work during the past three decades could hardly be overstated. When E. Bruce Kirkham published his pioneering and still standard textual study of Stowe’s novel in 1979, he apologized for its lack of “literary” interest: “No one would claim that Uncle Tom’s Cabin ranks as a literary work equal to Moby Dick or The Scarlet Letter, although its social and historical impact has been far greater” (viii). Two years later Jane Tompkins with “Sentimental Power” issued a call that redefined the terms of literary greatness: “the popular domestic novel of the nineteenth century,” she argued, “represents a monumental effort to reorganize culture from the woman’s point of view; […] in certain cases, it offers a critique of American society far more devastating than any delivered by better-known critics such as Hawthorne and Melville” (123; 124). Tompkins chose Uncle Tom’s Cabin as “the most dazzling exemplar” of the genre. Tompkins’s work—and that of scholars like Elizabeth Ammons and Ann Douglas—has helped to reshape the canon of American literature, an effort that scholars in the present day continue. Henry Louis Gates, who honors Tompkins, Ammons, and Douglas for having “resurrected the book,” has sought with Hollis Robbins in a recent edition to offer annotation that enriches our reading of the novel and has argued that Stowe’s novel is essential for the understanding of African American literature as well (6). Most emblematic of the shift toward acknowledging the work’s importance for literature and cultural studies in the nineteenth century is that three scholarly works in the last decade, a publication history, a history of illustration, and a cultural history, focus solely on Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Parfait; Morgan; Reynolds).

Despite the work’s prominence in literary and cultural study, scholar Susan Belasco has noted the inadequacy of tools to support the study of Harriet Beecher Stowe. Unlike authors established in the canon decades earlier, Stowe has neither an adequate bibliography of her publications nor of scholarly criticism, has no published complete edition of letters, and has not one of her works available in an authoritative scholarly edition (Belasco “Responsibility”). While I leave the first two tasks to other scholars, my project addresses the lack of a scholarly edition of Stowe’s foremost work. In present-day scholarship, concern for Uncle Tom’s Cabin as literature is predominantly for the first American book edition, the two-volume format by Boston publisher John P. Jewett (1852). Modern editions such as those by Kenneth S. Lynn (Harvard, 1962) and by Ann Douglas (Penguin, 1981) and the digital text of the first edition on Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture are carelessly proofed, as I have shown in a book chapter (Raabe “Case Study”). Gates and Robbins’s Norton edition (2007), Jean Fagan Yellin’s Oxford World’s Classics (1998), and Harvard’s reissue of Lynn’s text (2009) are also below standards for scholarly study. Katherine Kish Sklar (Library of America, 1982) and Elizabeth Ammons (Norton, 1996) have produced accurate reprints of the first edition, but no reprint has addressed bibliographical studies that show authorial correction during the printing of the Jewett edition. David Reynolds’s facsimile of the illustrated edition (Jewett, 1853; Oxford, 2011) is valuable for its alternate text, but the editor fails to report errors in the printing or to note an alternate illustration that portrayed the Almighty’s vengeance on a sinning nation as an arch-angel with an upraised scourge (Raabe “Trouble”). Selective studies of alternate editions have been undertaken, but scholars routinely cite the first edition text as if Stowe’s work were fully represented by that version. In a continuing acknowledgment of its cultural significance, scholars have also offered major reconsiderations of the range of works written as revisionary responses to Stowe’s and have explored the novel’s extended life in stage adaptation in England and America (Jordan-Lake; Meer). While this scholarship has illuminated the importance of Stowe’s work by exploring the cultural responses to it, my purpose is to re-focus scholarly attention to literary study of its alternate publication forms, which reveal a more complex author than readers have suspected, one who I argue revised when preparing different publication forms for different readers.

My new print edition will include an authoritative text of the periodical installments in the National Era (1851–1852) with all substantive variants from the following forms represented in scholarly apparatus: manuscript texts, three editions by the initial publisher Jewett (two-volume, 1852; paperbound [N.B. That edition technically not paperbound, but I described it that way for nonspecialist proposal.], 1852/1853; illustrated, 1853), and Houghton Osgood’s New edition (1879), which was supervised by the author. The edition will also include thorough annotation drawn from Stowe’s Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853) and additional historical and cultural context. My work builds on Kirkham’s study of the work’s composition, and my broader investigation of the work’s printing history has already exposed previously unknown authorial revision. Jewett’s paperbound “Edition for the Million” includes a paragraph in which Topsy, a neglected slave child, supposes that she can achieve salvation with service to her heaven-bound mistress Ophelia. The presence of the passage was highlighted in an article published in the journal Documentary Editing, and its importance was demonstrated in a peer-reviewed digital project published by the online journal Scholarly Editing (Raabe “Fluid Text” 101–12; Raabe and Harrison).

The purpose of my application for semester funding is to work through and explain the textual variants and to assess the likelihood of Stowe’s authorial revision, which determines the placement of individual variants in the edition’s apparatus. Those variants that are deemed more likely to have originated in authorial preference will be placed alongside the reading text with an accompanying revision narrative, along the principles advocated by John Bryant in The Fluid Text (2002). For example, given the indisputable authorial revision in the “Edition for the Million,” every one of that text’s variants from the earlier two-volume edition must be taken seriously as a possible authorial correction or revision. I apologize to nonspecialists for delving into some detail, but editorial labor requires one to complete systematic analysis of individual variants to identify authorial revision, though any claim that a significant textual variant should be attributed to authorial preference is ultimately a matter of judgment. In most cases, the National Era will be treated as the copy-text (the text which according to the editorial tradition associated with Sir Walter W. Greg and Fredson Bowers is assumed authoritative in cases where an editor has no strong basis to assume that a later revision originates with the author) because the house styling of the newspaper publisher was light. However, in my analysis of the textual relationship between the National Era serial and the two-volume Jewett edition, I take the view that Stowe altered her text in response to different audiences and that the serial should not be considered uniformly as earlier than the book. Approximately two-thirds of serial installments served as setting copy for the book, but the 12 February–11 March 1852 serial installments were revised in manuscript while the book was in press, and the final three installments (18 March–1 April) are reprints of the book. In other words, even if one accepts that the National Era should serve as the preponderant authority for authorial preference (in minor matters, so-called accidentals) for approximately two-thirds of the serial text installments, the Jewett edition has preponderant authority (accidentals) for the final three chapters, and neither the newspaper nor the Jewett edition has preponderant authority for the chapters that were issued from the 12 February through the 11 March installments. Though I am not the first to reject Kirkham’s conclusion that the two-volume edition uniformly represents the author’s preference, the only previous statement of this view appeared in an unpublished dissertation (Madison). Now that my own scholarship has shown that the reprint “Edition for the Million” was revised by Stowe also, a complete analysis of all variants is essential to establish an authoritative text.

This return to Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (work which began with my dissertation) follows the completion of a project that consumed the previous three years, “walter dear”: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to Her Son Walt. That project has now been published on the Whitman Archive and has been accepted into NINES after peer review (see vita). NINES (http://www.nines.org) is a federated repository that integrates digital scholarship devoted to the nineteenth century. From the 2010–2011 through the 2013–2014 academic year, I applied annually for funding by the NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant to support a digital edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. These applications have been rejected for the following reasons: panelists urged collaboration with Stephen Railton’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture, panelists do not believe Stowe’s work is worthy a scholarly edition, and errors in applications. The funded applications tend overwhelmingly to favor digital editions that are associated with long-standing projects and solid institutional support in the form of digital humanities centers. After the last review, I concluded that I can only refute the first two objections by having a print edition published by a major press and that the building of institutional infrastructure for a digital Stowe project must either be established in-house at Kent State or attract external funding after it is backed by the cultural heft of a print edition. In the current state of grant funding for digital editorial projects, panelists expect the hosting university to have already in place an infrastructure of digital support personnel in centers or institutes. My need for research funding to support a dedicated period of work is also related to making a transition from now superseded technologies. I must revise encoding that was originally prepared for a now orphaned digital collation application (a 16-bit tool, which I began using in 2004) and switch to the newly released open-source CollateX after thorough testing (http://collatex.net/). To prepare a print edition, I must concentrate on refreshing skills in a scripting language (Python), regular expressions, and the typesetting language LaTeX. My core textual work in establishing authoritative transcriptions of previously published historical editions is complete (and encoded to rigorous standards), but the sustained attention that is possible with funding support would ensure that the preparation of a proposal will have sufficient rigor to merit acceptance by a prestigious press. Furthermore, the refinement of processes for analyzing the text and building the apparatus, which will go far beyond the portion included in the proposal during the grant period, will ensure both that the edition will be completed after it is accepted for publication and that it will pass vetting by the Modern Language Association Committee on Scholarly Editions.

The remainder of this document sketches a plan for research during fall 2015, the term of the research appointment. This work benefits from the assistance of the IBE where I am an appointed fellow, and have been nominated as the director.

Fall 2015 Work

One purpose of fall research work is to prepare a historical and textual introduction, reading text, and apparatus for three chapters, which will serve as sample chapters in the book proposal. The remaining time will be devoted to advancing similar work through approximately half of the novel, which will allow the proposal to include a brisk schedule toward submission of the full volume.

  1. I will prepare a book proposal for Cambridge University Press (or comparable publisher) with sample chapters suitable for review by the six members of my editorial board by the end of November 2015.
  2. The book proposal will rely on CollateX and LaTeX to prepare the historical introduction and textual introduction, three sample chapters with an editorially established text, footnotes for textual revision narratives and historical annotation, significant accidental variants (that affect meaning) in print appendix, manuscript text in print appendix, and a supplementary apparatus of minor variants that will be made available in an archival repository only.
  3. I will complete a textual introduction that draws from the analysis of variants, the introduction to the project at Scholarly Editing, my dissertation, previous editions of the text that I have published (see vita), my collection of Stowe’s letters gathered during a research trip to Hartford (with support of summer 2012 research grant) and from microfilm of the Huntington Library Stowe collection, and published work by E. Bruce Kirkham, Michael Winship, and Claire Parfait (Winship).
  4. I will prepare installment introductions that highlight the periodical publication context in approximately 500 words, one for each installment. These will be drawn from my dissertation and from similar efforts by other scholars on the periodical publication context (Smith “Serialization”; Hochman). My goal in fall 2015 is to draft all 45 of these chapter introductions.
  5. My aim during Fall 2015 is to bring the revision narratives for 20 chapters to publication form and to move the textual work well beyond the three sample chapters that will be submitted with the proposal to a university press. I have already prepared and published revision narratives for 38 of 41 serial installments, which represented approximately a quarter of the total number of revision narratives that will need to be drafted. These were published for a blog project headed by the Stowe Center (see vita). That version reported only first edition variants from the newspaper installments. Full revision narratives of all five publication forms (modeled on Bryant’s Fluid Text) were published for a single chapter in Scholarly Editing.

Spring 2015 FPIL Proposal

During the 2015–2016 academic year, I intend to devote a semester of Faculty Professional Improvement Leave to work on my scholarly edition of Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the project that began with my dissertation and that occupied both the personal research portion of my post-doc at Nebraska (2006–2008) and the first four years of my work at Kent State (2008–2012). Though set to a back burner during the 2011–2012 and 2012–2013 academic years so that I could complete “walter dear”: The Letters from Louisa Van Velsor Whitman to her Son Walt (now a peer-reviewed digital publication both on the Walt Whitman Archive and accepted into NINES [http://nines.org]) I wish to use the 2015–2016 academic year to bring the project to a state at which it can be submitted as a book proposal during the 2015–2016 academic year (December or January), with the book published within 12 to 18 months of acceptance.

I have submitted a proposal for an academic-semester Research Activity Grant for the 2015–2016 academic year. If that application is not successful, I would use the period of FPIL to do instead the work that I proposed in the Research Activity Grant. As the two applications are different processes, I here summarize what that work entails: 1) Prepare a new textual and historical introduction to Uncle Tom’s Cabin that draws approximately 30 percent from previous editorial work (listed on my vita), other work in progress, and from research on publication history at Harvard University (am applying also for summer research grant for research in the Houghton Mifflin Collection—one fellowship is named after Stowe’s publisher); 2) Because the copy-text (one that serves as basis for my own for accidentals) will be the National Era newspaper installments, write installment introductions that describe newspaper publication context; 3) Prepare revision narratives for significant alternate readings in half of the novel (along principles advanced by John Bryant in The Fluid Text [2002]); and 4) Prepare full sample apparatus (annotation, emendation, substantive historical variants, line-end hyphens, etc.) for three chapters with collation tool CollateX.

This work would lead to a textual introduction and three edited sample chapters with sample apparatus that would be contributed as part of book proposal, which would be reviewed by my edition’s editorial board—a board is already in place—and submitted (probably) to Cambridge University Press.

If my academic-semester Research Activity Grant is funded, I will continue with exactly the same work during the FPIL period, though with confidence that I can promise a speedy completion of the edition (12 mos.) after a publication contract is signed. If the application for the Research Activity Grant is not funded, I will reapply during the 2015–2016 academic year and apply simultaneously to the NEH for a Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant as an alternate method to fund any remaining work necessary for the completion of the project.

On the matter of personal improvement, acquiring new skills and expertise that can further Kent State as an institution, I have been devoting myself intermittently during the last several years to studying German and have achieve reading comprehension near proficiency. My interest in that is in part because Stowe’s novel was translated into German by its American publisher and in part because one of the foremost tools for scholarly editing is a program called TUSTEP, which has documentation only in German. TUSTEP has now been released as open-access software, and I plan to use some FPIL time to improving my German, to reading in German editorial work and textual scholarship, and to testing TUSTEP as an alternative to CollateX. Despite the widespread adoption of CollateX and TUSTEP in European editorial projects, acquisition of considerable expertise in these tools at Kent State’s Institute for Bibliography and Editing would set it apart from most U.S. institutions, in which editorial work (at least in for writers in English) tends not to consider either of these tools.

Works Cited

Ashton, J.: Harriet Beecher Stowe: a Reference Guide, Boston: G.K. Hall, 1977

Belasco, S.: The Responsibility Is Ours: The Failure of Infrastructure and the Limits of Scholarship. In: Legacy 26 (2009) 329–336

Bryant, J.: The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen, Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press, 2002

Committee on Scholarly Editions, M.: Guidelines for Editors of Scholarly Editions. In: Burnard, L.; O’Keeffe, K. O. & Unsworth, J. Electronic Textual Editing, New York: Modern Language Association of America, 2006, S. 23–46

Gates, H. L.; Robbins, H. & Jeff, M. Uncle Tom’s Cabin Reconsidered, New York Public Library, 2006

Hildreth, M.: Harriet Beecher Stowe: a Bibliography, Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1976

Hochman, B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the National Era: An Essay in Generic Norms and the Contexts of Reading. In: Book History 7 (2004) 143–169

Jordan-Lake, J.: Whitewashing Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Nineteenth-Century Women Novelists Respond to Stowe, Nashville, Tenn.: Vanderbilt Univ. Press, 2005.

Kirkham, E. B.: The Building of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Knoxville: Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1977.

Madison, E. L.: A Parallel Text Edition of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Materials for a Critical Text, Dissertation, Rhode Island, 1986.

McGann, J.: The Textual Condition, Princeton N.J.: Princeton Univ. Press, 1991.

Meer, S.: Uncle Tom Mania: Slavery, Minstrelsy, and Transatlantic Culture in the 1850s, Athens: Univ. of Georgia Press, 2005.

Morgan, J.-A.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Visual Culture, Columbia: Univ. of Missouri Press, 2007.

Parfait, C.: The Publishing History of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, 1852-2002, Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2007.

Raabe, W.: Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Case Study of Textual Transmission. In: Jewell, A. & Earhart, A. The American Literature Scholar in the Digital Age Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2011, 63–83.

Raabe, W.: The Trouble with Facsimiles: Jewett’s Illustrated Edition (1853) of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Fill His Head First with a Thousand Questions.

Raabe, W.: Editing Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Fluid Text of Race. In: Documentary Editing 32 (2011), 101–12.

Raabe, W. & Harrison, L.: Selection from Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin: A Digital Critical Edition. In: Scholarly Editing 33 (2012).

Railton, S.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and American Culture, 2009.

Reynolds, D.: Mightier than the sword: Uncle Tom’s cabin and the battle for America, New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2011.

Smith, S. B.: Serialization and the Nature of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In: Smith, S. B. & Price, K. M. Periodical Literature in Nineteenth-Century America. Virginia University Press, 1995.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly. In: Douglas, A.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. New York N.Y.: Penguin Books, 1981.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In: Gates, H. L. & Robbins, H.: The Annotated Uncle Tom’s Cabin. New York: Norton, 2007.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly. Million ed., Boston: John P. Jewett, 1852/1853.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly. Illus. ed., Boston: Houghton Osgood, 1879.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly. Illus. ed., (1852), Boston: John P. Jewett, 1853.

Stowe, H. B.: Uncle Tom’s Cabin: or, Life among the Lowly. 2 vols. (1852), Boston: John P. Jewett, 1852.

Tompkins, J.: Sentimental Power: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Politics of Literary History. In: Glyph 8 (1981), 79–102.

Winship, M.: ‘The Greatest Book of Its Kind’: A Publishing History of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. In: Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society 109 (1999), 309–332.

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