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Humanist Archives: Feb. 19, 2019, 6:26 a.m. Humanist 32.471 - coda to the McGann-Renear debate

                  Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 32, No. 471.
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    [1]    From: philomousos@gmail.com
           Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.467: the McGann-Renear debate (25)

    [2]    From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca
           Subject: Coda to the Humanist restaging of the McGann-Renear debate (68)

        Date: 2019-02-19 02:20:03+00:00
        From: philomousos@gmail.com
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 32.467: the McGann-Renear debate

I think it’s unlikely this over-extended argument can have a resolution, so we
should probably drop it. I have my reservations about Desmond’s theory of
editing layers, but for the record, I’m fully in support of folks who want to
publish open access editions using techniques other than TEI. I’m sympathetic to
the resource constraints faced by many among us, as well as the gaps that have
been created by our tendency to focus on canonical works. Efficiently addressing
those gaps is vital, and while TEI might be a useful tool in your kit, it also
might not be, depending on your circumstances.

But I’d push back hard against the idea that digital editions are pointless
unless easier. I want there to be space for doing digital editions that are just
as rigorous as their print analogues and at the same time *better* for being
digital. Specifically, I want a world where students are not required to cross
over into expensive, scarce print editions in order to do serious work; where
the first edition they encounter online might be the *best* edition. I see a big
role for TEI there. I see it as a powerful tool precisely because it can
accommodate more than one view of the text at the same time. And because,
despite its associations with the OHCO theory, it is not in thrall to any
particular hierarchical model of text.

All the best,

        Date: 2019-02-18 16:28:22+00:00
        From: lachance@chass.utoronto.ca
        Subject: Coda to the Humanist restaging of the McGann-Renear debate


As the thread inaugurated by a revisiting of the McGann-Renear debate
spins off into other considerations, it may be timely to thank the
contributors to Humanist who engaged in lively discussion about what
constitute the objects of our attention. I remain intrigued by the dual
focal points in the discussion between the carrier and what is carried and
am reminded of a formulation from Owen Feltham: "Contemplation is
necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it."

The two ways bring to mind a statement by Jerome McGann in his essay "The
Rationale of Hypertext"

To the imagination, the materialities of text (oral, written, printed,
electronic) are incarnational not vehicular forms.

To be found in _Electronic Text: Investigations in Theory and Method_. Ed.
Kathryn Sutherland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997 (p. 19).

I am intrigued by the possibilities of recasting the exclusionary
dichotomy into a pair of allied pursuits (incarnation-contemplation and
vehicle-action). The question takes on a hermeneutical hue: just where
does the encounter between the horizon of the reader and the horizon of
the author take place?

The answer may require a whole (social) renegotiation of what it means to
contemplate versus to act upon a text.  I suspect that the vexed question
of the relations between powers of abstraction and embodied knowledge is
at play.

The relations are not likely to be a one-way street. And this has bearing
on what is involved in the telos of editing. I turn to Julia Flanders,
"The Body Encoded: Questions of Gender and the Electronic Text" (which we
find p. 129 in _Electronic Text: Investigations in Theory and Method_) for
a recovery of a history of what were deemed the stakes in editing.  She
draws on Stephanie H. Jed _Chaste Thinking: The Rape of Lucretia and the
Birth of Humanism_ (1989) to trace and critique a spirit/flesh dichotomy
at play in textual editing:

The organizing terms of this relationship revolve around a familiar binary
of body and spirit: each physical text, the manuscript or printed book, is
a particular concrete carrier of a universalized and disembodied
textuality, the "text of the author" which may be fully represented in one
physical object, in many, or in none at all. Within this schema the
physical object, in a manner familiar to any student of neoclassical
aesthetics, is subject to corruption and debasement, its very physicality
and particularity drawing it towards the realm of the monstrous and the
deviant. The task of the scholar and editor, then, is to discern the
universal text within the various documents which instantiate it, and by
patient study and labour produce a new -- but also originary and
authoritative -- witness which perfectly transmits the "text of the
author". In Jed's example, these texts are the foundational documents by
which republican Florence was to construct a public ideology based on an
assertion of lineage from ancient republican Rome (p. 75)

Of course the story does not stop here.

Francois Lachance

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