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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Texts
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0333.  Friday, 3 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Thursday, 2 May 1996 20:06:27 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0327 Re: Texts

(2)     From:   Andrew Murphy <
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        Date:   Friday, 3 May 1996 14:09:39 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Texts


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Thursday, 2 May 1996 20:06:27 +0100
Subject: 7.0327 Re: Texts
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0327 Re: Texts

John Drakakis wrote

>I'm a
>little more concerned about Gabriel Egan's uncharacterstically sloppy
>deployment of the concept of "fetishization".

Thanks for the compliment, I think...

The Shakespearean Originals series is based on the principle that the early
printed texts are all we have and that to try to project beyond these
particular textual manifestations to the 'real' underlying texts (eg the
authorial draft. or the first performed version) is self-delusional. As
over-determined collaborational manifestations of a collective dramatic
practice, the early printed texts have a validity not accounted for by
post-Romantic notions of individual authorial responsibility. Since our models
of creative production are inadequate for such texts we cannot reasonably
differentiate the effects of random corruption from other possible determinants
and hence we ought not to edit the texts by reference to models of what
Shakespeare intended. The best we can do is to "throw a cordon around" (Andrew
Spong's phrase, I think) the extant texts and reproduce them as faithfully as
possible.

This is the point of the Shakespearean Originals series as I understand it.
Such thinking actually passes off non-editing as editing, but not done to the
standards of, say, the Malone Society Reprints. There is a need to have
available reproductions of early printed texts, but to suggest that these can
stand on their own as play-texts is misleading. Some textual deficiencies can
be made sense of by reference to a model of textual transmission from authorial
foul-papers (which, admittedly, we do not have) to hand-press. That we do not
have foul-papers should not prevent the use of models of textual transmission
to explain manifest problems with the extant early printed texts. The "throwing
a cordon around" these texts locates in them a spurious textual authority,
which is no more intellectually defensible than the privileging of
pre-theatrical dramatic texts over post-theatrical dramatic texts, which
post-Romantic models of creation (especially: lone private creation = good,
communal public creation = bad) have fostered.

These prejudices in locating textual authority make a fetish-object out of
particular printed entities rather than attempting to account for those
entities within a historically grounded model of production. The intellectual
labour and intention of an individual dramatist working in a early capitalist
dramatic collective IS a reasonable referent within a Marxist model of creative
production in late C16 and early C17.

Gabriel Egan

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Murphy <
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Date:           Friday, 3 May 1996 14:09:39 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        Texts

I would agree with John Drakakis that 'fetishization' (like theory, once upon a
time) seems, as Gabriel Egan uses the term, to be the thing the other guy does
and never the thing you do yourself. Heavily edited texts -- even
non-sensically conflated texts -- have been centralised and valorised for going
on four centuries, but somehow that process of centralization does not
constitute fetishization, whereas any attempt to turn attention to the earliest
textualisations does. This strikes me as rather odd.

Gabriel Egan raises the question of the title of the Shakespearean Originals
series. My understanding of the title is that 'Shakespearean' indicates that
the texts included have a relationship to the Shakespeare canon, not that
everything is believed to be the direct product of Shakespeare himself.
'Originals' indicates that what is provided is an edition of the first printed
version of this particular textualisation (in my own case, an edition of Q1
_Othello_, published a year prior to F1, in 1622). It is not a question of some
sort of mythical 'origins', rather a question of temporal priority.

Again: what puzzles me is the energy which appears to be invested in resisting
these texts. In my own teaching practice I will sometimes use texts from the
Penguin series (because they are cheap); sometimes from the Arden series
(because they are scholarly and well annotated); sometimes from other series.
However, as someone interested in history and in textual matters, I feel it is
important that students (and scholars) are alive to the fact that the
modernised text which they study often bears little enough resemblance to the
textualisation(s) first published during the Renaissance period. For this
reason, I also direct my students to the Originals and to facsimile editions.

It's fine by me if others would rather stick exclusively with texts which are
layered with four centuries of what Michael Warren has called 'editorial
fossilization.' Or should that, again, be 'fetishization'?

Andrew Murphy
 

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