“The Promise of Modernist Digital Editions,” Editing Modernism, University of NSW, Sydney, 5 May 2010

There are at least three ways of thinking about the promise of modernist digital editions.  Firstly, there is significant promise in developing digital editions of modernist texts: these editions will allow scholars to understand text and archive material, and the often-subtle relations between them, in renewed and in novel ways. In support of this point, the latter part of this paper will entail a brief overview of two digital editing projects: the digital variorum edition of Ezra Pound’s Cantos, and an aspect of the digital edition of Samuel Beckett’s novel Watt that intersects with the international Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscripts Project. Secondly, the way digital scholarly projects tend to be advertised (in funding applications, conference presentations, and so on) often entail firm promises or confident speculations upon the significant benefits such projects will bring to literary studies. These claims demand serious reflection, especially with regard to their ambition, cost, and perceived value. Thirdly, the sense of futurity tied up in the word “promise” points to the fact that practical and formal gains in digital applications have yet to be adequately apprehended, and consequently, the potential for future gains tend to be exaggerated, on the one hand, and misunderstood as wayward (and expensive) fancy, on the other. These three facets of the promise of modernist digital editions are mutually imbricated, and together comprise a most complex interplay of technological opportunity, editorial reflection, hermeneutic strategies, and notions of text status at the most basic level. In order to make sense of this interplay, it is worth considering the editorial context of modernist studies first, then to consider the role and relevance of digital technology, before demonstrating some features of emergent digital editions.


About msbyron27

Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary British and American Literature, Department of English, University of Sydney
This entry was posted in Abstracts - Presentations (2010). Bookmark the permalink.

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