Editing scribal texts

Jim Knowles and I are organizing a session on “Editing scribal texts” at the next meeting of the International Piers Plowman Society, to be held 4-7 April 2019 in Miami, FL. Details and instructions will be posted soon at the IPPS webpage. Here is the session description:

Writing in 2001 in a combined review of the last installment of the Athlone Piers Plowman and the first installment of the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, Anne Middleton ventured that the salient feature of scribal texts is neither copying error nor intelligent intervention, but the “reciprocity of idiom and knowledge between [an] author and a textual community.” Middleton concluded with what might still, two decades on, be taken as a challenge: “The editorial search for the original text,” she says, “is inseparable from the pursuit of the immediate verbal and institutional conditions that motivated and informed it, but thus far the latter has surprisingly few takers.”

Has this situation changed at all? Much editorial activity in recent decades has been devoted to presentation of scribal versions of literary texts; have editors taken up the programmatic focus articulated by Middleton—namely, to disclose and map the limits of “reciprocity of idiom and knowledge” within textual communities? If yes, how does this endeavor work in practice and what are its most important results? If other research priorities have emerged, what are they and how are they pursued?

Speakers are invited to explore questions such as the following: How are the distinctive aims of a documentary edition realized in its component parts—the introduction, annotations, and critical apparatus, for example—and how have digital technologies changed the production, presentation, and use of such editions? How does an edition of a scribal text negotiate its responsibilities to a scribal document, an authorial work, and a contemporary readership? What lines of connection obtain between an edition of a scribal text and the standard/critical edition of that literary work? Who are the projected readers/users of such editions, and what do editors supply to them? What is the value of scribal versions of texts produced at a significant temporal or geographical remove from the context of composition?

Proposed papers need not be devoted to Piers Plowman or to Middle English texts. We welcome proposals concerned more widely with editorial theory and documentary editing of medieval texts.

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