When editing is all about the reader

Similar, to Olivia, this week’s discussion topic got me thinking about how editing The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes on wikisource has shifted our focus from the text to the reader. Applying Shillingsburg’s article on authority and editing to our social edition I found one remark that he made to be particularly interesting: “The basic assumption of all editors seems to be that normally the end product of composition can be and should be one text that best represents the work of art” (Shillingsburg 13). Although it is certainly important to create a text that represents the original well, when working with a text on wikisource “best represent[ing] the work of art” is not the only factor at play. In our class, we have had many debates about how to edit and annotate The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes; however, for the most part, our discussions center on appealing to our reader. After going through multiple stages of what you could call editing (re-formatting the text, transcluding it, and, now, creating our annotations) I have been focused on creating an accessible text that an everyday reader can engage with.

Nevertheless, I believe that this hyperawareness stems from the fact that we are creating a digital social edition on wikisource specifically. Readers on wikisource are more akin to collaborators, they have the power to question edits to the text and make their own changes. Since both the digital and social factors of our edition allow readers to contribute, the authority of the text and the authority of the reader are of equal value. Although there are benefits of opening up the editing process to the public, creating a social edition on wikisource can also limit one’s editorial vision.

While I agree with Olivia’s point about the dangers of shifting our focus to the reader I also wonder whether this new perspective can bring new life to a work like The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes. The push and pull of authority between the editor and the reader allows these collaborators to question one another and subsequently delve deeper into the meaning of the text.

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3 Responses to When editing is all about the reader

  1. Pingback: Editing and Authorial Intention | The Tales of John Oliver Hobbes

  2. margaret.milde says:

    “The push and pull of authority between the editor and the reader allows these collaborators to question one another and subsequently delve deeper into the meaning of the text.”

    I think that this a a great idea, but also remarkably frustrating! Logging into your wikisource account and realizing that some anonymous user has deleted three days of work (which you are doing for school credit!) is deeply unpleasant. I think that the tension between reader and editor may be impossible to resolve in some cases simply because different individuals possess different values. If someone comes along and deletes my annotation, you better believe that I am going to “undo” that edit and restore my annotation. I suppose there has to be a separation of ego from creation, but (thinking both realistically and cynically) that will just never happen.

  3. sydney.tyber says:

    laura.chapnick, I have to admit that after careful thought I need to disagree with the notion that “the authority of the text and the authority of the reader are of equal value”. I propose, rather, that the format of the social edition makes us ”perceive” that these two authorities are of equal value, when in fact, they still are not. From a poststructuralist viewpoint (which we inevitably harken back to when discussing the Barthesian authority of the reader) the reader’s ability to inform the text is for individual purposes: what do I want this text to do for me; how does this text inform my world? The emphasis here on the reader as a single self, not a collective reader”ship”. Is it really acceptable to argue that every reader should in fact have the authority, as margaret.milde writes above, to override editorial choices? What of qualifications of the editor vs. the reader? Should we really have a reading experience that is so democratic, that it may actually impede on a productive use or elucidation of the text for all readers?

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