This double issue of Variants: the Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship is the first to appear in Open Access on the Revues.org platform. In subject matter, this issue offers a wide scope covering the music manuscripts of the thirteenth-century French trouvère poet Thibaut de Champagne (expertly discussed by Christopher Callahan and Daniel E. O’Sullivan) to the digital genetic dossier of the twenty-first century Spanish experimental writer Robert Juan-Cantavella. The story of Juan-Cantavella’s “manuscripts” is an interesting: the dossier was handed on a USB stick to the scholar Bénédicte Vauthier for research; the files and their metadata became the subject of an extensive analysis of the writing history of his novel El Dorado (2008), proving that genetic criticism after the advent of the computer is still possible and necessary. In addition to Rüdiger Nutt-Kofoth’s detailed consideration of the concept of “variant” and “variation” in the German historical-critical tradition of scholarly editing, the current volume contains four more theoretical exploration of this topic, which formed the topic of the 2013 Annual Conference of the Society that was held in Paris in November 2013.
Proposing a rapprochement between genetic criticism and scholarly editing, Dirk Van Hulle writes about how five key aspects of genetic study – exogenesis, endogenesis, epigenesist, microgenesis and macrogenesis – can be modelled to fit into an appropriate digital editorial infrastructure to make this type of research amenable and effective. Daniel Ferrer revisits the old distinction – and division -- between genetic and textual criticism to consider where the two fields are apt to meet, viz. at the point where variants are not just accidental, the result of the exigencies of textual transmission, but deliberate and creative. Hans Walter Gabler looks into the questions as to what happens when we edit manuscripts: what transformations take place when the document, ontologically conceived as autographic, as “materiality-and-writing”, is paired down so to speak into text. The only viable way, Gabler argues, to achieve a proper editorial presentation that does not simply signify a loss of the autographic, is via the digital medium. Hannah Sullivan, finally, asks a bold question: Why do authors revise, and keep revising, their texts? This question leads her into an interesting theoretical exposition on the differences between a text that is still in process and a text that is finished, the difference being one of what she calls “textual apprehension”. It’s all a matter of perspective, in other words.
In addition, Luca Crispi delves into the “fictional” and “textual” world of James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) to unearth, using the vast archive of manuscripts that Joyce produced during the work’s seven-year composition, a number of factual discrepancies in the novel, discrepancies which its writer lost track of. Gabriele Wix analyses the genesis of the Manhattan poems by the twentieth-century German poet Thomas Kling in an article that hones in on the poet’s archaeology of language and the deliberate forms of “sedimentation” and “stratigraphy” that characterize his composition method.
Before closing off the volume with no less than 16 reviews of monographs, scholarly editions and digital editions, the section on “Work in Progress” reports on two on-going digital editorial projects: the LDoD Digital Archive, comprising the archival material for more than 500 hundred texts of Fernando Pessoa’s unfinished Livro do Desassossego, produced between 1913 and 1925, and CODEA, a digital primary corpus of Spanish historical documents. These projects represent some of the innovative, state-of-the-art thinking that is happening in scholarly editing in Europe at the moment.