Drowning by Versions

Mats Dahlström


The scholarly, critical edition (SE), a quite complex metatextual and at times metamedial tool, is an outstanding child of print culture. It might prove a valuable study object of media history in order to gain insights into the mechanisms involved in the transition of works from one media setting to another. The SE forms and is formed by a particular conception of the way literary works could - and even should - be (re)presented in codex book form. Obvious factors in this formation are the very physical constraints posed by the codex book, or in other words the material ‘economy’ of print culture. Opportunities brought about by digital media and technology have begun to challenge the hegemonic SE form. This article addresses some relations between codex books and computer files as tools for storing and distributing SE:s, thus attempting a few media theory notes. What are the essential constraints and qualities of the two media forms, and to what different edition types and editorial strategies might and might they not be favourable? Are there areas where the two overlap? Where they compete? Will the role of the scholarly editor change? As incunables, current electronic SE:s tend to imitate the still sovereign print editions. Perhaps we had better consider what possible added value a digital edition might have in comparison to its printed counterpart - and vice versa, and how they might complement each other?

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