Where is the editor? : Resistance in the creation of an electronic critical edition

Edvard Vanhoutte


Printed scholarly editions of any type suffer, for intrinsic and external reasons, from the lack of being incremental and re-usable, and fail in presenting both the results of the historical-critical research and the archive on which the research has been caried out in such a way that it is of use to literary and textual scholarship. The electronic paradigm has, despite its enourmeous storage capacities and intrinsic re-usability, not changed anything, but has on the contrary established the illusion that both the "objective" archive and the "subjective" edition could at the same time be presented in one product, be it called an electronic archive or an electronic edition.

In this article I suggest a model for electronic scholarly editing that unlinks the Archival Function (i.e. the preservation of the literary artifact in its historical form and the historical-critical research) from the Museum Function (the presentation by an editor of the physical appearance and/or the contents of the literary artifact in a documentary, aesthetic, sociological, authorial or bibliographical contextualization). The digital archive should be the place for the first function, showing a relative objectivity, or a documented subjectivity in its internal organization and encoding. The Museum Function should work in an edition – disregarding its external form – displaying the explicit and expressed subjectivity and the formal orientation of the editor. The relationship between these two functions is hierarchical.

The implementation of the Archive/Museum model calls for a re-thinking and a re-orientation of the function of the editor.

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