Authenticity or Hyperreality in Hypertext Editions: Notes Towards a Searchable "Recherche"

Dirk Van Hulle


Time, the main subject of À la recherche du temps perdu, is treated by Marcel Proust in a linear way. This linearity is an important aspect of the reading experience of this modernist novel, which the non-linearity of hypertext might disturb. Nevertheless, not all parts of the Recherche were finished when Proust died in 1922, and since Proust’s working method is characterized by a constant shuffle of textual units or ‘lexias,’ hypertext may serve as a perfect tool to visualize the ‘avant-texte’ of the Recherche. Since the creation of a hypertext environment involves several editorial decisions, the editorial task may be compared to a musical performance, rather than to the preparation of a musical score. The possibility to offer an electronic facsimile of the documents may give the reader the impression of being confronted with the original document, but this quasi-authenticity is a hyperreality that can easily be manipulated. Whereas traditionally, the score was the performance of the editor, electronics offer a unique opportunity to separate these two aspects of a scholarly edition, so that the editor plays a double role as the creator of a digitized version of the documents, preferably a digital facsimile with a transcription in a software-independent markup-language (the score), and on the other hand as the creator of a hypertext edition (a performance based on the score) which could be offered as an alternative spin-off product for reading texts, so that the role of the reader becomes twofold as well.

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