Mats Dahlström, How Reproductive is a Scholarly Edition?

The nature of a scholarly edition, as of any bibliographical tool, is determined by the historical, medial, social, and rhetorical dimensions of the genre. This ‘situatedness’ puts constraints on the force of scholarly editions: what they can and what they cannot do. Claims have been made for the potent reproductive force of scholarly editions, as well as for the making of massive digital facsimile and transcription archives that can be used as platforms for producing new critical editions. This article questions the legitimacy of such assumptions when combined with idealist notions of documents, texts, and editions. That the nature of editions is rhetorical rather than neutral, social rather than individualistic, and one of complex translation rather than simple transmission, for instance, suggests that the versatility and reproductivity of the edited material itself will be limited by significant factors. Recognizing this makes us better equipped at subjecting digital archives and editions, and the claims some of their surrounding discourses make, to critical inquiry.

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