Hans Gabler, Theorizing the Digital Scholarly Edition

The scholarly edition has traditionally been conceived of as hierarchically ordered downwards from a text, buffered and augmented by apparatuses as subordinate editorial paratexts. Of old, the paratexts used to stand in a hermeneutic relationship – broadly, a commentary relationship – to the edition text. Increasingly, however, the hermeneutic dimension of the scholarly edition gave way to modes of positivist accumulation of materials, in support not so much of the interpretive reading but of the editorial establishing of the edited texts. Today, as the carrier medium for editions changes from book to the digital medium, all the main a priori assumptions about scholarly editions come into question. Editions may be reconceived as answering to the paradigm of a rela- tional interplay of discourses, dynamically correlated both among themselves and with an edition’s readers and users: that is, to a paradigm once again of text and ongoing commentary. Relational structures will become realizable because the digital medium will be the native medium of the scholarly edition of the future. It will be the medium to study and use editions; while the print medium will remain the medium to read texts. No longer issuing in scholarly editions as books, scholarly editing of the future will be aiming instead at constructing the material foundations for research platforms as digitally explorable knowledge sites dedicated to multi-faceted historical, philosophical, cultural and literary research and criticism. The digital medium has the potential to develop into an environment suitable to re-integrate textual criticism into criticism – and, just as importantly: to ground criticism again in textual criticism.

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