New Historicism has alerted critics to the complex conditions of literary production in the age of the printing press. The revisionist challenge presented by Jerome J. McGann to the concept of “the” writer as autonomous authority in the publication of a text has necessitated adjustments in the fields of textual scholarship and editing since the early 1980s. The present article delineates the theoretical parallels between New Historicism as a revisionist critical paradigm and “New Textualism” as its bibliographical counterpart. These approaches are distinguished from the purely analytic, noninterpretive idealistic premises of the earlier textual scholarship known as “New Bibliography.” New Textualist scholars have shifted attention from a disputable end product (an author's “work”) to the genetic details in a range of material text witnesses, highlighting their dynamic “fluidity” and their “contamination” by social agents involved in the production process of the text, including typists, publishers, and editors. However, a few aspects of New Textualism create methodological aporias and produce, in extremo, a virtually unreadable compilation of parallel texts. Using some previously developed categories, this article offers an interpretive textual analysis together with a genetic narrative of Sir Thomas More's Utopia (1516). It demonstrates the extent of text variation caused by agents other than the author and in so doing presents evidence of a highly interactive textual practice in early modern publishing.
Jürgen Meyer; Editing Textual Synergies: New Historicism and “New Textualism”. Poetics Today 1 December 2014; 35 (4): 591–613. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/03335372-2873503
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