A Rationale of Textual Criticism by G. Thomas Tanselle

By G. Thomas Tanselle

Textual criticism—the conventional time period for the duty of comparing the authority of the phrases and punctuation of a text—is frequently thought of an project initial to literary feedback: many folks think that the activity of textual critics is to supply trustworthy texts for literary critics to research. G. Thomas Tanselle argues, to the contrary, that the 2 actions can't be separated.The textual critic, in opting for between textual editions and correcting what seem to be textual error, necessarily routines serious judgment and displays a specific standpoint towards the character of literature. And the literary critic, in examining the that means of a piece or passage, has to be (though not often is) serious of the make-up of each textual content of it, together with these produced by way of scholarly editors.

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We use whatever there is, but we must use the totality of evidence each document carries with it. The uniqueness of every written or printed copy of a text is the irreducible basis of every act of reading. These thoughts bring home to us with particular force the fragility of the thread by which verbal statements hang on to perpetual life. Those statements depend either on human memory (and a cultural climate in which they get repeated) or else, if written down, on the survival of documents. 47 page_43 < previous page page_43 next page > Page 43 over intervening generations and be in direct touch with the past.

The document, whatever state its verbal text is in, is a human intrusion into the realm of the nonhuman and can (in Eliot's words) provide ''the still point of the turning world," can be like the Chinese jar moving "perpetually in its stillness," serving to organize our perceptions. 53 page_66 < previous page page_66 next page > Page 66 underside of stasis, freezing into inanimate solidity one moment in the history of the attempt to transmit a work made of words. Melville likened the creation of art to Jacob's wrestling with an angel.

The details of this process may vary with the media, but the underlying issues are the same for all the sequential arts. Textual scholars of verbal works are therefore a class of readers who make it their business to examine thoroughly the textual histories of particular works and to report those histories so that other readers may have at hand some of the information they will require if they are interested in history. 46 page_38 < previous page page_38 next page > Page 38 their own, to prepare reconstructions of the texts of workseach of which is an attempt to recreate a given moment in the life history of a work.

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