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IRA B. NADEL Textual Criticism and Non-Fictional Prose: The Case of Matthew Arnold We see threatenings of confusion, and we want a clue to some firm order and authority. (Matthew Arnold, cancelled passage, Culture and Anarchy) In 1983 Jerome McGann declared that 'textual criticism is in the process of reconceiving its discipline' and cited revisionist views of copy-text, authorial intention, and textual authority to support his claims. McGann further argued that the social dynamic between an individual author, his work, and the method of literary production was crucial for a printed text, and should be studied more closely by textual critics. In addition, he noted that an author's intentions towards his manuscript may differ from his intentions towards his published text. For McGann, the textual critic becomes an archaeologist because he must reconstruct an entire literary past through the recovery of a literary text (McGann, 2,41,81,68,89,93). The consequences of these changes for the editing of Matthew Arnold's prose are the specific concern of this paper; but of equal importance is the impact of such revisions on the general study of Victorian non-fictional writing. Two statements on the nature of textual criticism dramatize the issues of copy-text, textual authority, and editorial practice now under review. The first, by Fredson Bowers, appeared in 1963 and identifies the primary goal of textual criticism as the recovery of the initial purity of an author's text and of its revision (insofar as this is possible from the preserved documents), and the preservation of this purity despite the usual corrupting process of reprint transmission. (Bowers, 24) Here, Bowers emphasizes the retrieval element of textual criticism, the restoration of a text to its original state before its 'fall' into the corrupting hands of republication and transmission. This effort to reclaim the innocence of a text ignores the historical development oftextual studies in which the biblical and classical model, driven by philological concerns, dominated any other interest. Bowers's authorial approach also negates the contribution of textual transmission to the authenticity of a text. However, the importance of this method can be. seen in the status UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO QUARTERLY, VOLUME 58, NUMBER 2, WINTER 1988/9 264 IRA B. NADEL accorded such standard discussions as R.B. McKerrow's An Introduction to Bibliography for Literary Students (1928), W.W. Greg's 'The Rationale of Copy-Text' (1950-1), James Thorpe's Principles of Textual Criticism (1972), or, more recently, G. Thomas Tanselle's 1981 essay 'Textual Scholarship.' In this essay, Tanselle reiterates Bowers's position, although Bowers has since modified his view (see, for example, Essays in Bibliography, Text and Editing [1975]). The goal of a critical edition, Tanselle writes, should be 'fidelity to what the editor understands to be the author's intention' (Tanselle, 37). The second statement, written by William Proctor Williams and Craig S. Abbott, appeared in 1985 and registers a broader, more inclusive role for textual criticism: textual criticism ... is not limited to establishing what an author wrote. As the study of the history of texts, it also addresses other questions: How did an author revise the text? What texts were available to readers at a particular time for example when an author's reputation was being established? How did editors of various periods alter texts to satisfy their aesthetic, moral or other principles? How have economic considerations affected the texts? Textual criticism is a historical study and thus sees texts in relation to historical events and forces. (Williams and Abbott, 54). This is a comprehensive definition of textual criticism encompassing activities beyond the editorial to include the social, historical, personal, economic, and even political. It suggests the importance of the transmission , reception, and published form of texts as the proper subjects of study. Scholars such as Philip Gaskell in A New Introduction to Bibliography (1972) prepared the way for such a broadening view, concentrating on the social and technological circumstances of text production. Authorial intention and textual authority become in this view secondary to matters of dissemination and readership. Furthermore, it implies a scepticism towards the possibility of publishing a definitive edition of any text, given the evidence of authorial...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 263-274
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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