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Reviews Which Typee? The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editingfor Book und Screen JOHN BRYANT (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002) ich Typee should I read? The first British edition? The American “expurgated” edition with those sardonic commentaries on the vv”depredations of the missionaries along with those juicy passages of erotic tantalization all cut out? With or without the validating account of the rediscovered Toby? A Typee based on instructions Melville gave before his death that combined both British and American editions? Or perhaps the 1892 posthumous version edited by Melville’s literary executor Arthur Stedman? What of the recently recovered manuscript version? Which version reflects the authentic Melville? Should I read the Northwestern-Newberry (NN) critical edition, which intelligently attempts to navigate all versions available at the time? Can I read ALL versions of Typee SIMULTANEOUSLY? Can an editor illuminate the logic of the changes and describe how the text flows by means of psychic-social energy from one version to another? Can I entertain an editor ’s narrative of how the text changes? Can I understand an interpretation of meanings, of the nuances of different revisions, when Melvillewrites “savage,” then changes the word to “native,”and then to “islander”to indicate the people Tommo encounters? Can reading an editor’s narrative of how a text is transformed through revision become a form of literary pleasure and not just a virtuous editorial encumbrance? John Bryant’s theory of the fluid text addresses such questions. Typee comprises “a case study to exemplifyproblems concerning textual scholarship, editing, and critical interpretation” (15); Melville’s first book is the testing ground for Bryant’s fluid text theory of revision and editing, a theory that attempts to engage a key text in all of its manifestations, not just one frozen in a single seemingly authoritative version. But the proof is in the pudding. The Fluid Text is the rationale for the next stage in Bryant’sproject: his accompanyng volume, Melville Unfolding, which consists of a fluid text edition of Typee with the critical apparatus to illuminate the various incarnations of Melville’s experience-based fiction presented as a paired book-and-computer-based pedL E V I A T H A N A J O U R N A L O F M E L V I L L E S T U D I E S 7 5 R E V I E W agogical program. This edition has not yet been released, so reviewing The Fluid Text means hearing the “defense” even before the “crime” is brought before the court. However, if this volume is any indication, Melville Unfolding will prove to be a unique, pedagogically valuable contribution to literary history and Melville studies - if, that is, Bryant can creatively follow his own principles. It goes without saying that the entire project, the theory of fluid text editing and its practice, will engender some vigorous debate. If anything, Bryant would welcome such debate as yet one more ramification of regarding literature -and life -as fluid texts. According to Bryant,a fluid text edition will “showcaserevision”;it “will provide a map for reading [anauthor’s] shifting intentions as revealed through variant sequentialized versions” (144). The “fluid text” edition of Typee will be qualitativelypedagogical: it will be “designed to enable readers to discover textual fluidity, analyze its potential meanings, and learn among other things the nature of textuality. . .” (144). Much of this textual fluidity will be presented as a story of the editor’sscholarly informed yet creatively deductive reasoning. A fluid text edition must be comprehensive, engagingin all versions to analyze “genesis and revision . . . to gain a sharper sense of the energies of a literary work as the locus of interaction of individual and society” (145), meaning, among other things, that even unauthorized versions or adaptations should be regarded (such as the film version of Typee or the Classic Comic version of Moby-Dick). Perhaps most importantly, a fluid text edition must employ “the extraordinary hypertextual features of the electronic medium”; it should attempt “to create a dynamic coupling of book and computer screen” (145). Books have plenty of virtues computers have not surpassed, according to Bryant,but the new...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1750-1849
Print ISSN
1525-6995
Pages
pp. 75-84
Launched on MUSE
2013-05-29
Open Access
No
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