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  • The Editing of American Literature, 1890–1930: Essays and Reviews by Donald Pizer
  • Carol S. Loranger (bio)
The Editing of American Literature, 1890–1930: Essays and Reviews, by Donald Pizer. Lanham, md: Scarecrow Press, 2012. x + 119 pp. Cloth, $72.00; E-book: $69.99.

Eminent literary scholar Donald Pizer has been releasing previously uncollected essays in small volumes organized around specific areas out of a lifetime of closely argued, often contentious excavations into American literature. His 2013 collection of his essays on Theodore Dreiser, “The Game as It Is Played” from Peter Lang was reviewed in san 9.2. The Editing of American Literature takes textual and practical criticism as its central focus, grouping [End Page 174] together a not entirely disparate set of long and short pieces published between 1970 and 2009. Unsurprisingly the bulk of the essays are devoted to the editing of either Theodore Dreiser—the 1972 essay on “Dreiser’s Novels: The Editorial Problem,” two long reviews focused on the textual questions involved in the Pennsylvania Editions of Sister Carrie and Jennie Gerhardt, from 1982 and 1994, respectively, and a brief retrospective piece on the editing of Sister Carrie from 2001—or Stephen Crane—four again, two essays and two reviews representing forty years of Pizer’s thinking on textual matters in Crane scholarship. The remaining essays include Pizer’s elegant analysis of a single passage from John Dos Passos’s The Big Money that draws on the setting text and galleys to explore the aleatory factor in authorial decision making (an essay I wish I had known when doing my own work in the 1990s on the composition of Naked Lunch) and two prefatory essays, one combining “On the Editing of Modern American Texts” and “A Final Comment,” first published six months apart in 1971 in the Bulletin of the New York Public Library; and the 1985 essay “Self-Censorship and Textual Editing,” first published in 1985 in the classic Textual Criticism and Literary Interpretation, edited by Jerome McGann.

Together these essays offer a fascinating look at both the contested terrain of modern textual scholarship and at the consistency and erudition of one major player in these and other debates. In the four pieces on editing Dreiser and the four on editing Crane we see the battle between Pizer and the school with its focus on the editor’s critical judgment and the “copy-text,” or, as Pizer puts it, “Greg-Bowers” school, raging across eight journals and forty years. Encountered in a single volume like this, the sheer scope and intensity of these battles as they unfold is bracing.

Regardless of where one stands on textual editing, these essays are well worth reading and well worth assigning to students interested in textual scholarship or practical criticism. They should be in every academic library.

Carol S. Loranger
Wright State University
Carol S. Loranger

Carol S. Loranger is Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of English Language and Literatures at Wright State University. Her scholarship focuses on such groundbreaking and controversial American writers as William S. Burroughs, Thomas Pynchon, and Theodore Dreiser. She is a member of the associate board for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize, serving on its Ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award Committee and maintaining its online bibliography.



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