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Most Valuable Publication? Versions and Critical Editions

The MVP began with an aim to understand the multiple states of modernist texts as an aid to interpretive work, as well as to develop tools and best practices for the scholarly community. This also included specifically pedagogical aims for student researchers (“players”) on the team and the post-secondary classroom environment more generally. Based on the copyright conditions in Canada that permit versioning a greater swath of modernist material than elsewhere, what of the digital classroom and extensible texts for learning environments in which students might take part in producing the work? What of the first year or survey classroom and textbooks demands in an increasingly mobile-oriented student population? In a more material sense, what too of students struggling under the expense of education or the limitations of print and bound courseware? In the long game, the students are our most valuable players, but the most valuable publication in the democratization of education may be the most available, the most mobile, the most engaged, and the most accessible – the Modernist Versions Project’s MVP may be the facilitator that brings modernism and versioning not to the classroom but to classrooms in the “Big Data” plural.

Building from a critical edition of the 1890 version of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray (itself attentive to the insights of a versioned text) the MVP is launching dual critical editions of the two major variants of the novel from 1890 and 1891 in print, PDF, and ePub for classroom use. Over the past year, the two editions have been rescanned for a PDF facsimile and proofed text, and annotations are nearly complete for the 1891 expanded edition. We will supplement with plain text and/or a versioned analysis for scholarly research, and facsimiles of both based on holdings in UVic’s McPherson Library’s Special Collections. This completes an extension of the existing critical edition of the 1890 version of the novel first published by the McPherson Library in 2011.

Beginning in July, and with the support of a Provost’s SEED Grant from Fairleigh Dickinson University, two Research Assistants will begin production of comparable digital critical editions across the 2014-2015 year based on works of widespread pedagogical utility: Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time and H.D.’s seven poems in Des Imagistes and their revisions in Sea Garden. As RAs, Nyarai Tawengwa and Cami Castro will work with James Gifford and Stephen Ross to digitize and markup these texts, use versioning tools to compare the various states of each, and finally collaboratively produce digital critical editions with a scholarly apparatus for classroom use.

Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray underwent a self-censorship and expansion when critics attacked its first publication in Lippincott’s Magazine. The differences are striking – Wilde increased the novel’s length by 50% while reducing the intimations of homosexuality that sparked his critics. Coded in this, however, is an ongoing secondary narrative of colour versus the titular grayness. The self-censorship was not complete, and the novel’s other expansions and revisions encode other non-explicit forms of daring without expressly speaking them.

Hemingway’s In Our Time remains one of the most popular short story collections in English;  works in it are frequently anthologized and taught. Yet, the novel exists in three distinct versions and several states of each. By versioning the 1924, 1926, and 1930 editions of In Our Time, the MVP brings one of the most widely read fiction writers of the twentieth century to readers in a liberated edition, and for the first time in a critical edition.

Lastly, H.D.’s Sea Garden has been a major influence on other poets, perhaps most famously Robert Duncan but also Ezra Pound and Richard Aldington. Yet scholarship has given relatively little attention to the variant revisions undergone by the poems first published in the imagist anthology Des Imagistes (1914). By concentrating on H.D.’s revisions to these foundational poems in Sea Garden (1916), readers will have access to the first reconsiderations this major poet gave to her own works in a long career marked by returns and revisions.

On behalf of the MVP, welcome to the team Cami and Nyarai!

Cami Castro
Cami Castro
Where’s Nyarai Tawengwa?
Where’s Nyarai Tawengwa?








Blog post by James Gifford


Associate Professor | English | CSPT | U. of Victoria

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