Session Title

Is There a Text in This Field? Middle English Canonical Texts and the Edition of Record (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Piers Plowman Electronic Archive; Society for Early English and Norse Electronic Texts (SEENET)

Organizer Name

James Knowles

Organizer Affiliation

North Carolina State Univ.

Presider Name

James Knowles

Paper Title 1

Discussant

Presenter 1 Name

Timothy L. Stinson

Presenter 1 Affiliation

North Carolina State Univ.

Paper Title 2

Discussant

Presenter 2 Name

Stephanie L. Batkie

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Montevallo

Paper Title 3

Discussant

Presenter 3 Name

Simon Forde

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Medieval Institute Publications

Paper Title 4

Discussant

Presenter 4 Name

Lawrence Warner

Presenter 4 Affiliation

King's College London

Start Date

14-5-2016 3:30 PM

Session Location

Bernhard Brown & Gold Room

Description

What happens when the scholarly edition of record for a canonical text goes out of print or becomes prohibitively expensive to students and scholars alike? Chaucer and Langland scholars are facing this problem right now. The Riverside Chaucer, long the standard critical text for Chaucer studies, is now in print as the Wadsworth Chaucer, but at a price-point that makes classroom use impossible. Likewise, the Athlone editions of Piers Plowman, after a series of publisher buyouts, are no longer in print at any price. They are not available except as scarce and expensive second-hand copies. Standard teaching editions of Chaucer and Langland have not fared much better. The executive director of the New Chaucer Society was recently prompted to write a letter to Oxford University Press pleading for reissue in the US market of the paperback edition of the Riverside for classroom use. The director of the International Piers Plowman Society has similarly tried to intervene to get A.V.C. Schmidt's Everyman edition of the Piers B text back into print. But the publishing issues here—rights, availability, and price— are just half of the problem. There are serious intellectual issues at stake here too. Questions such as: What constitutes a standard critical edition in the first place? What were the conditions that led to a particular edition's dominance in the field, and do those conditions persist? Do we need such editions at all anymore, given the proliferation and increasing sophistication of digital tools for literary scholarship? This roundtable will bring together scholar-editors, publishers, and directors of scholarly societies to discuss the scholarly and pedagogical problems presented by this situation, as well as to explore new ways forward. Special attention will be given to the ways that digital resources affect this issue, along with changing ideas of what a critical edition is and why we need them. Discussion will focus on new conceptions of what an edition should be and do, access to facsimiles, and reliable transcriptions of individual manuscript witnesses.

Jim Knowles

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May 14th, 3:30 PM

Is There a Text in This Field? Middle English Canonical Texts and the Edition of Record (A Roundtable)

Bernhard Brown & Gold Room

What happens when the scholarly edition of record for a canonical text goes out of print or becomes prohibitively expensive to students and scholars alike? Chaucer and Langland scholars are facing this problem right now. The Riverside Chaucer, long the standard critical text for Chaucer studies, is now in print as the Wadsworth Chaucer, but at a price-point that makes classroom use impossible. Likewise, the Athlone editions of Piers Plowman, after a series of publisher buyouts, are no longer in print at any price. They are not available except as scarce and expensive second-hand copies. Standard teaching editions of Chaucer and Langland have not fared much better. The executive director of the New Chaucer Society was recently prompted to write a letter to Oxford University Press pleading for reissue in the US market of the paperback edition of the Riverside for classroom use. The director of the International Piers Plowman Society has similarly tried to intervene to get A.V.C. Schmidt's Everyman edition of the Piers B text back into print. But the publishing issues here—rights, availability, and price— are just half of the problem. There are serious intellectual issues at stake here too. Questions such as: What constitutes a standard critical edition in the first place? What were the conditions that led to a particular edition's dominance in the field, and do those conditions persist? Do we need such editions at all anymore, given the proliferation and increasing sophistication of digital tools for literary scholarship? This roundtable will bring together scholar-editors, publishers, and directors of scholarly societies to discuss the scholarly and pedagogical problems presented by this situation, as well as to explore new ways forward. Special attention will be given to the ways that digital resources affect this issue, along with changing ideas of what a critical edition is and why we need them. Discussion will focus on new conceptions of what an edition should be and do, access to facsimiles, and reliable transcriptions of individual manuscript witnesses.

Jim Knowles