Editing Terminable and Interminable.
Review Article (Piers Plowman: The C Version. Ed. George Russell and George Kane. London: Athlone and Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997; The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive, Volume 1: Corpus Christi College, Oxford MS 201 (F). Ed. Robert Adams, Hoyt N. Duggan, Erick Eliason, Ralph Hanna, John Price-Wilkin, and Thorlac Turville-Petre. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1999).
This review article seeks to address the broader issues of presentation and principle implicit in answering the question: “what is the purpose of an edition?” The review details the individual and positive qualities of either edition (for instance, the Introduction to the R-K C version is particularly commended) and format (for instance, the ability to provide hyperlinked editorial exposition about codicological and palaeographical detail and scribal practice), while questioning certain premises and highlighting a few cruces that need elaboration. Despite the obvious differences between the two editions both sets of editors evince similar “monolithic presentation of their editorial agencies” and both disavow any “interest in representing ‘scribal versions’ as such as instantiating a form of medieval criticism.” A more general question raised towards the end of the review concerns “the firm binary of ‘author’ versus ‘scribe’ as textual agents, unmediated by any . . . moment of situated shared knowledge”; this binary, although a basis of textual study, can nonetheless be an impediment to understanding and is ripe for reconsideration.