George Kane and the Invention of Textual Thought: Retrospect and Prospect
George Kane remains, and will remain, the greatest editorial mind who has ever engaged with Middle English. The logic he applies to editing serves a fundamental project: ‘the development, through induction, of a set of useful working postulates about scribal behaviour’ (p. 2). One of his most brilliant developments was the realization that scribal error frequently arises through the substitution of homeographs or synonyms during copying. Yet occasionally Kane did not submit to the requirements of his own logical procedures. The second half of the essay examines what Hanna considers ‘a couple of examples of forgetting Kane, failing to comprehend’ what he meant: the treatments of MS N² by Russell and Kane, who see this C witnesses’ agreements with B’s beta group as the result of the scribe’s consultation of early Langlandian documents, and by Lawrence Warner, who argues that N² is the original source of those readings. For N² is a very late copy. Warner’s use of MS F as evidence for his theory that B.19-20 were imported from C.21-22 is unwarranted. It ‘will take at least another generation of textual scholarship to internalize thoroughly, to integrate carefully, and to advance beyond Kane’s own applications’ (p. 20)
YLS, 24 (2010), 1-20.