Late Middle English Texts and the Higher and Lower Criticisms.
The “objectivity” of textual criticism is informed by the “subjectivity” of literary interpretation. Kane’s belief that WL’s actual texts can be recovered with a remarkable degree of certainty rests on a distinction between authorial and scribal usus scribendi that is essentially qualitative; his denial of “intellectual and even creative engagement” with the text of a great work on the part of scribes is an impressionistic and self-validating literary judgment disguised as an objective textual assessment. There are no textual or contextual features in the manuscripts that imply the exclusive right of WL’s text to be authorial, that identify various manuscripts as containing versions we know as A, B and C, or that even indicate that the manuscripts contain “in some significant and absolute way” the same poem. The valorization of WL’s text is an interpretive imposition on the manuscript evidence.
Machan, Medieval Literature: Texts and Interpretation 3-16.
Machan, Tim William.