Whereas the author has received considered attention, the editor, it could be said, has not yet fully arrived. Indeed, the profession and practice of editing remain somewhat hazily defined. This elusiveness is due to numerous factors, such as lingering romantic views of authorship and creative inspiration, the subtle ways editing works behind the scenes to ensure and improve communication, and the lack of a comprehensive theory that encompasses all time periods and genres. The goal of Susan L. Greenberg’s A Poetics of Editing is to place editing squarely under the spotlight and uncover this ‘hidden art.’ Built on years of Greenberg’s personal experience overlaid with a scholarly perspective, it proposes a framework for joining together the practice and theory of editing that can cut across media forms and time periods.
As the paper codex is becoming increasingly supplemented, if not yet entirely replaced, by digitally mediated textuality, Jonathan Senchyne redirects our attention to the specific sense of materiality that writers and readers experienced as characteristic of literary communication until the late nineteenth century. Rather than focusing on print or publication history as such, however, his monograph The Intimacy of Paper in Early and Nineteenth-Century American Literature sheds light on something that even book historians have often tended to pass over in silence: the reliance of print on paper, the inconspicuous matter on which letters become visible. Over the past fifteen years, several studies have begun to tackle the subject of paper from a range of different perspectives, among them Kevin McLaughlin’s Paperwork: Fiction and Mass Mediacy in the Paper Age (2005), Lisa Gitelman’s Paper Knowledge: Toward a Media History of Documents (2014), or Maryanne Dever’s Paper, Materiality and the Archived Page (2019). What makes Senchyne’s contribution both distinctive and important is his literary-historical approach to reading paper in relation to the nature of its production.
Professor Mayer’s book is an insightful, eye-opening exploration of the emergence of a new type of literary celebrity at the beginning of the nineteenth century based on close readings of Walter Scott’s correspondence. Considered by Byron himself as “the first man of his time,” Scott is an ideal case study due to the immense popularity he enjoyed during his lifetime as a result of his poetic and novelistic output, especially the Waverley cycle. Beautifully contextualized through comparisons with predecessors such as Pope and Johnson, contemporaries such as Wordsworth, Southey, and Byron, and successors such as Dickens, Hardy, and Hemingway, this study sheds considerable light on the evolution of literary celebrity in general and on the brand of celebrity that Walter Scott embodied in the public consciousness of his time in particular.
In the introduction to Textual Distortion, a volume of essays published as part of the English Association’s “Essays and Studies” series, Elaine Treharne notes that the process of distortion “remains resolutely associated with the undesirable, the lost or the deceptive” (1). In response to this primarily negative view of distortion, the nine essays that Treharne and her co-editor, Greg Walker, have assembled in this collection document the “varied, dynamic and often positive role of distortion in the transmission and reception of texts” (5). Many of the essays approach distortion from a bibliographic or book-historical perspective, examining the distorting effects of various processes of textual transmission, such as scribal intervention, photo-facsimile reproduction, and digital manipulation. Other essays treat distortion as a mediating factor in the transmission of historical and literary discourse.
Guthery’s objective is “to inquire as to what the books Athenaeum members borrowed can tell us about the influence they had on their community” during the period 1827 to 1850 (xix, 17). However, his concern is not solely with who those readers were and what books they borrowed, but the connections between what they read, what they built, and what they wrote. He then goes beyond this to explore what the specific books they selected (and did not select) can tell us about what they sought and what they valued in that literature and how they thought about what they were reading and building, making this truly a unique contribution to the academic literature.