In revising their own texts, or other people’s texts, writers erase the past, remodel it, or reinvent it. They create versions of themselves, and those versions are recorded in the textual identities they create through revision. By studying revision, we are able to see not only how a single writer evolves but also how a culture insists upon certain evolutions, with or without the writer’s consent.
Therefore, the dynamics of revision can take us to the heart of identity formation both in its expressive and repressive strains. What compels a culture to rewrite its texts? How do we track revision in order to “see” or rather “give witness to” revisionary processes? In addressing these problems, digital scholarship can offer far more access to the fluid texts that expose the dynamics of revision and help us confront the necessity of revision in our culture.
John Bryant draws upon examples from revision studies, adaptation, and translation in order to highlight the elements of creativity, appropriation, and cultural difference that are at stake in dealing with the ethics and editing of revision. Along the way, he demonstratse TextLab, the Melville Electronic Library’s revision editing tool, and discusses the ethical as well as editorial dimensions of other imagined tools, such as Melville Remix and How Billy [Budd] Grew.
Bryant is Professor of English at Hofstra University and received his BA. MA, and PhD from the University of Chicago. He has written on Melville, related writers of the nineteenth-century, and textual scholarship. He is also editor of Leviathan: A Journal of Melville Studies. His recent book, Melville Unfolding: Sexuality, Politics, and the Versions of Typee (Michigan 2008), is based on his online fluid-text edition Herman Melville’s Typee. He is currently working on a critical biography, Herman Melville: A Half-Known Life (Wiley) and the NEH-funded Melville Electronic Library (MEL), an online critical archive and “We the People” project.