18 jul. 2006

What if there were a poet who presented terrificly complex textual problems. Inauthentic or lost poems, poems in multiple versions, really bad editions, etc... Then wouldn't the criticims on this poet, after the poet's death, be devoted mostly to sorting out all these problems? The search for the "truth" of the poet Y's work would be largely a search for the best textual practices.

Suppose poet X also dies, leaving her literary estate in perfect order, with few if any significant textual problems. Then the search for the truth of poet X would be entirely interpretive, not textual. Of course, the search for the truth of poet Y's work would also be interpretive, but nobody would ever get to these interpretive questions. Or rather, all interpretive questions would be filtered through the lens of textual controversies. Did he really write Lost Paradise? How much help did he get from his collaborators? is the 1915 edition more reliable than the 1930 edition?

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