In the chapter “Editing as a Theoretical Pursuit” from Radiant Textuality, Jerome McGann considers how scholarly editing can be a theory-based activity rather than a straightforward attempt to provide a faithful version of a particular text (the dreaded “factive obligations” ). He argues that electronic textual editing can be especially fruitful for theoretical editing, because it can blend the procedures of documentary and critical editing. To demonstrate his argument, McGann uses the creation of The Rosetti Archive as an example. He cites the challenges and “failures” faced, and suggests that “In the end, not despite but because of these events, one grows to realize how to imagine what you don’t know” (82). This imagining of the unknown is in part due to the poiesis or specific construction inherent to electronic edition creation. Rather than theory-as-speculation, McGann proposes that theoretical editing is theory-as-building / imagining. Overall, McGann urges us to consider the creation of digital artifacts as theoretical embodiments.
McGann, Jerome. 2001. “Editing as a Theoretical Pursuit.” Radiant Textuality: Literary Studies After the World Wide Web, 75–97. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.