I once sent a posting to Humanist about objects and electronic text editing and as the thread progressed I was reminded of a formulation from Owen Feltham: “Contemplation is necessary to generate an object, but action must propagate it.”
The two ways (vita contemplativa and vita activa) bring to mind a statement by Jerome McGann in his essay “The Rationale of Hypertext”
To the imagination, the materialities of text (oral, written, printed, electronic) are incarnational not vehicular forms.
To be found in Electronic Text: Investigations in Theory and Method. Ed. Kathryn Sutherland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997 (p. 19).
I am intrigued by the possibilities of recasting McGann’s exclusionary dichotomy into a pair of allied pursuits (incarnation-contemplation and vehicle-action). The question takes on a hermeneutical hue: just where does the encounter between the horizon of the reader and the horizon of the author take place?
The answer may require a whole (social) renegotiation of what it means to contemplate versus to act upon a text. I suspect that the vexed question of the relations between powers of abstraction and embodied knowledge is at play.
The relations are not likely to be a one-way street. And this has bearing on what is involved in the telos of editing. I turn to Julia Flanders, “The Body Encoded: Questions of Gender and the Electronic Text” (which we find p. 129 in Electronic Text: Investigations in Theory and Method) for a recovery of a history of what were deemed the stakes in editing. She draws on Stephanie H. Jed Chaste Thinking: The Rape of Lucretia and the Birth of Humanism (1989) to trace and critique a spirit/flesh dichotomy at play in textual editing:
The organizing terms of this relationship revolve around a familiar binary of body and spirit: each physical text, the manuscript or printed book, is a particular concrete carrier of a universalized and disembodied textuality, the “text of the author” which may be fully represented in one physical object, in many, or in none at all. Within this schema the physical object, in a manner familiar to any student of neoclassical aesthetics, is subject to corruption and debasement, its very physicality and particularity drawing it towards the realm of the monstrous and the deviant. The task of the scholar and editor, then, is to discern the universal text within the various documents which instantiate it, and by patient study and labour produce a new — but also originary and authoritative — witness which perfectly transmits the “text of the author”. In Jed’s example, these texts are the foundational documents by which republican Florence was to construct a public ideology based on an assertion of lineage from ancient republican Rome (p. 75)
Of course the story does not stop here.
And so for day 2402