American Poetry in the Age of Whitman and Dickinson

Posts Tagged ‘Robert C. Ryan

In Praise of the Variant

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One of the more depressing things I’ve read lately:

Jo Ann Boydston, the editor of the complete thirty-seven-volume edition of John Dewey’s writings, dolefully reports that to her knowledge not a single study of Dewey has ever referred for evidence to the enormous end-of-volume apparatus of rejected variants.

That’s from D. C. Greetham’s 1996 PMLA article “Textual Forensics,” a nice summary of the state of textual studies at the end of the last century.

Boydston’s comment gave me an idea for a new feature here … “Variant of the Month.” A chance to draw some attention to the unsung labor of editors, and a chance also to share to some of the delights of a scholarly edition.

With specific regard to nineteenth-century American poetry, the pool of available authors will not be very large. But there are still some options. Dickinson and Whitman, of course; and Emerson too. Also Stephen Crane, Jones Very … and there’s an interesting variant noted on occasion in a reading edition. I may even mention a variant I’ve discovered on my own.

But since Melville’s poems have only just been published as part of the Northwestern-Newberry edition of The Writings of Herman Melville, I thought I’d begin with something from that volume, which was edited by Robert C. Ryan, Harrison Hayford, Alma MacDougall Reising, and G. Thomas Tanselle. [1] Read the rest of this entry »