Editing the Future of the Middle Ages: Some Speculative Emendations

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The Medieval Colloquium at The University of Virginia
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Emendation has become a dirty word in the study of medieval texts. Especially when modified by "speculative." Best Text editors following on the work of Joseph Bédier reject virtually all emendation as ahistorical and despite a century of advances in textual criticism, the extended controversies regarding George T. Kane and E. Talbot Donaldson's editions of Piers Plowman bear witness to the persistent unease brought on by "speculation." This panel invites papers that rethink the nature of emendation in the broadest terms. We hope that papers will use a historical crux--be it textual, bibliographic or hermeneutic--to think about wider issues relating to the future of the study of medieval culture. We hope that our presenters will, in a sense, take on the role of the medieval scribe and offer their own emendation. Rather than solving a problem we hope such emendations will catalyze new ways of thinking about old problems. While most historical inquiry rightly focuses on the past, we are asking our panelists to speculate as to the future of that past. We hope that panelists will ground their speculations in material evidence but not constrain themselves to addressing exclusively material concerns. Perhaps one paper might wish to speculate on the nature of a missing link in a chain of transmission and what the implications of that link might be. Perhaps one paper might seek to understand the the editorial history of a specific text as part of that text's history of scribal transmission rather than separable entity. As various digital advances alter the field of medieval studies on a near daily basis, we think this a perfect time to look closely at our material past so as to think critically about its future. We hope this panel brings together voices from various disciplines and creates a space for a fresh discourse, a discourse that sees emendation, or speculation regarding gaps, as basic to all scholarship and as such seeks to understand how and why we speculate about the past and what those speculations might entail for the future. Ideally this panel will draw papers from a broad range of disciplines and eras and in doing so focus attention modes emendation their consequences, local and global. Professor A.S.G. Edwards will be responding.