University of Virginia Library

Work in Intangible Media

1. Verbal Work

Works constructed of verbal languages are a useful starting point be-
cause they have been so extensively discussed in the literature of textual
criticism that for many people they constitute a natural frame of refer-
ence for textual questions in general. Yet (or perhaps not surprisingly) the
medium of language is the most mysterious of all media. It would not be
so if it were unquestionably oral, with tangible texts being only the re-
cords (like musical scores) by which the vocal work is recreated. Not only
is it possible, however, to have languages without oral components but
also—and more importantly for present purposes—it is common for au-
thors to expect their works to be read silently, without the spoken sounds
of the words being formed imaginatively in the mind. Of course, some


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writers (and not only poets) do wish the sounds to be heard internally;
but even in those cases, or most of them, the authors feel that the works
have been experienced in their intended medium whether read silently or
aloud. Whatever may be said about the origins of language, in practice it
is a medium that can exist apart from speech. But its written presentation
on a physical surface is not its primary form either: most writings, from
the point of view of their creators, are not visual works, for the works still
exist when presented in different handwriting or typefaces on different
papers. However difficult it is to define the medium of language, one thing
is therefore clear: the medium is intangible. Like all works in intangible
media, verbal works require performance of some kind (oral or internal)
for their realization; and because performances have duration, such works
consist of sequential texts, intended by their creators to be experienced
from a beginning to an end.

One of the problems that these conditions pose for textual criticism is
the likelihood of confusing the work with its means of transmission. When
verbal works are communicated on paper, readers (and even, at times,
the class of readers called textual critics) may think of the works as what
they see rather than as what they silently perform. They may automati-
cally correct a typographical error, for example, without realizing that
other places in the text may also be erroneous (from the point of view of
the author's or the publisher's intention). What textual critics and other
readers have available to them in documentary texts are various attempts,
from various past moments, to provide instructions for recreating a work.
The fact that words and punctuation on paper are perceived by the eye
does not in itself make the text a work of visual art, for the artistry of the
physical design is not normally a part of the intended verbal work. (Punc-
tuation is no more visual from this point of view than the words; it, like
them, is an element of linguistic meaning, transferrable into pauses and
intonations in recited texts.) Authors do at times, however, choose to use
visual effects, creating mixed-media works that employ both a tangible
medium (since the pictorial images and spatial arrangements exist in ink
on paper) and an intangible one (language). The relative proportions of
each medium can vary: at one end, for example, are primarily verbal
works in which some of the text is shaped (like George Herbert's bird-
wings and Lewis Carroll's mouse-tail, or indeed stanza indentations and
spacing), and at the other are primarily visual works in which language is
simply a significant element (like concrete poetry).

Textual criticism, which elucidates these conditions, controls the op-
tions for editors: in the first of these situations, new editions (with critical,
reset texts) are possible so long as the shaping is maintained; in the sec-
ond, where the work is totally dependent on physical presentation, only a
facsimile reprinting could be considered (and not even that if the quality


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of the paper were a part of the work and one were concerned with pre-
serving authorial intention). There is no doubt that the physical presen-
tation of a verbal work conveys information about the cultural milieu in
which the document was produced and can have an influence on readers,
regardless of whether any visual effects were intended by the author. But
many readers have always been interested in authorially intended texts
and make an effort to exclude documentary features that they suspect
were not so intended; thus authorial intention is a factor in the history
of reading. Textual criticism properly studies all these interchanges over
time, but any editions that result will inevitably follow different guidelines
according to whether the focus is on authorial intention or social-cultural

The intended texts of a verbal work and the varying physical texts
aimed at conveying that work are all worthy of study, but understanding
that "the texts of works" and "the texts of documents" are not synony-
mous phrases is central to clear thinking about the texts of works made
of language. This point applies equally to verbal works transmitted in
oral form (as in nonliterate societies, but not only in them), for each oral
rendition is a "document" and not necessarily the work. When the texts
of such performances are written down (as they often are at some point,
if only by anthropologists or other historians), a tangible documentary
record becomes available for analysis by textual critics, supplementing
any ongoing oral tradition.

2. Music

The points that can be made about the nature of verbal works are
directly applicable to thinking about music, even though the medium of
music, sound, is less enigmatic than the ontology of language. What is
immediately comparable about the two is that in each case the notation
present on paper provides instruction for some kind of performance and is
not in itself—except in unusual instances—part of the work of art. Com-
posers do sometimes create scores that are meant to have visual appeal,
but the result is not necessarily a mixed-media work, unless the composer
intended that anyone listening to a performance of the music should also
be looking at the score. Nevertheless, such scores limit the freedom of edi-
tors to alter the design of the notation, in much the same way that shaped
verbal texts do. Another similarity between musical scores and verbal
texts on paper is that each can be the basis for a silent performance as
well as a rendition out loud. Many people are adept at "hearing" music
by reading scores, though when they do so, they are not experiencing the
work in the medium in which its creator intended it to be experienced
(unlike the silent readers of verbal texts). No two performances, silent or
aloud, can ever be precisely identical, for the most that a score (like a


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tangible verbal text) can do is to provide a framework that encompasses,
and delimits, a variety of performances.

The composer Richard Wernick once said, "Conductors and compos-
ers are privileged in that our training has given us the capacity to hear a
piece of music as we see it on the written page. But, unfortunately, there
is an intermediary between the music and the public." This comment was
criticized as "silly" by a writer for the New York Times (John Rockwell,
on 17 December 1989), but one understands what Wernick was getting at:
every performance may depart from what the composer intended. To me,
the problem with Wernick's statement is not the word "unfortunately"
(which bothered Rockwell) but the idea that the musical work is present
on paper and that those trained to read scores can experience "the mu-
sic" directly. Will every trained reader of a score of Wernick's "hear" the
music exactly as Wernick does? Will even Wernick "hear" it the same way
every time he looks at it? In other words, the reader of a score is an "in-
termediary" just as much as a person performing aloud. It is in the nature
of works in intangible media that, however determinate the instructions
for their recreation may be, the texts of the works themselves are always
indeterminate. Textual critics of music have available to them not only
written and printed texts but also evidence of specific performances, both
in anecdotal accounts and in sound recordings. All this material is essen-
tial for following the textual history of a piece of music over time, but only
a part of it is relevant to the study of authorial intention. Editors of music
have to realize, along with editors of verbal works, that no single text can
accommodate all aspects of textual history simultaneously.

And many of those who use or discuss editions of music need (like
readers of verbal editions) to learn more fully what the function of a
scholarly edition is. When Donal Henahan commented (20 March 1983)
on the first volume ( Rigoletto ) of the University of Chicago critical edition
of Verdi, he noted that not every "discovery or interpretation" in the edi-
tion will be "honored" by every performer. "Interpreters," he said, "will
always want to slip the bonds. The eternal struggle between purity and
practicality is not merely inevitable but one of the dynamic forces that
keep the musical world going around." This is a peculiar way to talk about
a scholarly critical edition, especially since Henahan recognizes that the
text is a product of critical judgment throughout and that the editorial
annotation calls attention to many unresolved cruxes. To speak of "slip-
ping the bonds" when one does not "honor" the text, which suggests that
one is being a renegade, fails to acknowledge a primary aim of a scholarly
edition: to give readers evidence for reconsidering the text. The poles of
"purity" and "practicality" (if they are poles) have no meaning in relation
to texts of music, or other works in intangible media. Accepting any text


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(scholarly or not) unquestioningly is not being "pure" but is simply being
negligent; and departing from any text as a result of critical evaluation
is not being "practical" but is simply being responsible—it shows an ac-
ceptance, that is, of the responsibility that follows from understanding the
status of texts as fallible instructions for the recreation of works. Whether
one's goal is a stage of authorial intention (as in the Verdi edition) or a
stage of a work's later development, the makeup of the tangible text is a
matter of judgment, as is the range of performance that seems justified
by it.

Distinguishing between authorial intention and authorial expectation,
which I have often found useful in discussing textual questions relating to
verbal works, can also help to clarify textual dilemmas posed by music.
Thus the amount of interpretive variation and outright embellishment
engaged in by performers is a matter of convention that has differed from
one period to another. Composers of the past naturally expected their
work to be performed in whatever manner was conventional at the time,
but their own textual intentions may have been different. (There is, for
example, reason to believe that Verdi came to disapprove of some of the
embellishments regularly added by singers in his time.) To the extent that
evidence is available, textual criticism and scholarly editions should delin-
eate intended texts as well as those that were actually heard by listeners.

Furthermore, the concept of expectation helps to approach the issues
argued about in the "early-music" debates of recent decades. Composers
clearly expected their works to be performed on the instruments available
in their own time, and they probably thought of the sounds produced by
those instruments when they read music silently. But does it follow, as
"early-music" adherents claim, that one is not being faithful to authorial
intention if one listens to music played on instruments developed later
than the composers' lifetimes? Not necessarily, if one regards composers'
expectations about instruments as a separate matter from their intentions
to have certain notes and interpretive instructions in their scores. The
differing sounds of instruments made at different times are (like varia-
tions in tempo and volume) just one of the variable aspects of individual
performances. As the pianist Malcolm Bilson has pointed out (14 June
1998), instruments have always "played a role in determining interpreta-
tion," and performing a work on instruments of different periods is one
"avenue" for exploring what the music has to offer.

The use of modern instruments for earlier music is not analogous to
the modernizing of verbal texts, an issue that has generated equally ve-
hement debate. Such modernizing normally refers to spelling and punc-
tuation, and the equivalent in music would be the modernizing of the
notation in scores; neither practice is defensible in scholarly editing since


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it deprives readers of textual elements that may be (and often are) relevant
to interpretation. For verbal works, the equivalent of modern instruments
would be modern pronunciation, which also is a feature of performance
encompassed within the framework that is provided by the set of printed
or handwritten instructions (a point not contradicted by the occasional
presence of rhymes or puns that require earlier pronunciation). The aural
texts of performances (including the nature of the sounds produced by
varieties of the "same" instrument) are thus, for the most part, materials
for social textual criticism (dealing with public texts and their reception),
whereas the study of authorial intention is primarily focused on visible
(notated) texts—at least when there is a written tradition that can be con-
nected with the creator(s).

But of course some music, like some verbal work, does not have a
written tradition. Folk music of the past may have been transmitted by
imitation over a long period of time before being written down, and at
present there is music that has not yet been written down (as there was at
any given moment of the past). Performances of pieces that originated in
the past but that are not yet reported in written form or in sound record-
ings (or for which there is an independent living tradition) have a different
status for textual criticism from performances in the present by the person
or persons who are creating or improvising the music as they perform it.
Performances of the first kind provide evidence for recreating intended
texts, whereas those of the second kind constitute the intended works
themselves. Thus jazz, often created in performances of this second type,
is analogous to such verbal (or partially verbal) works as those produced
by performance artists and story-tellers.

The comparison between works of music and those of verbal language
brings to mind another connection: verbal texts are often combined with
musical ones (as in songs and opera) to form mixed-media works. The fact
that in vocal music some sounds are produced by human voices is not
what makes such works mixed, for the voices are simply musical instru-
ments; rather, the mixed-media status of these works is produced by the
presence of words that have meaning apart from the music. (Opera is of
course mixed in a further way because of its use of the physical art of stage
sets and costumes.) Textual criticism of these verbal texts can be pursued
as one would any other verbal text; and, in the case of those written as
separate works (with no thought of their being set to music), variants from
the original texts cannot be considered errors if they were the intended
readings of the creators of the musical-verbal works. The many similari-
ties between literature and music underlie the fact that in musicology as
in literary scholarship there is a tradition of textual study; and many of
the scholars currently engaged in editing music are well versed in the
theoretical writings that editors of literature have produced.


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3. Dance

A work of dance may of course be transmitted by direct instruction
from one choreographer or dancer to another. This kind of transmission,
like the oral transmission of verbal works, presents at any moment the lat-
est stage (or one of the latest stages) in a continuously evolving tradition.
This social product may be judged aesthetically satisfying and is certainly
of importance for cultural history. But another legitimate interest—in the
intentions of the creator(s) of the work—may in many instances be more
accurately conveyed by a physical document, even if the earliest surviving
one does not go back to the time of the creator(s), since the text of any
given document is relatively stable (barring unusual physical deteriora-
tion). In any case, the physical recording of dance texts, like that of music
texts, is obviously desirable. But there is a major difference in the histori-
cal development of such recording in the two arts, for symbolic dance
notation on paper (as opposed to written verbal accounts or printed step
tablature) goes back only to 1700 (the Beauchamp-Feuillet system), and
no one notation system even today has such widespread acceptance as
the now conventional music notation does. It is instructive to look at the
illustrations in Mary Ann Malkin's 2003 Dancing by the Book, which give a
sense of the variety of systems proposed in the eighteenth century.

At present, Labanotation, a system introduced in the 1920s, may be
regarded as the dominant form, having been championed by the Dance
Notation Bureau, which possesses over seven hundred Labanotated scores
(see Erika Kinetz's article, 7 November 2005). The Benesh system, how-
ever, has been favored by the Royal Ballet in London. Although stan-
dardization is helpful, any comprehensible notation is important for the
preservation of individual works. Nijinsky, for example, who was much
interested in the problem, created his own notation and on more than
one occasion wrote out a score for L'Après-midi d'un faune (as reported by
Jennifer Dunning, 9 December 1989). Textual critics of dance may in
some cases have variant texts on paper at their disposal; and any dance
score—like any piece of musical or verbal notation—may contain erro-
neous readings, identifiable both through an intimate knowledge of what
is stylistically plausible for the choreographer in question and through
recourse to such external sources as reviews and other contemporary

If the search for appropriate notation has been a significant strand
in dance history, another—not surprisingly—has been experimenta-
tion with technology that can record movement. For many decades now,
dances have routinely been filmed or videotaped, often from multiple
angles. More recently, digital photography has been used, and there has
been research on software (such as LabanDancer) to convert scores into
animation. Computer programs are used by some choreographers as an


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aid to composition; and stages of their work, if saved, can give textual
critics access to drafts. Motion-capture technology can create a digital
record of a performance in a sequence of shifting lines and shapes, which
can in turn be given vestigial human form. Trisha Brown's how long is an
example of a dance piece that includes a video projection of a digital re-
cord of the movements being made simultaneously by the human dancers.
(It was discussed by Matthew Mirapaul on 13 April 2005.) A film record
of a performance of this piece would thus also preserve a second kind
of record of the movements involved. There have been choreographers
who regard pictorial representations of dance as perhaps more valuable
than scores. Martha Graham's admiration for certain still photographs of
dancers is well known; and Murray Louis recently expressed satisfaction
with the preservation of his legacy through videotapes of his repertory
(reported by Anna Kisselgoff on 17 December 2005).

One can understand how still and motion photography can be crucial
for the study of an individual dancer's technique. And of course the tex-
tual criticism of dance must take into account every kind of documenta-
tion that exists for any given work. But the idea that a visual record of a
dance might be superior to a score, or even render it unnecessary, simply
because the dance is a visual form of art, betrays a misunderstanding of
the relation of work and performance in the performing arts. Each visual
record preserves only a single performance, which is an interpretation of
a set of instructions; every performance is a postulation of the work, and
the instructions accommodate them all, except when an interpretation
goes beyond what can be regarded as implicit in the instructions. The
instructions themselves may be consciously altered over time, as differ-
ent generations adapt the work to their own sensibilities. But for anyone
interested in authorial intention, even a film of a performance directed or
performed by the choreographer has its deficiencies, since it still reflects
only one occasion and since (even with multiple cameras) it cannot show
everything that could be observed by viewers of the live performance.
The situation is precisely the same as the one that exists in music, where
no one performance can be a substitute for the score. Muriel Topaz, one
of the directors of the Dance Notation Bureau, made the point well at
a 1962 conference: a dance, she said, like works in any of the other per-
forming arts, has "a substance, a compositional integrity that transcends
the initial [and, one should add, any other] performance" (quoted in Jack
Anderson's obituary of her, 1 May 2003). That transcendent integrity is
distilled in the score or scores, which encompass various interpretations
reflected in performance.

Topaz's comment was concerned with the originating choreographer's
intention, but it could be applied to the revising vision of later choreogra-
phers who alter a piece. Pictorial evidence is of course basic for studying


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the history of performance and thus of reception. But for the history of
intended texts, as they changed over time because of shifting intentions
on the part of the creator of a piece as well as of others, scores are of
crucial importance, when they exist (though pictorial evidence should in
any case be scrutinized critically for clues to such intentions not available
elsewhere). Scores may contain music notation and words along with the
dance notation if the work includes music and/or words (sung or spoken),
as most works of dance do. The music and/or words may have their own
independent textual history, but once they are joined with dance, the cho-
reographer's intention for them takes precedence over earlier intentions,
and what might have been regarded as a textual error in the music or
the words under other circumstances would not be erroneous if intended
by the choreographer. Nevertheless, a dance score may contain errors in
any of its conjoined elements, and a knowledge of the textual history of
each of those elements gives an editor the basis for making emendations.
What may seem to be an error in the musical text may be shown to be
an error indeed by analyzing it in conjunction with the dance notation
at the same point. The situation is in principle the same as that faced by
textual critics of all mixed-media works, whether or not the elements in
them have separate histories.

4. Film, Video, and Digital Art

Confusion about the distinction between work and document in the
field of film is epitomized by Andrew Pollack's article (16 March 1998)
on the issues raised by digital film restoration. He points out that in an
opening scene of Gone with the Wind there is a gap between a flagpole
and the building to which it is supposed to be attached (showing that the
scene was not a natural shot but was produced by special effects, ineptly
handled). This error can be corrected digitally by scanning the frames
involved and then copying and inserting certain pixels. But Pollack raises
a question: "Should the flaw be fixed or retained as an intrinsic part of the
original masterpiece?" The trouble with his question is that the "master-
piece"—that is, the work—does not necessarily consist of everything that
is on the film The levitating flagpole is no more a part of Gone with the
(the work) than the typographical error "fastidions" (for "fastidious")
in the original American edition of Moby-Dick is a part of that work. Both
are obvious flaws in the documents that make possible the transmission of
those two works, but they are not parts of the works as intended by an
one at any time. A printed edition of a verbal work, consisting of multiple
supposedly (but not quite) identical copies, is analogous to the copies of
a film made for distribution to theaters: in both cases, the multiplicity of
copies allows for the simultaneous experiencing of the work at different
locations, even though there is no guarantee in either case that the cop-


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ies, or the performances based on them (the silent or oral reading in the
one case, the projection in the other), are the same. This point proves (if
proof is needed) that cinematic works employ an intangible medium: the
work is not a roll of celluloid but rather the sequence of moving images
(now usually supplemented by sound) that it enables us to recreate. But we
can never be sure whether the basis for this recreation is accurate—and
whether the details of the projection lead to what was intended at any
previous time.

Intention is of course not the only possible aim, but people often seem
to think that a choice has to be made between preserving the document
and restoring authorial (or some other) intention. Pollack quotes and
paraphrases Michael Friend (director of the film archive at the Academy
of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) as follows: "The goal should be to
'restore the original achievement,' not the presumed original intention
of the film maker." The statement would be clearer if Friend had said
"document" instead of "achievement"; but the main point to be made
about his comment is that there is no need to choose between the goals.
It is always important for historical study to have the documents that
were the basis for public showings in the past; but critically emended texts
enable a fuller appreciation of the filmmaker's artistry. Another archivist
opposed to editorial alteration also confuses the discussion. Pollack quotes
Richard R. May (vice president of film preservation for Warner Brothers)
as saying, "To change something just because we have the technology to
do it, I am, and I think other archivists are, against it." Obviously the
existence of technology is not in itself an appropriate reason for making
a change; but when technology makes possible the correction of an error,
it is a valuable tool for the study of artistic intentions.

The matter of technical knowledge is worth pausing over for a mo-
ment. The fact that digital technology did not exist when Gone with the
was made does not mean that using it to correct the flagpole error
is an act of modernizing—for the correct flagpole image was achievable
by special-effects technology in 1939. For the same reason there can be no
objection to using modern technology to add an animal's missing foot in
one frame of Fantasia. It is wrong to object to this kind of emendation
by regarding it as "akin to efforts to fix the poor sense of perspective in pre-
Renaissance paintings" (a view reported by Pollack). Restoring what was
intended at a past time is not at all the same as imposing a more recent
visual vocabulary on a work from the past.

There have been, however, some attempts at film alteration that are
indeed akin to revising pre-Renaissance perspective. The two best-known
ones are probably stretch-printing and colorizing. The former attempts
to smooth out the jerky, stylized movements in some silent films (such as
Chaplin's) by repeating every second or third frame (see Walter Kerr's


Page 13
criticism of this practice, 1 July 1984). Colorizing obviously tries to make
black-and-white films look as if they had been shot in color (the subject of
many complaints in the Times, such as those by Vincent Canby on 2 and
30 November 1986). Neither of these techniques truly achieves its aim;
but even if they were successful, they would be unjustifiable to anyone
interested in authorial intention, for both involve changes in the visual
language used by the filmmaker. Whether that language was employed by
necessity or by choice (whether, for example, black-and-white photogra-
phy was used in a film of 1920 or one of 1970), it was what the filmmaker
was working with to express a vision. Those who defend stretch-printing
and colorization without admitting that new works are thereby created
put themselves in a position just as indefensible as those who think that
the spelling and punctuation of a verbal work can be modernized without
affecting meaning.

In other words, a distinction must be made between, on the one hand,
altering the cinematic vocabulary of a film (which is an act of adapta-
tion, not a historical undertaking) and, on the other, correcting errors,
reincorporating unauthorized deletions, or restoring degraded images (all
of which aim to recover authorial intention). The latter category is il-
lustrated by two "critical editions" of classic films that were unveiled in
New York within a few days of each other in early 1989. On 30 January,
a restored Gone with the Wind brought back the intended colors: a new
negative had been made in a two-year process that involved combining
the three original negatives (each for a different dye), thus resulting in new
prints that were faithful to the original intention, unlike the degraded and
unstable film stocks that had been used for showings in previous decades.
On 8 February, a reconstructed Lawrence of Arabia restored twenty minutes
of footage that had been deleted without David Lean's permission; it also
corrected such errors as the reversed printing of the second reel (which
had caused Lawrence's wristwatch to switch from one wrist to the other).
(See the articles by Max Alexander and Janet Maslin on 29 January 1989.)
These two "editions" show how the properly researched alteration of a
received film text can produce a version that is closer to the intention of
a director at a particular past time, just as the scholarly emendation of
documentary verbal texts, when undertaken with a historical goal like the
restoration of authorial intention, can take readers back to certain past
moments more faithfully than can the documents that physically survive
from the past. In both cases, given the relation of documents to works in
these arts, the historic documents need not be damaged in the process of
creating new texts.

The fact that Lean did not approve of the cuts made in Lawrence of
points to a major strand of film history that must be investigated
by textual critics. Just as authors of verbal works have often felt that their


Page 14
artistic goals were compromised by the alterations demanded by publish-
ers, many film directors have been angered but powerless in the face of
deletions required by studios. The changes in each case are of interest for
what they reveal about the cultural climate of the times that produced
them, but textual critics will also wish to understand the stages of textual
evolution that preceded publication or public release. Whether the evi-
dence that leads to such knowledge can support the production of new
texts varies from case to case, but in general one may say that the editor of
a verbal work may more often be able to recreate the text of a deleted pas-
sage than the editor of a cinematic work can, for even the survival of the
script of lost footage does not in itself make possible the reassembly of all
that would be required to reshoot it. Rarely can one expect to duplicate
even the limited remaking that happened during the re-editing of Lawrence
of Arabia:
the original actors were asked to re-record lost portions of the
soundtrack. That such an event took place underscores the mixed-media
nature of cinema and video, allowing for the separate reconsideration and
alteration of the soundtrack and the images.

Orson Welles once said that the only film he was "allowed" to com-
plete as he wished was Citizen Kane; his intentions for the others can be
reclaimed only in varying degrees. One can write about his aims for The
Magnificent Ambersons
, but without the lost footage one cannot produce a
new text. For Touch of Evil, however, there is not only a surviving preview
print, which includes some later deleted material (fifteen minutes' worth),
but also a memorandum by Welles detailing what he found unsatisfac-
tory in the film as released. With those materials available, Walter Murch
was able to prepare a new "edition" (for 1998 release, forty years after
the original) that incorporates digital repairs, restoration of cut scenes,
deletion of scenes added by the studio, a different structuring, and the
replacement of Henry Mancini's music (the removal of which allowed the
recovery of a suppressed layer of sound effects under it). (Murch's account
of how his version follows Welles's memo "scrupulously" appeared on
6 September 1998.)

Despite the expense of such restoration, there are other notable ex-
amples, such as the 1993 re-editing of A Streetcar Named Desire, similarly
made possible not only by the survival of excised footage but also by
external sources, including Elia Kazan's autobiography. (See Bernard
Weinraub's report, 16 September 1993.) This kind of careful recreation
of directorially intended film texts is to be encouraged, and the advent of
videocassette distribution of films for home viewing provided additional
occasions for undertaking re-editing. A film like Angel Heart, which Alan
Parker was forced to cut in order to receive an "R" rather than an "X"
rating, was released in 1987 as a video with the uncut text. The trend
toward providing home viewers with texts not available to theater audi-


Page 15
ences has expanded with the now seemingly established custom of in-
cluding both commentary and excised footage on the digital video disks
(DVDs) of commercial films. These disks have in effect become what are
called documentary editions in the field of verbal-text editing: they aim
to present an unaltered reproduction of a received text, accompanied by
annotation and related documentary texts.

I should add immediately, however, that the main text is "unaltered"
in the sense that its constituent elements have not been changed; but the
transfer from film to DVD, with the result that the work is viewed on
a small (or relatively small) rather than a large screen, may in itself in
many cases be a departure from authorial intention. This point does not
of course apply to works made for video and computer-monitor viewing
in the first place. The textual criticism of early television works is compli-
cated by the fact that before the late 1940s there was no adequate means
for preserving them and that the kinescope technology that followed was
not very satisfactory. Early digital art poses a somewhat different problem
for historical study: whereas there was no difficulty copying it, the
programs and equipment for retrieving it sometimes became obsolete and
unavailable. But despite the technological differences between celluloid
film, videotape, and digital disks, the theoretical framework for textual
criticism is the same. What is preserved in each visual document is not
simply (as with recordings of music and films of dance) the record of an
individual performance; rather it is (when displayed) a version of the work
itself—that is, the version of it represented by the particular copy of the
physical film being used. Nevertheless, the uncertainties attaching to the
constitution of all works in intangible media remain present, since one
may still question the content of the physical document and the manner of showing it.

Mention of television and digital art requires a brief word about
broadcasting—that is, the transmission (by radio waves, telephone, cable,
and the like) of a visual or aural work from a central source to any number
of locations simultaneously. Broadcasting is both a means of reproduction
(as when a movie made for theaters is telecast or a concert is radiocast)
and a means of original dissemination (as when a made-for-television
documentary is released on a television network or when a work of digi-
tal art is mounted on the artist's website). Broadcasting enables a work
to be experienced in multiple places at the same time (given appropriate
receiving equipment), without the need to transport any documents (like
scripts, scores, or films) to those places. And it does not always require au-
diences to be available at given tunes, since the internet and on-demand
television channels allow viewers to choose their own times for looking at
particular works. Although there are obviously significant differences be-
tween broadcasting and other means of bringing visual and aural works to


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the public, the chief difference affecting textual criticism is the increased
difficulty of ascertaining the variant texts that have been experienced.
Individual television stations, for example, may alter the programs they
receive from their network headquarters (especially by making deletions),
and each viewer's television set or computer monitor may display the
material somewhat differently. Yet so little of this information may be
recoverable as to hamper severely the writing of comprehensive textual
histories of works that have been broadcast.

5. Drama and Performance Art

It is not surprising that textual critics of literature have written ex-
tensively about drama, since plays are often read in printed form
and since dramatic works—especially those by Shakespeare and his
contemporaries—have figured heavily in the development of English-
language textual criticism. Whereas earlier textual critics and editors of
Renaissance drama focused on authorial intention (treating plays as they
did nondramatic literature), some recent scholars have been more inter-
ested in the performance texts of plays, arguing that drama is essentially
a collaborative art. Although it is true that drama, like all performing
arts, cannot normally be experienced in its intended form without col-
laborative effort, it does not follow that playwrights' intentions are neces-
sarily superseded by what emerges from the production process. Many
playwrights, even when they participate in that so-called "development,"
are not fully sympathetic with the resulting evolution of their plays. Ter-
rence McNally once said, "I worry that in the process of developing my
new play I lose it" (7 December 1986). And Andrew Bergman, noting
that movies "get filtered through other sensibilities," wanted to create a
play that would, he said, "be my voice purely, the way a novel is." He
rejected the idea of writing a screenplay: "I didn't want to have to open it
up and put some action in it where I don't want to" (reported by Mervyn
Rothstein, 12 April 1986). Bergman may have been unrealistic in imagin-
ing the amount of control he would have in the theater, but he made his
point of view very clear.

A celebrated example of a dispute over the alteration of a playwright's
intentions is the lawsuit brought by Samuel Beckett's American publishers
and lawyers against the American Repertory Theater, whose director,
Joanne Akalaitis, wished to set Endgame in a subway station rather than
an empty room. Partly in response to this event, New York University
in March 1985 held a panel discussion entitled "Authors versus Direc-
tors: Who Has the Right of Interpretation?" Opinions were expressed on
both sides (described by Samuel G. Freedman, 14 March 1985), but not
much could have been expected from a discussion responding to such
an unenlightened question. Thus John Guare's comment—"Theater is


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a collaborative art. But the playwright can choose who he or she wants
to collaborate with"—was not helpful, being limited to performances of
works by living playwrights (or during the life of a copyright) and over-
simplifying the issues even for those cases. "Interpretation" by performers
(whether or not so instructed by directors or authors) is a natural part of
the recreation of works in intangible media. The key point for discussion
should have been how to draw the line between interpretation that is in
keeping with the author's intention and interpretation that goes beyond
it and creates a different work. If the goal of a performance is compliance
with authorial intention, the range of permissible interpretation is usually
determined by the author-derived script, which in general (making allow-
ances for errors and variants) is the primary set of authorial guidelines,
subsuming certain kinds of interpretation. Thus the pacing of the action,
the exact brightness and tone of the lighting, and the actors' manner of
speaking can in many instances vary without violating the guidelines. But
a change that contravenes explicitly stated directives (such as moving the
setting of Beckett's play from a bare room to a subway station) is an act
of "interpretation" not in line with authorial intention.

If authorial intention is not a concern, directors are of course free to
make such changes or more drastic ones (at least for works out of copy-
right). And authorial intention need not be, and certainly is not, always
the aim: works in intangible media can be expected to undergo all man-
ner of changes in their performed texts over the years. Alterations not in
line with authorial intention may seem aesthetic improvements to some
people, and there is no reason in principle to disapprove of such changes.
What may legitimately be deplored, however, is confused thinking about
what does, or does not, conform with authorial intention and thus about
whether or not a given performance is within the matrix of possibilities
embodied in an authorial text.

The range of those possibilities varies in inverse proportion to the
explicitness of the stage directions and set descriptions. Some playwrights
compose extremely detailed paragraphs of such commentary, which in
published form make the plays read almost as novels but also provide sub-
stantial insight into how the playwright visualized stage presentation. The
use of furniture and other physical objects in staging is one indication of
the mixed-media nature of drama, for such settings resemble installation
art; but in drama, where physical details are usually ancillary, some of
those details can be altered without violating the guidelines of the script,
whereas in an installation any change of a detail (except one aimed at
correcting an error) would compromise the artist's intended text. (These
points obviously apply to stage settings in opera as well.) Controversy
has recently arisen as to whether directors should be granted copyrights
for their staging: playwrights believe that such copyrights would limit


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their control over their plays (the issue is commented on by Jesse Green,
29 January 2006). But since any given staging would normally not be the
only one consistent with the authorially intended script (and might well be
inconsistent with it), any copyrighted staging could not logically be tied to
the copyright of the play, and permission to perform the play would not
entail the use of that particular staging.

Generally speaking, then, the consequential alteration of settings is an
example of a directorial change that would depart from authorial inten-
tion; but the exact pronunciation of the words would not—except when
a particular dialect is specifically indicated—be a matter controlled by
the concept of an authorially intended text. The 2004 Globe Theatre
production of Romeo and Juliet in what was thought to be Elizabethan
pronunciation was naturally an enlightening experiment in historical re-
construction, just as there is a valid historical interest in hearing a piece
of music played on instruments from the composer's time; but in neither
case are those precise sounds dictated by authorial intention. Similarly,
a filmed record of a dramatic performance, even one in which the play-
wright was involved, does not supersede (though it may well supplement)
a printed text, any more than a film of a dance work can replace choreo-
graphic notation. In a cinematic work, of course, the angles of the shots
selected for inclusion, as well as the pacing of the alternation between
close-ups and more distant views, constitute the work; but for dance and
drama, a film is only one limited record of one performance—and the
performance itself cannot demonstrate all the possibilities inherent in the
score or script.

Performance art presents a somewhat different situation in that nor-
mally the performer and the creator of the spoken language are the same
person. (Lecturing is clearly one category of performance art.) There
may or may not be a script or outline, but in any case whatever the per-
former does and says reflects authorial intent, except in those instances
where a mistake is made or where the performer is reluctantly conform-
ing to the advice of someone else. Deciding when these situations obtain
is one of the judgments that a textual critic must make. Similarly, when
a performer-author adapts the language and action to a specific local
situation, the textual critic must consider whether the adaptation is a
departure from the essential work or whether the work encompasses all
such variants that occur in individual performances. (The textual criti-
cism of performance art, in other words, entails much the same process
of thought as that applicable to jazz.) Filmed records of performance
works are in one sense only documentation, since the work itself is the
live performance. Yet these records have a different status from the filmed
documentation of a conventional play, for the variants preserved in them
(and perhaps nowhere else) may be parts of the intended work as much


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as if they had been written into a script. From the point of view of autho-
rial intention, the work may comprise all (or many) of its variant perfor-
mances; this observation, however, could be made about a conventional
play only by thinking of the work as a social product rather than as a
reflection of individual authorial intention. Sport, which involves impro-
visation within clearly defined frameworks and plans, may be regarded as
a genre—predominantly collaborative—of performance art; the textual
history of a sporting event takes into account not only the various docu-
mentary records of what happened but also the variations that occur,
as a result of editorial decision or the equipment employed, when those
records in visual media are shown on different occasions.