University of Virginia Library


Page 44


As the previous sections indicate implicitly, this re-orientation to "orientations to text" was also inspired in part by possibilities recently developed for electronic editing. The flexibility of digital media removes some of the narrow bands constraining a scholar's use of orientations: combinations are now possible that before tended to confuse the work. We began with the notion that an orientation to texts helps one identify the character or nature of the work one is studying and to focus attention on various aspects of a work's inspiration, creation, production, and reception–aspects that help us understand the work as an event or series of events in history. Those understandings of the work also help to give a perspective to editorial activity. In the digital world, one is always working at one remove from the primary materials, which is a disadvantage one can too easily forget, but the advantages are great. A digital scholarly edition does not need to be organized exclusively for the purpose of establishing a single edited text produced according to the priorities of one particular orientation. Several edited texts can be presented as equal alternatives serving different goals. This implies that it is perhaps even more important for editors than it already was to be aware of the distinctive elements and priorities of different orientations. What the concept of orientations also shows is that, important as edited texts are, the object of textual study and of digital presentation does not need to be an edited text. A scholar's orientation to text can organize the facts about the work such that process rather than product is the main focus. An awareness of orientations to text can therefore be useful, not only to the individual scholarly editor who tries to be consistent in his or her approach to reading and editing, but also to editors as a community of scholars with an openness to understanding and respecting other editors' approaches and priorities.