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3. Temporal Orientation

The temporal point of view abandons "documentary integrity" as the prime or essential element of text, opening a space between "document" and "temporal stage of development" for the idea that the "text of the work" and the "text of the document" might not be the same at any particular moment in the development of the work; the document can thus mis-represent the moment of its inscription. The temporal approach is often less interested in the agent of change than in the cultural moment or stage of development. In the case of classical and medieval works, where the surviving evidence often post-dates composition of the work by decades or centuries, the concepts of "period of origination" or "period of inscription" enters more plausibly than "moment in time"—editors are often keenly aware of anachronisms in scribal copies. And yet for works surviving in an array of authorial or authorized versions a sense of the moment in time could give way to ideas about duration through time, where instead of asking why a change was introduced one could focus on the question why some text was replicated without change? For works represented by compositional and revision materials, the temporal view might locate the work in a developmental path from inception to final or last form of the work either (a) as a series of production endpoints or (b) as a continuous scale of genetic development.

(a) The productive approach sees the work as a series of static or snapshot efforts to capture the work to be studied synchronically at specified moments in time, usually as fixed, more or less well, in some document.

(b) A diachronic alternative sees the work as a creative development through time always progressively approaching (not necessarily reaching) a final endgame so that stages along the way are just provisional. Since for both of these views the "moment in time" or "sequence of development"—not the document itself—is the central issue, it follows that the record of that temporality, as captured in the document, is potentially faulty and therefore liable to correction or emendation. Here Pietro Beltrami's notion of the "witness text" enters to suggest that for any given time, the nearest document might be flawed.8 Here, too, Tanselle's distinction between the text of the work and the text of the document performs the same


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office.9 The temporal orientation, like the documentary, is depersonalized—does not discriminate primarily among those persons responsible for the text. The primary question is what was the text supposed by its producers to be at some moment in time?


Pietro Beltrami distinguished three orientations: the manuscript orientation, the witness orientation, and the text orientation. He explained that an editor can adhere to the manuscript text, or can fix attention on the moment that is witnessed by a document, or the editor might fix upon some other notion of the work and search through all the surviving texts for evidence of what that "text orientation" would produce eclectically ("Textual Criticism and Historical Dictionaries," Presentation at the ESTS convention in Florence, Italy, Nov. 2010).