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6. Aesthetic/Commercial Orientation

Although, as noted above, the aesthetic approach is seldom countenanced any more in scholarly editing, it might be worth pointing out that many editors and readers are attracted to their tasks initially for aesthetic reasons, if aesthetics is defined to include pleasure and the appreciation of skill in language, narrative, or forms—which are not directly related to utility or exposition. Consequently, we believe that aesthetics is relevant to the task of editing, but we acknowledge that it is a difficult aspect upon which to reach consensus and is especially vulnerable to the charge of the eccentricities of personal taste. However, one can posit a difference between an approach to editing that seeks to respect the known aesthetic principles of an author or of a historical publisher, on one hand, and the very different approach, on the other hand, that asks simply, How can we make this old-fashioned work better so that it can have renewed commercial life? The former has a historical dimension for which evidence (not the editor's personal taste) can be adduced. And finally, we believe it is worth pointing out that all the orientations, with their scholarly attention to evidence and the inferences from the evidence that are supported by argument, cannot, for all their efforts, be totally objective or free from the sense that judging amongst variants involves aesthetic principles. However, as previously noted, this subject is too complicated to pursue in this essay.


Almuth Grésillon, "Genèses théâtrales," 266.