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The Struggle for Shakespeare's Text


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We know Shakespeare's writings only from imperfectly-made early editions, from which editors struggle to remove errors. The New Bibliography of the early twentieth century, refined with technological enhancements in the 1950s and 1960s, taught generations of editors how to make sense of the early editions of Shakespeare and use them to make modern editions. This book is the first complete history of the ideas that gave this movement its intellectual authority, and of the challenges to that authority that emerged in the 1980s and 1990s. Working chronologically, Egan traces the struggle to wring from the early editions evidence of precisely what Shakespeare wrote. The story of another struggle, between competing interpretations of the evidence from early editions, is told in detail and the consequences for editorial practice are comprehensively surveyed, allowing readers to discover just what is at stake when scholars argue about how to edit Shakespeare.


Introduction; 1. The fall of pessimism and the rise of New Bibliography, 1902–42; 2. New techniques and the Virginian School: New Bibliography, 1939–68; 3. New Bibliography, 1969–79; Intermezzo: the rise and fall of the theory of memorial reconstruction; 4. New Bibliography critiqued and revised, 1980–90; 5. The 'new' New Bibliography: the Oxford Complete Works, 1978–89; 6. Materialism, unediting and version-editing, 1990–99; Conclusion: the twenty-first century; Appendix I. How early-modern books were made: a brief guide; Appendix II. Table of Shakespeare editions up to 1623; Appendix III. Editorial principles of the major twentieth-century Shakespeare editions; Works cited.


" He is particularly skeptical about the use of literary theory to drive textual arguments, and his introduction pleads for an end to identity politics and the attributing of base motives to editors."
-- Studies in English Literature

"Overall, however, Egan's book is an important study that, as I have said , is a must read for anyone interested in tracing the still evolving trends in editing Shakespeare's texts."
--The Shakespeare Newsletter

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