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Editors Talk about Editing

Insights for Readers, Writers and Publishers


Susan L. Greenberg

The work of «editing» is by and large something that happens behind the scenes, noticed only when it is done badly, or not done at all. There is not much information about what editors do. The result is that editing is not often talked about in its own right – not even by the people who do it. This collection of interviews attempts to fill some of the gaps. The author, a former editor herself, interviews practitioners at the top of their game – from newspapers, magazines, broadcast news, book publishing, scholarly editing, academic publishing and digital curation. The interviewees think out loud about creativity and human judgment; what they have in common and what makes them different; how editing skills and culture can be shared; why editing continues to fascinate; and why any of this might matter.
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Chapter 4: Jerome Mcgann, University of Virginia


← 52 | 53 → Chapter 4


The John Stewart Bryan University Professor,Department of English, University of VirginiaInterview: Friday, December 7, 2012Charlottesville, Virginia

The conversation offered in this chapter is reflexive to a high degree; a discussion about editing with an editing practitioner, who is also an internationally known theorist of editing.

The fields of bibliography and scholarly editing provide an important source of analysis about editing practice. However, debate about scholarly editions usually takes place in isolation from analysis of other kinds of editing. Often, it expresses itself in terms of paired opposites, so that typically, one approach aims to identify the author’s original intentions and produce a work as close to that as possible, while the other puts more emphasis on the importance of selecting and interpreting the text.

McGann’s body of work is an exception to that pattern. In a long career1 he has become known for literary scholarship, such as the Byron edition discussed here (McGann 1980 to 1993); theoretical interventions (for example, 1991) and digital archives (2000). His influence extends across English studies, bibliography, book history and the digital humanities. His most recent book at the time of writing (2014) amplifies the theme of memory.

This trajectory provides an insight into the way theory in the field has evolved over time, partly as a result of his own interventions. In the earlier ← 53 | 54 → work, he describes ‘final authorial intention’ as...

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