Bibliographical Approaches to D.H. Lawrence’s “Odour of Chrysanthemums”: Archive Fever for the Text-In-Process

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Marcos Norris

Abstract

This article engages with the theoretical concerns of contemporary textual criticism depicted by Jerome McGann, Peter Shillingsburg, and Paul Eggert through a case study of text-critical approaches to D.H. Lawrence’s short story, “Odour of Chrysanthemums”. I argue that text-critical readings of Lawrence’s tale lend themselves to a Derridean critique of archive fever, where the rigorous archivization of the historical text-document can be read as an unsuccessful attempt to unearth the ontological origins of the text-in-process, a univocal chronology of the author’s intentions over time. A Derridean critique of archive fever in Lawrence criticism poses productive questions to the distinctions contemporary textual criticism draws between, first, text and document, and, second, ideal text and the text-in-process. I show that a bibliographical study of the text-in-process — the close tracking of documentary changes over time — does not actually distance textual critics from the false but alluring notion that the document and the author’s intentions exist in a single state. The text-document, as I refer to it throughout, exists in multiple states over the span of its composition history, but the textual critic performs such a rigorous mapping of its documentary changes that the text-document, in its very multiplicity, takes on a singular form as historical or bibliographical narrative, where singularity is based not on the author’s original or final intentions but on a univocal mapping of the author’s intentions over time.

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