The Stuff of Fiction: Digital Editing, Multiple Drafts and the Extended Mind

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Dirk Van Hulle


Since genetic criticism regards modern manuscripts as a research object in and of itself, it objects to an editorial practice that treats manuscript studies as a mere tool towards the making of a scholarly edition. Still, an exchange of ideas between genetic criticism and scholarly editing can be mutually beneficial and may work in two directions. This essay therefore starts from digital scholarly editing, more specifically from recent developments in computer-assisted collation of multiple draft versions, to see how it can contribute to the study of modern manuscripts. The argument is that the combination of textual scholarship and genetic criticism can be an effective instrument for literary critics, enabling them to study the material aspect of the writing process as an inherent part of what cognitive philosophy calls “the extended mind”; and that this extensiveness does not only apply to the writer’s mind, but that an awareness of manuscripts as a crucial part of the “stuff of fiction” can also contribute to a better understanding of literary evocations of the fictional mind.

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