Schreiner letters & manuscripts – news

Schreiner letters & manuscripts – news

Research activity over the last week has been focused on writing an article which provides an analysis of two linked ‘avant-textes’ of Olive Schreiner. This idea is connected with what is called genetic criticism, an analytical attention to the notes, fragments, drafts, notebooks etc which come before a ‘finished text’. Imagine, for example, Tolstoy’s War and Peace (and in this case Olive Schreiner’s From Man to Man) being like the tip of an iceberg. It is everything beneath the surface that genetic criticism is interested in bringing it to analytical sight. There are a good few Schreiner avant-textes still in existence and a few years ago when I held a Research Fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas in Austin and was concurrently on research leave working on Schreiner’s letters, I made full and exact transcriptions of all or most of them, in gaps between working on her letters. These are what are called ‘variorum’ transcriptions, meaning that they are as close to the manuscript originals as it is possible to get without actually providing photographs of the original handwritten manuscripts. Working on them reveals an enormous amount about the working practices that Schreiner engaged in as she wrote, with the idea of ‘writing’ for her also encompassing the deletions, insertions and other amendments she made in the moment of writing.

So what the article I have just finished is concerned with is a genetic criticism approach to the writing practices involved in producing two of the avant-textes of Schreiner’s From Man to Man. And what has happened as a result of writing it is that I‘ve been prompted into action to do something more permanent regarding these variorum transcriptions in making them available to other Schreiner scholars who might be interested. So colleagues at HRI Digital at Sheffield have been requested to make some small but significant changes to the Olive Schreiner Letters Online website. What I am hoping is that it will be slightly renamed, to become the Olive Schreiner Letters & Mss Online, and it will have a new major section, headed Manuscripts. This will provide the variorum transcriptions together with detailed commentary on each of these texts. They will be provided in tranches, a few manuscripts at a time, so that work in finalising them can be slotted into the schedule of ‘things to do’ around WWW.

And for next week? What is planned is to write the draft of an impact report on the WWW project for its funding body, the UK’s ESRC. A bit of a shift of mind is going to be needed!


Last updated: 17 November 2017