The New Edinburgh Edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson

Writing Explanatory Notes /2

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Understanding (through) Annotations,
15th International Connotations Symposium
July 28 – August 1, 2019, Eberhard Karls University Tübingen (Germany)

The following notes on papers of interest to EdRLS are taken from the book of abstracts.

David Fishelov, ‘Annotating Satirical Texts and Its Limitations: Exemplified by Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels’. This talk tackles the problem of whether providing close contemporary context can go too far, turning the text into a historical document.

I will argue in my paper that by anchoring certain textual elements of satirical texts in a specific historical context, these annotations take the risk of narrowing the semantic potentialities and the universal appeal of these elements. I will further argue that the effectiveness of satirical texts lies ultimately in their ability to transcend the concrete historical circumstances of their composition. Effective satirical texts constantly move between the topical, the universal and the fantastic, and we should be careful not to pay too much attention to topical references found in detailed annotations, lest we turn an effective satire into a historical document.

Lena Linne and Burkhard Niederhoff, ‘Against Interpretation: Annotating Literature as an Embedded Textual Practice’. This talk argues for restraint in annotation

Notes should facilitate rather than interfere, support rather than interrupt. They should enable readers to find their own interpretations instead of imposing a particular interpretation on them. A violation of these principles can be found in Roger Luckhurst’s note on the scene in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in which Edward Hyde collides with a girl and then calmly walks over her. Luckhurst suggests that this is an allegory of sexual intercourse or, more specifically, of child prostitution. This note is superfluous or even misleading for two reasons. First, any reader might arrive at the Freudian interpretation him- or herself. Second, the note detracts from an attentive literal reading of the passage which is more interesting and original than the allegorical one. In our talk, we would like to examine three recent editions of Stevenson’s novella by Luckhurst (World’s Classics), Katherine Linehan (Norton) and Richard Dury (Edizioni C. I. Genova) to distinguish necessary and helpful notes from superfluous and misleading ones and to flesh out the principles of an-notation as an embedded textual practice.

[I fear that the Dury edition will provide a good example of excessive annotation. —RD]

Marcus Walsh, ‘Annotating Alexander Pope for Oxford: Theory and Practice’. A General Editor of the planned 24-volume Oxford edition of Alexander Pope addresses practical and theoretical issues of annotation with reference to his section on Annotation for the ‘Editorial Guidelines’.

I shall consider in particular:

The nature and range of our assumed audience (‘scholars and informed modern readers, including the able undergraduate’), and its consequences for our practice;

The approach taken in our edition to linguistic, literary, political, personal, and cultural contexts;

Our approach to the relation of commentary to interpretation, including the selection of contextualising information, the illustration and explanation of allusions, and the necessity and value of lexical notes.

Manfred Malzahn, ‘ “Let’s do it to them before they do it to us”: Self-Annotation in Scottish Literature’. A talk about the function of self-annotation in texts.

I intend to present and discuss samples of footnotes and glossaries to texts by authors such as Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson or Lewis Grassic Gibbon, in which elements of Scots—whether seen as national language or as dialect—are embedded in standard English.

See also Writing Explanatory Notes.

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