Write an essay showing why there is disagreement or debate in the discipline of English and in literary theory about the following topic – “How to establish authoritative editions of literary works”
This essay will outline and discuss the debate in the discipline of English and literary theory relating to how authoritative editions of literary works can be established. This will be achieved using reference to Sylvia Plath’s Ariel and the debate surrounding its authoritative edition.
To be an authoritative edition, a text must of course be complete; however the debate lies on when a text is truly ‘complete’. It could be argued that the edition published would be authoritative; however as was the case with Ariel, when an author dies before a final edition to be published is decided upon, will there ever be a truly authoritative edition?
Despite the collection of poems being published under the guidance of her husband and poet Ted Hughes, Plath had outlined an arrangement prior to her death which is where the main debate regarding the authoritative edition of Ariel arises.
The two versions, whilst containing a similar selection of poems in a similar order, result in different expressive functions. Perloff argued that “Plath’s arrangement emphasizes, not death, but struggle and revenge, the outrage that follows the recognition that the beloved is also the betrayer, that the shrine at which one worships is also the tomb” whereas Hughes’ Ariel arrangement has been seen as his attempt to make the text less personally aggressive to himself by his critics and simply as protective of those the more lacerating poems were aimed at as well as including stronger poems by his supporters.
The difference in reactions to the two versions of Ariel suggests that each version’s authorial intention differs despite supposedly being the same text.
As authorial intention can essentially form the basis of a text, the difference between the two...