This collaborative project was conceived in a graduate classroom amidst a discussion concerning the realization that none of us had been introduced to textual issues as undergraduates. Quite bluntly, until our graduate courses (and for some, until this class in particular), we had all been in the blissfully ignorant practice of accepting an editor's (re)presentation of a text at face value. In other words, we never questioned her/his editorial assumptions or practices: we never wondered, for example, whether the editor had followed the author's lineation or spelling - nor did we question fixed categories such as "poetry" or "letter" or "draft" or "final text." Alternately amazed, horrified, and delighted at our heightened consciousness, we decided that an effort should be made to increase awareness of oftentimes "silent" editorial practices - specifically with regards to Emily Dickinson, although the issues dealt with here can be more generally applied to any (re)presentation of a work or a writer.

Thus, we present here critical discussions of major editions of Dickinson's writings and the practices of their respective editors. In doing so, we examine the assumptions inherent in these works with regard to the editor's own understanding of issues such as biography and the way in which an author's persona relates to her/his work; conceptions of "literature" and "author" and "authority" and "authorial intention" and "poetry" and "convention" and "canon" and "gender;" editorial organization and classification including but not limited to subject matter, poetic form, handwriting, composition date, recipient, and genre; editorial apparatuses such as publication history and transmission history; and methods of transcription regarding lineation, punctuation, and capitalization.

We furthermore explore the effects that aesthetic and corporeal factors have on the reception of literature. Is an electronic image of a manuscript facsimile more authoritative or expressive than a typescript transcription? Can the materiality of a poem (the paper on which it is written, the color or thickness of the page, the thickness of the pencil mark, and so forth...) be separated from a more abstract concept of "the work"?

On a more theoretical level, we ask whether the authority of expression and interpretation rests with the author, the editor, or the reader. How can such authority be wielded or relinquished? It the context of editorial practices, how do we define "agenda" and does this concept necessarily imply a negative connotation?

We hope that you, the reader/user, will find our discussions informative and useful. And please do not lose sight of the fact that we - as editors of this project - should also be held accountable for our own biases, not the least of which is the decision to present our analyses in electronic form.

Angela Delancenserie
Stephanie Fitz
Dresden Koons
Elisa Warford