Monday, July 14, 2014

Editing A Christmas Carol

One of my highlights of the first week was visiting UCSC's Special Collections. The librarians were awesome (though librarians are always awesome), the Dickens paraphernalia they put out was exciting:

They also have this punch ladle, allegedly used by Dickens. I am suspicious as to whether it was or not, but at the very least, it is a cool-looking old spoon 

Thinking about "old books"/bibliographic studies led me towards some new questions about Dickens and adaptation. How can we consider editions as a kind of adaptation in their own right? This is perhaps stretching the term adaptation since most editions will contain Dickens' story unaltered (we had a brief dispute about online versions, but I'm hesitant to wade into those murky waters and distract myself from my bibliographic point), but what the text is literally surrounded by, or covered in, impacts our consumption of it... not exactly in the same way that having Redford or Di Caprio play Gatsby affects our experience of that character, but not in a way that can so easily written off, either.

I looked (briefly) at an 1869 edition (left), and a 1905 edition (right).

Here are just a few questions that these editions raised for me. 
1) What is the significance of how an edition treats the "Preface"? In the Oxford World's Classic edition, both prefaces are laid a few pages before the text. In the 1905 edition, the "Preface" is right next to the first page. How could this impact our reading of the story? 
2) What else could fit into the literal book that could impact our reading? Advertisements, notices about other Dickens novels... I'd be interested in learning more about Victorian books and how they were usually laid out, to see how Dickens fits into that schema. 
I worked with the University of Virginia's Rare Book School for a year as a Fellow, and took one of their summer courses. I had similar questions about Wuthering Heights, and concluded that how an edition treated "The Bronte Myth" could easily impact whether a reader experiences Emily's story unaltered, or experiences it surrounded by excerpts from Jane Eyre, or Charlotte Bronte's "Biographical Notice." Consider the example below, where we are encounter Currer Bell's ideas (and apologies) before we even delve into Ellis Bell's (fantastic) novel. 

These questions require a lot more bibliographic knowledge and time in Special Collections, but they serve to shape and nuance our thoughts about adaptation even without said knowledge and time. 

Is everything an adaptation? (Dum dum DUMMM)

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