What are we talking about?

I’ve been reading some of the scholarship on Such is Life, specifically the descriptions of the transformation of a single work into three. There, I’ve said it … ‘work.’ This is one of those slippery terms that anybody studying literature will have to face sooner or later, but few consider the ramifications of its meaning it for too long. To help deal with the concept, Peter Shillingsburg’s “How Literary Works Exist: Implied, Represented, Interpreted” provides a useful definition:

[first,] the work is implied by its material instantiations, not coeval with them; second, each representation of the work, material or electronic, is particular and partial; and third, the only access we have to the work is through acts of interpretation of representations that imply the work.

This is good, but the ‘material representations’ of Such is Life, Rigby’s Romance, and The Buln Buln and the Brolga test these terms by converging on a common ‘material representation,’ the typescript held at the Mitchell Library.

To visualise the convergence, I’ve been working with a hand-drawn sketch of the relationships between the material at hand.

A rough diagram of the material and textual situation.

The typescript of Such is Life (1898) ‘implies’ three works because chapters II and V were extracted in 1901 during the shortening for publication and most of the remaining text from the typescript was transmitted to the first edition of Such is Life (1903) after the new chapters II and V were added. The extracted chapters were subsequently recycled as Rigby’s Romance and The Buln Buln and the Brolga. The ‘material representations’ of these not only imply each work, but also the work Such is Life because of their origin in the 1898 typescript.

So, as an editor, or, indeed, as a reader, if I am to talk about or ‘represent’ any of these ‘works’, I have to take all of the ‘material instantiations’ into account. If any literary work/s call for digital representation, this is it. With TEI-encoded representations of Such is Life and The Buln Buln and the Brolga kindly provided by SETIS, completion of the transcription of the 1898 typescript and the serialisation of Rigby’s Romance is still required. When these are done, I hope to experiment with Desmond Schmidt’s MVD to represent that work through the transcriptions and the variation between each ‘material instantiation’. This structure promises to animate the processes of each work, allowing more readers to better understand how Furphy’s works were written, revised and published.

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One Response to What are we talking about?

  1. Pingback: Further Towards an Electronic Edition of Joseph Furphy’s Such is Life. | Tom Collins And Company

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