Sociology of texts

In the last two decades, there has been much discussion of the concept of ‘social editing’ (or, ‘sociological editing’s). The debate about these forms of editing has been shaped particularly by Jerome McGann's Critique of Modern Textual Criticism. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983) and by Donald McKenzie's Bibliography and the Sociology of the Text: The Panizzi Lectures 1985. (London: The British Library, 1986). This form of textual scholarship focusses on the roles of all concerned with the making, distribution and reception of the physical forms of the text (publisher, printer, bookseller, critics) in shaping the text. This is in contrast with the ‘sintentionalist’s school of editing, which focusses on discovering the intentions of the author alone. It follows that ‘social editors’ are particularly interested in the material production of the text (what McGann calls ‘bibliographic codes'). However, it remains unclear exactly what a full-dress ‘social’ or ‘sociological edition’ would be, and it can be argued that there might be less difference in practice between ‘social’ and ‘intentionalist’ editions than may appear from their theory.