Changing Text

As I’ve been reading through OUMEM I’ve found myself focusing on the changes made to text over time- more specifically, how those changes would affect the understanding taken by readers. A great example of this can be found on page 26, “Will then cries out to Kynd for advice in avenging Elde, and Kynd counsels him to retreat to Unity (Holy Church), and ‘lerne to loue’ (line 208), promising that he will never lack life’s necessities: “and thou loue <treuly> : lake schal thou neuer.” This line is one of many places in Douce where the corrector has visibly supplanted a word he thought his MHE audience would not understand.”

Take a look at how I typed out that quote one more time. Did you catch the alterations I made in order to fit it into this post? There are two places where I replaced the “thorn” letter with a th because I didn’t know how to type them into this. I also replaced the taller pointed brackets found around the word “truly” with these things for a similar reason: <>. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, these tiny changes alter the way anyone reading this post experiences the text. My hope was that it would make it easier to understand (maybe you don’t automatically read the th sound when you come across a “thorn”), but it’s also possible that I have stripped away some of its authenticity. The text says that words were supplanted in Douce in order to make it more legible to a MHE audience, but I can’t help but think that corrections like this carry a bit of the corrector’s bias within them.

1 thought on “Changing Text

  1. Kaleb,

    I definitely agree with your insight here. The whole dilemma is a double-edged sword; for language to evolve and for a work to be able to reach more audiences and walks of life, translation and other modes of modification are almost completely inevitable. Think about it: we wouldn’t have any idea what we were reading if our Broadview editors hadn’t replaced all “thorns” as you mentioned with “th” consonants and if they hadn’t compiled the original version alongside a modern English translation. In this way, alterations are extremely valuable. On the other hand, the beauty of the text’s original sounds and intricately crafted “feel”/mood are changed pretty drastically to achieve what would probably be perceived by the original authors as an inaccurate “raptus” of their text anyway. From medieval authors like Chaucer we know that scribes – very much like modern day editors who must revise and add to writers’ own words – often eliminated parts of the original text and added their own subtle spins to the work. If Adam Pinkhurst made Chaucer angry back then, imagine how he might feel these many centuries later after going through the many probably evolving translations and adaptations of his stories? It’s like one giant ongoing game of telephone except the original creators aren’t here anymore to tell us what’s right and what’s completely misconstrued.

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