Your second paper is a another critical and creative assignment that will involve addressing some aspects of literary theory. You will determine the word count, though I set 500 words as the minimum.

Topic 1. Create a digital critical edition.

I want you to use and to create a digital facsimile critical edition of one of the literary works we have read in this course besides Frankenstein with your own scholarly apparatus. You may use print (or pdfs of books) of the book you choose as your template for your edition. I expect that you will have to adapt the template to make it serve your needs. You may need to include a user's manual. What kinds of reading does your edition make possible? What kinds of learning? Does the text become more ideal or more material? Are you editing or un-editing the text? Your digital edition will stand on its own. There will be no introduction explaining why you've done what you've done.

You can find some material here.

Topic 2.

Literary Correspondence

You pretend to be a famous editor who writes to Kinbote a letter accepting the manuscript for publication but suggesting substantive changes to his commentary, Foreword, and Index. You would also pretend to be Kinbote writing back. You might want to produce photos of Kinbotes index cards. Your paper would be a kind of epistolary novel.

Topic 3.  Creative Unediting and Literature as Palimpsest.  By unediting, I mean editing in reverse, going from the critical edition back to the manuscript instead of the other way around.  As uneditor, you are taking apart the text and disassembling into its constituent parts.  Compare the manuscript facsimile of one of the novels we’ve read to the critical edition we’ve read.  Focus on a particular passage or set of pages.  Is there anything to be gained by going back to the manuscript?  Does it change your reading of the passage as it appears in the critical edition?  If so, how so.  Does the fact that the manuscript was posthumously published change anything about your sense of what a literary text is, how open or closed it is, how complete or not, or to ask, along Genette’s lines, if a text ever is complete or what counts as a complete text?  Genette does not go genetic criticism-he doesn’t work with manuscripts.  Can you imagine a Genettic criticism that did take manuscripts, drafts, and so on, into account?  Manuscripts are sometimes literally pages of palimpsests if the author has crossed out words and written over others and you can no longer fit the revision into a chronological order of composition. 

  1.  The manuscript of Billy Budd$1i
  2.  Compare the posthumously published edition (Oxford or Penguin) of At the Mountains of Madness to its original “posthumously” edited serial publication in the February, March, and April 1936 issues of Astounding Stories.

See also Seeds of Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness," in His Terrifying, Tightly-Packed Notes

Topic 4.  Create a fake “restored” edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym with the missing chapters included and a new paratext explaining how you found them.  Would you missing chapters resolve anything or make the novel even more obscure? 

Topic 5.  Analyze the fake facsimile of John Shade’s poem.  Pale Fire: A Poem in Four Cantos by John Shade  November 23, 2011

Topic 6.  Unauthored literature.  Like the title page of the 1818 edition of Frankenstein, the title of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym does not give the author’s name.  Pym signs the preface, but the note at the end about the missing chapters is unsigned.  The novel also has several narrators.  What is the relation, if any, between the question of who wrote (which parts of the novel) and the strange shifts between narrators, one of whom would appear to have been dead when he told his stories?  What kind of narrative loop is created by the framing paratexts, namely, the preface and the note?  Does the reader get anywhere? Is the novel a kind of whirlpool of reading?  A maelstrom, to use a word Poe used in the novel of one of his short stories?  The reader just gets sucked in, emtombed alive as Pym finds himself on the ship when stowedaway or when buried alive, seemingly, on tin Anatartica? Is the novel badly edited on purpose?  Or is it just badly edited?  What would be the purpose of publish a badly editing novel? Tekeli-li! Tekeli-li?


“[The Narrative of] Arthur Gordon Pym, No. I.” Southern literary messenger; devoted to every department of literature and the fine arts. [Volume 3, Issue 1, Jan 1837; pp. 13-16]



Southern literary messenger; devoted to every department of literature and the fine arts.
Title: Arthur Gordon Pym, Part II [Volume 3, Issue 2, Feb 1837; pp. 109-116]


Notes to 1902 James A. Harrison's 1902 Complete Works edition


J. V. RIDGELY AND IOLA S. HAVERSTICK, "Chartless Voyage: The Many Narratives
of Arthur Gordon Pym"

Topic 7.  Sketchy narrators, or I’m (Not) Telling.  While there is a plot in At the Mountains of Madness, the narrator frequently says contradictory things about why he is or is not telling the story:  among other things, he says that he has to tell the story, that the story has already been told (wire reports, newspapers), that the story is forthcoming (in publications with the photographs and sketches), and that he can’t tell the story, and that the end he is not sure if there is a story to be told (maybe Danforth saw a mirage). He also holds up photos and sketches of evidence, but is unable to keep copying the carvings or decipher them despite the large amount of paper he and Danforth take with them, paper they end up tearing up to leave a “paper trail-blazing.” The narrator also describes the underground space as a labyrinth several times and tends to describe new spaces and new objects with the same words in prose that seems New-Annotated-H-Lovecraft , pp. 479ff. There are carvings that are either decadent or advanced. The sculptures tend to be “heroic.” Is the novel an allegory of horror literature, a meta-horror novel about the way the effects of suspense, horror, etc. all depend on creating narrative frustration leaving the reader with no way out except to stop reading?  Or is self-indulgent, a story that needed to be condensed as the editor of the Astounding Stories thought it did?  Is the story a crypt?

Topic 8, to be completed by Burt. Eventually. Maybe. Maybe not. Genre Identification. The posthumous editions of HPL's AtMofM leave out the illustrations that appear with the serial publication of the story in 1936.


Astounding Stories, Jan 1936

Astounding Stories - 1930s

Screenplay of film adapation never made by Guillermo del Toro.

Topic 9.  Unreadability and writing and recording media.  This topic overlaps with topic 7.  Both HPL and EPA make a big deal about notes and paper.  Consider the chapter in Pym in which Pym tears up a note then reconstructs it, then tries and fails to read all of it.  Is the entire text missing, in the sense that it doesn’t make sense by itself, and wouldn’t make sense even if the Faux-called missing chapters or evidence were one day to be “found” and included in a restored, definitive edition?   Is the assertion that materials were lost or are forthcoming merely a ruse to make us think that the published text is more coherent and readable than it in fact is?