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Editing Beckett in digital media
Towards a digital Complete Works Edition

This chapter is a plea for a digital edition of Samuel Beckett’s complete works. Apart from the published works, the corpus for such an edition includes the manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of all of these works, as well as notebooks with reading notes that were used in the drafting process and unfinished works. In addition to the integration of Beckett’s digitised personal library, the editorial model includes a reconstruction of the virtual library. The aim of such a digital complete works edition is to respect the complexity of Beckett’s oeuvre and present it as both a product and a process, without abandoning readers in the chaos of manuscripts. Digital media provide us with the means to design the tools that enable readers to explore this complexity, characterised by its dialectic of completion and incompletion.


The printed medium has had a significant impact on the conceptualisation of Complete Works Editions (CWE). It has prompted editors to present authors’ ‘complete works’ as a sort of holy grail: an editorial vessel that captures each word in the (capital A) Author's canonised works as if it were a drop of divine blood, purged from any kind of textual impurity or corruption. This ‘purity’ discourse marks, for instance, the influential Greg-Bowers tradition of ‘copy-text’ editing. Fredson Bowers presented the goal of textual criticism as follows:

The recovery of the initial purity of an author's text and of any revision (insofar as this is possible from the preserved documents), and the preservation of this purity despite the usual corrupting process of reprint transmission, is the aim of textual criticism.

(Bowers,1970, 30; emphasis added)

In the past few decades, this purity discourse has been questioned and criticised in editorial theory (Bryant, 2002; D’Iorio, 2010; Eggert, 2019a; Gabler, 2018; McGann, 2014; McKenzie, 1999; Pierazzo, 2015; Pierazzo and Driscoll, 2016; Robinson, 2012; Shillingsburg, 2017; Van Hulle and Shillingsburg, 2015), but in editorial practice it has turned out to be more difficult to find adequate alternatives.

At first sight, the editorial situation regarding Beckett's works – which have not yet been published in a critical edition, let alone a bilingual critical edition – may seem regrettable. But it may also be an opportunity. Instead of producing a print edition, Beckett's bilingual works present an opportunity to conceptualise a digital CWE. Such a reconceptualisation necessitates a shift from a ‘grail’ paradigm (conditioned by the print medium) to a ‘quest’ paradigm (as enabled by the digital medium), which means seeing Beckett's oeuvre not so much as a grail, but a quest, both from the point of view of (a) the writer and from that of (b) the reader. Regarding (a), for Beckett, like for most authors, writing is a constant search for the right words and the right form to convey the content. This constant search on the micro-level of enunciation has consequences for the macro-level as it determines the author's ‘voice’ and the identity of the oeuvre. As a result, there are conscious or unconscious idiosyncrasies that connect the individual works within an oeuvre. Beckett emphasises these interconnections by means of intratextual references, such as his novels referring to the protagonists of the earlier novels. Beckett's literary quest is not straightforward or linear, nor does it necessarily imply ‘progress’, which would entail that the author is continuously ‘improving’ his writing. From a reader's perspective, (b,) an interest in Beckett's complete works goes beyond engrossment in a particular text and implies an interest in the complex development of the oeuvre as a whole. If a digital edition of Beckett's works really aims to be complete, it should present the entirety of this quest, not just the polished end result of the published works.

The CWE has always been an instrument in processes of canonisation. The traditional single-text edition in print format tends to reinforce two forms of canonisation: a CWE often helps establish an author's fame and status as belonging to the best writers of their period in literary history; at the same time, the CWE also plays a role in establishing an author's own canon, the set of works that are recognised as being genuinely by this author.

This latter canon usually serves as the centre of the CWE. The published texts of the canonical works thus become an endpoint: the reading notes, manuscripts, typescripts, proofs, and so on are mentioned only in so far as they have resulted in the endpoint or telos. This teleological approach certainly has its merits, but it raises two questions about (a) the completeness of a CWE, and (b) about the notion of the work or works.

‘Completeness’ and ‘Works’

As for the ‘completeness’ of a CWE, it is often unclear what belongs to Beckett's canon and what does not. Sometimes a CWE includes works that were not published during the author's lifetime. Archival research often unearths more, sometimes unknown unpublished works, which raises the question: what belongs to the canon? Or in this particular case: what is the Beckett canon? In A Beckett Canon, Ruby Cohn discusses mainly Beckett's published works, but also a few unpublished texts (Cohn, 2001). In the meantime, Beckett scholars have found more unpublished works (Nixon, 2014; Van Hulle, 2011a; Van Hulle and Weller, 2018), which raises more fundamental questions: Do these works belong to the canon, or not? Should they be included in a CWE? Or to put it differently: How ‘complete’ is a Complete Works Edition without them? What is the status of Beckett's notebooks, containing ideas and loose jottings that did not necessarily lead to any particular work? Some notes turned out to be dead ends, others ended up in multiple works.

Perhaps even more fundamental than the issue of ‘completeness’ is the question of what is meant by ‘works’. CWEs usually have a rationale that is quite explicit about such things as the choice of copy-text, but often less explicit about their organisation. For CWEs in print, there seems to be an implicit consensus about the conceptual and material division between the reading texts and the critical apparatus. While the reading texts are the product of textual criticism, the apparatus is often regarded and treated as its by-product, so that as recently as 2018, Hans Walter Gabler still noted the hierarchical nature of the nomenclature of scholarly editions’ various parts: ‘the sections sensed as auxiliary are called ‘Apparatus’, ‘Annotations’, and ‘Commentary’‘ (2018, 122), to ask the key question: ‘how is it that, in general awareness, editions are still mainly perceived simply as texts, and in terms of the texts only that they offer?’ (136).

The oeuvre as a gestalt

For ‘complete works’, print still serves as the medium of choice. A few recent examples in the modernist period are critical or historical-critical editions of the complete works of Paul Celan (Suhrkamp), Joseph Conrad (Cambridge University Press), Katherine Mansfield (Edinburgh University Press), Marcel Proust (Gallimard), Dorothy Richardson (Oxford University Press), Arthur Schnitzler (de Gruyter) and Virginia Woolf (Cambridge University Press). The first decades of scholarly editing in the digital age have seen quite a few interesting new, pioneering editorial enterprises, but seldom of ‘complete works’. In terms of scope, at least two tendencies mark the development of digital scholarly editions and digital archives at this moment.

Digital editions

Because the development of a digital scholarly edition is a time-consuming task, and funding opportunities are usually precarious and/or in the short term, many editing projects limit their scope to a single work, or to a selection of the author's oeuvre. For example, the Woolf Online project 1 hosts a digital edition of one novel, Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse, without tools for comparing the edition's different versions of To the Lighthouse to one another. Similarly, the Digital Thoreau edition focuses on a single work, Walden. Digital Thoreau does offer a selection of other, shorter texts, but these are presented as reading editions, based on a single version of the text. The edition does not offer draft materials or transcriptions of different versions, nor do the editors connect the various works to one another, or place them in the larger context of Thoreau's oeuvre. By contrast, the Faustedition 2 does offer a high-level genetic analysis, but it is also limited to a single work. Unlike single-work editions, editions such as Arthur Schnitzler digital 3 aim to provide a more detailed access to more than one work. However, their scope remains limited, as they offer a selection of works. Although the Schnitzler edition does offer detailed and annotated transcriptions of the extant documents, as well as an annotated reading edition of the full text, the editorial focus remains within the same work rather than across the author's larger oeuvre.

Digital archives

The more comprehensive initiatives are usually conceived as digital archives, which aim for completeness but have little regard for connections between the documents they host. The Jonathan Swift Archive, 4 for example, is a collection of transcriptions of Swift's works in the Oxford Text Archive repository, without analysis or links between versions. The Thomas Gray Archive, 5 on the other hand, offers more analysis, combining textual and explanatory notes extracted from earlier critical editions with an analysis of the form of Gray's poems. But although the archive's ‘long-term objective’ is to include ‘published works, manuscripts, letters, notebooks, and marginalia’ (Huber, 2000), few such documents have yet been added – and those that have, have not been transcribed. Digital archives such as the Shelley-Godwin Archive 6 and the Whitman Archive 7 do have elaborate transcriptions of a wide range of source materials but do not provide connections (such as links, side-by-side comparisons, or collations) between different versions of the same work. The few archives or larger-scale editions that do provide such connections (such as the Charles Harpur Critical Archive 8 or the James Joyce Digital Archive 9 ) do so from a teleological perspective, usually for a selection of the works. 10

While most digital editions privilege a teleological approach and have a limited scope, the archive model is usually quite complete but offers few connections between the documents. These connections or relations between different documents are a key element in what distinguishes a digital edition from a digital archive. Similarly, relations are also to a large extent an element that would distinguish Beckett's digital CWE from a print counterpart. Owing to the limited space, a printed CWE of Beckett's oeuvre would necessarily present it as a set of ‘works’, represented by a critically edited text and accompanied by annotations and a critical apparatus; and due to the codex format, the individual works are often contained in separate volumes. As a result, Beckett's complete works would appear as a sum of parts. By means of introductions and annotations, the editor will have to remedy this by explaining that the oeuvre also constitutes a gestalt, a whole that is more than the sum of its parts.

A gestalt, however, is not only greater than, but also different from, the sum of its parts. As Caroll Pratt writes in the introduction to Wolfgang Köhler's The Task of Gestalt Psychology, it is a common error to leave out the word ‘different’ and simply define a gestalt as ‘the whole is more than the sum of the parts’ (Köhler, 1969, 9). This definition mistakenly ignores that a relationship between the parts is itself something that is not present in the individual parts themselves (10). If all the parts of a bicycle are laid out on the floor of a bike shop, for instance, they still do not make up the bicycle. Only when the parts are assembled and come to take up a specific relation to each other, do they become something different, that is, a bicycle. The challenge, therefore, is to conceptualise Beckett's digital CWE in such a way that his literary oeuvre is presented in all its complexity: something that is both greater than, and different from, its parts because of the relations between them. Precisely because of this complexity, readers need to be provided with the tools – such as a ‘Pathfinder’ and ‘Pathmaker’ (see below) – to navigate the labyrinth of documents, to discover the relations between them and find the genetic paths.

Such a quest-based digital CWE of Beckett's oeuvre presents it as a web of inter- and intratextual relations and thus opens up new avenues for interpretation; it rethinks the role of the editor, from being the Author's high priest who guards the grail in the form of the ‘definitive’ single text to becoming a maker of connections, providing readers with tools to navigate the complete works; and it enables the macroanalysis of Beckett's complete oeuvre across versions.

To meet these objectives, we need to start from a change of mindset, a different way of conceiving of a writer's complete works. The difference between the ‘grail’ paradigm and the ‘quest’ paradigm goes to the heart of the key question: what is a work of art? If we treat the oeuvre as a gestalt, this raises the question whether the work of art is a clear-cut ‘figure’ (a finished product) or rather the dialectics between ‘figure’ and ‘ground’ (Van Hulle, 2011b), between the vase and the two faces in Edgar Rubin's famous drawing. Until now, the editorial theory and practice of producing a CWE have considered the work of art to be only the finished product (say, a vase or a grail), which implies that the manuscripts and other traces of the production process are merely a ‘background’. But even if that is the case, it is important that these traces of the writing process are recognised as such: as a ground whose contours give shape to the figure. Modern authors are often well aware of the function of the ground against which this figure came to the fore, and many of them therefore voluntarily place those traces of the creative process at their readers’ disposal. Arthur Schnitzler, for instance, suggested that ‘some of his unfinished failures would, in the future, be just as, or even more, interesting to his readers than the successful finished products’. 11 The rationale behind the envisioned, digital CWE of Beckett's oeuvre is that, in order to find out why a particular literary oeuvre works, it is crucial to know how it was made. The model combines insights from digital scholarly editing and genetic criticism, whereby the digital format allows for a greater flexibility and scope, and genetic criticism introduces draft material into the edition.

Digital scholarly editing

According to Patrick Sahle's definition, digital scholarly editions are ‘guided by a digital paradigm in their theory, method and practice’ (Sahle, 2016, 28). This ‘digital paradigm’ is characterised by the use of multimedia, hypertextuality, modularised structures, fluid publication and collaborative editing (28–9). According to Hans Walter Gabler, this implies that ‘manuscript editing in the digital medium constitutes a fundamental extension of the modes of scholarly editing’ (Gabler, 2018, 133). For this ‘fundamental extension’, John Bryant's ‘fluid text’ theory has laid an important foundation. Bryant duly notes that most texts exist in various versions, but ‘the problem of access’ is a major reason that ‘fluid texts have not been analyzed much as fluid texts’ (Bryant, 2002, 9).

Bryant's theory applies in the first instance to individual works, but can be expanded to the scope of the oeuvre. If a writer's individual works are recognised as fluid texts, the oeuvre as a whole is not a solid, established canon but a continuous dialectic between the finished and the unfinished. A digital edition of Beckett's complete works does not deny the search for closure and completion that characterises each writing project, but it also foregrounds its textual fluidity. The difference with the fluid text theory, however, is that according to Bryant ‘a text's full fluidity extends into numerous kinds of cultural revision, beyond the writer's death and “will.” Thus, from a fluid-text perspective, genesis can be both authorized and nonauthorized’ (Bryant, 2002, 75–6). Bryant's extensive understanding of textual fluidity would, however, make the corpus potentially so vast that the envisaged CWE would become unfeasible. Therefore, it seems more realistic to work with the more limited remit of genetic criticism.

Genetic criticism

To a large extent, the single-text paradigm reflects a similar product-oriented logic as the one that characterised structuralism, dominated – according to Pierre-Marc de Biasi – by ‘a synchronic obsession with form’ (de Biasi, 2004, 41). This ‘synchronic’ focus relates to the syntagmatic dimension of the CWE (the edited reading text represents one version of the textual history of a succession of works). Since the second half of the 1960s, genetic criticism took it upon itself to add a temporal, paradigmatic dimension to the syntagmatic one. Genetic editions such as the Faustedition give shape to this paradigmatic dimension, but only for one work or a limited set of works. Only when both the syntagmatic and paradigmatic dimensions are mapped for the complete oeuvre does the edition fully enable readers to perform both inter- and intratextual research across versions.

Building on Michael Riffaterre's definition of intertextuality as ‘the reader's experience of links’ between different works (Riffaterre, 1980, 4), a genetic approach suggests that this experience also includes that of the genetically informed reader. Often an intertextual allusion is positively recognisable in the published text, but Beckett's manuscripts regularly contain allusions and references to external source texts which have been gradually obscured or undone in the subsequent drafts. Editors need to provide readers with an edition that enables this kind of ‘invisible’ intertextuality. An example of ‘visible’ intertextuality is the first of almost 300 notes Beckett took from Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy in his so-called ‘Dream’ Notebook: ‘little wearish old man (Democritus)’ (Beckett, 1999, 104). As John Pilling notes, this entry was used in the poem ‘Enueg I’ (in the collection Echo's Bones) and in the story ‘Echo's Bones’ (209). Whereas these are examples of relatively straightforward intertextuality, recognisable in the published texts, a classic illustration of ‘invisible intertextuality’ is Beckett's reference to Dante in the manuscripts of Stirrings Still (Van Hulle, 2011a): the inconspicuous word ‘faint’ (‘and then again faint from deep within …’; Beckett, 2009, 114; emphasis added), which in the published text does not raise any intertextual suspicion, turns out – thanks to the manuscripts – to be an allusion to the line ‘chi per lungo silenzio parea fioco’ in Canto I of Inferno (Dante, 1960, 5; Canto I, line 63; emphasis added) when Virgil appears to Dante for the first time, ‘faint’ or ‘hoarse’ from long silence (even though Virgil has not yet spoken at that moment in the text). Not only is the reference important; the fact that Beckett undoes it is possibly even more significant as it exemplifies his poetics of ignorance: instead of showing off his erudition, Beckett consciously downplayed it. But that does not mean the reference is not there; genetically informed readers are aware of its underground presence in what Thomas C. Connolly – in his endeavour to destabilise canonical readings of Paul Celan's work – has called the ‘sous-oeuvre’ (Connolly, 2018), the marginalised parts of a work that are traditionally eclipsed. The classic ‘fioco’ example thus becomes more interesting and complex as an example of intratextuality across versions.

As mentioned, Beckett often alludes to his previous works, creating an intratextual network of references, a set of ‘links established by a reader between at least two texts written by the same author’ (Martel, 2005, 93). In the example of the ‘wearish old man’, he kept using this adjective, even after the Second World War, for instance in Krapp's Last Tape, thus creating an intratextual web of references. The same goes for the adjective ‘faint’. For intratextual research across versions, readers require access not only to the ‘complete works’, but to all the manuscripts as well. This kind of hidden allusion can be, and has been, unearthed by means of digital genetic editing in an edition of Stirrings Still and ‘Comment dire’ (Beckett, 2011). But due to the limited scope of this edition, which comprised only two of Beckett's late works, the diachronic axis covers only a very narrow strip toward the very end of Beckett's oeuvre in the imaginary graph covering the complete works across versions. A CWE spans the entire oeuvre and should thus be able to show how the ‘fioco’ reference stretches back in time to the days before Beckett's career as a writer had even started. This opens up a whole new dimension: since the word ‘faint’ clearly had a very specific intertextual meaning for Beckett, a digital CWE would enable readers to investigate intratextually how this word functions in all of Beckett's works and to what degree it has a similarly Dantean resonance over the course of his career.

Synchronology and creative concurrence

By including the ‘sous-oeuvre’ we can transcend the single-text paradigm that the print medium has imposed on the CWE, and develop an edition of the author's complete writings that is larger than, and different from, the sum of its parts. In the same way that a critical edition adds scholarly value to a literary work by contextualising the text's development over time, so too should a complete works edition raise our understanding of an author's literary development to a new level by putting their individual works into the larger context of their oeuvre. Much like with individual literary works, a literary oeuvre does not develop in a straight line. Instead, the path of an author's literary career often includes a lot of trial and error, dead ends, and abandoned experiments. Equipped with the experience of what has and has not worked before, seasoned authors such as Beckett may revisit their previously published and abandoned works – even scavenge earlier drafts and manuscripts for unused materials – and consider what to try again, and where to deviate as they continue working on new materials. At any point in this constant quest, an author may be working on multiple works simultaneously, taking up on one work when another is not progressing – at times consciously or unconsciously allowing these works to inform one another.

To illustrate just how interwoven the geneses of an author's individual works can be, it is useful to have a brief look at Beckett's writing desk in the winter of 1957–58. In the fall of 1957, Beckett was struggling with the translation of his novel L’Innommable into English, and so he interrupted his translation to write a first draft of a radio play, Embers. At that moment (10 December 1957), the BBC broadcast a fragment from Beckett's novel Molloy, read by Patrick Magee. Beckett was struck by the actor's voice, but the transmission was not ideal. While Beckett temporarily abandoned his work on the radio play and continued translating L’Innommable, he went to the BBC studios in Paris where they played a recording of Magee's reading. This was probably the first time Beckett saw a tape-recorder, which prompted him to start writing the play Krapp's Last Tape (originally called Magee Monologue) even before the end of his translation of L’Innommable – which he finished when he was three days into the writing process of Krapp's Last Tape.

As these crossovers between different works demonstrate, the study of writing processes defies the boundaries of the single-text paradigm. Genetic criticism begs to break free from this editorial paradigm, but has – until now – been unable to do so, because we simply did not have the data. With projects such as the Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, we are now on the verge of achieving critical mass for this research, where we start to have enough data to connect the writing processes of individual works of an entire oeuvre. And we have recourse to an environment (in the digital paradigm) that is flexible enough to host these data alongside our analyses.

Editorial model

The editorial model for Beckett's digital CWE, designed to see how an oeuvre effectively works as an oeuvre (rather than as a set of separate works), operates along four axes: 1) digital archive and digital edition; 2) endogenesis, exogenesis and epigenesis; 3) microgenesis and macrogenesis; and 4) teleology and non-teleology.

Digital archive and digital edition: The difference between a digital archive and a digital edition is not marked by a clear-cut border, but is a matter of degree (Eggert, 2019b). The decisive criterion that distinguishes a digital edition from a digital archive is the editor's role in establishing connections between the various versions and works. Instead of generating a single, critically edited reading text, the editorial team maps the genetic paths through the genetic dossier by indicating how a particular note derives from a particular source text (upstream) and feeds into a particular draft (downstream). This involves discovering and making links, on the one hand, between endogenesis, exogenesis and epigenesis, and on the other hand, between the micro- and the macrogenesis.

Endogenesis, exogenesis and epigenesis: In addition to endogenesis and exogenesis, denoting respectively the ‘inside’ of the writing process (the drafts and successive revised versions) and the ‘outside’ (external source texts that have left traces in the genetic dossier), the model also takes account of the epigenesis (the continuation of the genesis after publication), acknowledging that at any point there is the possibility that exogenetic material affects the endo- or epigenesis.

Microgenesis and macrogenesis: The model enables the study of both the microgenesis (the processing of a particular exogenetic source text; the revision history of one specific textual instance across endogenetic and/or epigenetic versions; the revisions within one single version), and the macrogenesis (the genesis of the oeuvre in its entirety across multiple versions) (see Van Hulle, 2016).

Teleology and non-teleology: Readers are enabled to approach the materials both in a teleological and in a non-teleological way. The teleological approach starts from the published works; the non-teleological approach is organised according to the chronology of the writing process (i.e. not just the chronology of publication) and the typology of documents. To fully understand the dynamics of the writing process, it is necessary to build an infrastructure that allows Beckett's works to be organised and studied in more than one way, which necessitates not only a teleological, but also a non-teleological approach. This non-teleological approach enables readers to examine notes and drafts without the benefit of hindsight, to investigate what Beckett was doing and thinking when he did not yet have a clear idea of what his notes would lead up to, or even whether these notes would lead to any result at all. Non-teleology in this context is understood as a form of creativity that does not seem to serve a direct purpose (in the sense that it did not directly feed into a published work). Reading notes that were not appropriated or processed in a literary draft are not ‘purposeless’. They may be compared to vestigial organs, such as the tiny, vestigial hind leg bones buried in muscles toward the tail ends of the boa constrictor that do not seem to have any direct function. These vestigial notes, however, do have an indirect function in the creative process and therefore deserve a place in a CWE. Beckett's manuscripts and other relevant materials (such as letters, notebooks and diaries) have been dubbed the ‘grey canon’ (Gontarski, 2005, 143). But even this revaluation may suggest a hierarchy between the real canon and the grey canon. The author's works are typically compartmentalised in volumes (for instance, one volume per novel), which forces editors to present notes as belonging to the genesis of a particular work. As I have argued, this ingrained, teleological conceptualisation is to a large extent conditioned by the print medium. The digital medium offers us new means, not just to aim for completeness in a CWE, but also to find a new way of dealing with this completeness, a new way of interconnecting the documents and enabling readers to navigate the oeuvre and sous-oeuvre.

A digital edition of Beckett's complete works can play a pioneering role, for the corpus has all the necessary qualities: the availability of a large volume and variety of data (manuscripts, typescripts, marginalia, notebooks) that has been largely digitised; Beckett's canonical status as a Nobel-prize winning author, whose work – however – has not yet been published as a CWE; his works’ frequent references to earlier works, which makes his oeuvre a suitable test case to see how the digital CWE can help the reader navigate this intratextual web and test the research hypothesis; Beckett's long creative career, which spans more than fifty years and constitutes a rich and multifaceted oeuvre; the variety of genres and media (radio, TV, film) that Beckett practised throughout his life, which allows for building a model suitable for drama, poetry, prose fiction and critical essays, and which makes it relevant to research fields such as intermediality and media studies. Beckett's translingualism is yet another asset to the new CWE model: since he wrote in two languages and translated his own works, this will be an edition of a bilingual oeuvre, which makes it relevant outside literary studies (e.g. translation studies).

Apart from the published works, the corpus for such an edition includes the manuscripts, typescripts and proofs of all of these works, as well as notebooks with reading notes that were used in the drafting process. It also incorporates unfinished fragments such as ‘Long Observation of the Ray’, ‘Last Soliloquy’ and ‘Epilogue’. Digital facsimiles and transcriptions encoded in XML (eXtensible Markup Language) according to the guidelines of the TEI (Text Encoding Initiative) are supplied for all the texts. In addition to the facsimiles and transcriptions of the texts, the editorial configuration features a number of research aids such as a manuscript catalogue and bibliographical descriptions. The more demanding reader will be able to navigate the edition by using an automatic collation tool (in collaboration with the Huygens Institute, Amsterdam; Haentjens Dekker et al., 2015), genetic paths and genetic maps, and a search engine with suggested searches (including the advanced search for features such as intertextual references, dates, stage drawings and doodles in the manuscripts). The core features of the digital edition, and ones that set it apart from any print equivalent, are the Pathfinder (a chronology that guides readers through the maze of manuscripts) and the Pathmaker (with which users can make and store their own connections between documents). In addition to the integration of Beckett's digitised personal library, the editorial model includes a reconstruction of the virtual library – the books we know Beckett had read, based on information in notebooks and letters, but which are no longer extant. The aim of such a digital CWE is to respect the complexity of Beckett's oeuvre, without abandoning readers in the chaos of manuscripts. Digital media provide us with the means to design the tools that enable readers to explore this complexity, characterised by its dialectic of completion and incompletion.

Within digital humanities, both genetic criticism and textual scholarship are exceptional in that they are forms of microanalysis, whereas the general trend in digital humanities is toward macroanalysis (Jockers, 2013). But these forms of macroanalysis generally make use of only one version of the texts in their corpus. What is lacking, therefore, is macroanalysis across versions. That is why we need to invest in the making of digital CWEs, transcribing every single word or cancelled letter of a manuscript and thus assembling a large corpus of modern manuscripts. For the digital genetic microanalysis of Beckett's works, involving careful transcription of barely legible manuscripts and the encoding of deletions, additions and marginalia, is the key to enabling Beckettians of the future to perform macroanalyses across versions.


1 www.woolfonline.com (accessed 19 May 2020).
2 www.faustedition.net (accessed 19 May 2020).
3 www.arthur-schnitzler.de (accessed 19 May 2020).
5 www.thomasgray.org (accessed 19 May 2020).
6 http://shelleygodwinarchive.org (accessed 19 May 2020).
7 https://whitmanarchive.org/ (accessed 19 May 2020).
8 http://charles-harpur.org/Home/Site/ (accessed 19 May 2020).
9 www.jjda.ie/main/JJDA/JJDAhome.htm (accessed 19 May 2020).
10 Examples in other disciplines include the digital editions of philosophical works by Hannah Arendt, Søren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The Arendt edition will be published first in print form and subsequently online; the Kierkegaard CWE is, as Gabler puts it, a digitised edition ‘in (simulated) book form’ (Gabler, 2018, 129). Nietzsche Source publishes a digitised version of the Colli & Montinari edition and a facsimile edition.
11 ‘Manches von dem unvollendeten, ja dem mißlungnen wird denen, die sich in 50 oder 100 Jahren für mich noch interessiren gerade so interessant oder interessanter sein als das gelungene, das fertig gemachte’ (Arthur Schnitzler, digitale historisch-kritische Edition (Werke 1905 bis 1931), www.arthur-schnitzler.de).

Works cited

Beckett, Samuel (1999), Beckett's ‘Dream’ Notebook, ed. John Pilling , Reading: Beckett International Foundation.

Beckett, Samuel (2009), Company, Ill Seen Ill Said, Worstward Ho, Stirrings Still, ed. Dirk Van Hulle , London: Faber & Faber.

Beckett, Samuel (2011), Stirrings Still/Soubresauts and Comment dire/What is the Word: A Digital Genetic Edition, ed. Dirk Van Hulle and Vincent Neyt , www.beckettdigitalarchive.org , Brussels: University of Antwerp.

Bowers, Fredson (1970), ‘Textual Criticism’, in James Thorpe (ed.), The Aims and Methods of Scholarship in Modern Languages and Literatures, New York: Modern Language Association, pp. 23–42.

Bryant, John (2002), The Fluid Text: A Theory of Revision and Editing for Book and Screen, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Cohn, Ruby (2001), A Beckett Canon, Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Connolly, Thomas C. (2018), Paul Celan's Unfinished Poetics: Readings in the Sous-Œuvre, Cambridge: Legenda.

Dante Alighieri (1960), La divina Commedia, ed. C. T. Dragone , Alba: Edizione Paoline. For Beckett's copy, see Beckett Digital Library, www.beckettarchive.org/library/DAN-DIV-3.html .

de Biasi, Pierre-Marc (2004), ‘Toward a Science of Literature: Manuscript Analysis and the Genesis of the Work’, in Jed Deppman, Daniel Ferrer and Michael Groden (eds), Genetic Criticism: Texts and Avant-Textes, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

D’Iorio, Paolo (2010), ‘Qu’est-ce qu’une édition génétique numérique?’, Genesis. Manuscrits-Recherche-Invention, 30, pp. 49–53.

Eggert, Paul (2019a), The Work and the Reader in Literary Studies: Scholarly Editing and Book History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Eggert, Paul (2019b), ‘The Archival Impulse and the Editorial Impulse’, Variants, 14, pp. 3–22.

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