The Third Way: Philology and Critical Edition in the Digital Age
The Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship
In 2006, as I prepared to begin my doctorate, I met with my supervisor-to-be to discuss prospective research topics. It became clear during the meeting that he already had a project in mind: I would produce a critical edition of the Armenianlanguage Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, and it would be a digital critical edition. Some time later, at the celebration that followed my viva examination, my supervisor cheerfully admitted that he had not had the least idea what a "digital critical edition"
... might be when he had set me on the path to making one. He simply trusted that I, as a software engineer turned humanist, would figure something out along the way. The fact that I now write this suggests that I did produce something that was accepted by my supervisor and examiners as a digital critical edition. So where is it? What does it look like? And if, as recently as that, a lone doctoral student had to work out for herself what a digital critical edition should be, does it not go some way toward explaining why there are so few of them about? This paper arises from a round table discussion whose aim was to question whether digital techniques can coexist with traditional critical editing, or whether digital methods make critical editing obsolete. Given the ability to publish faithful digital facsimiles of all our source material, is there any need for the editorial emendation or text reconstruction that is the central activity of the traditional philologist? Is the socalled "new philology" better suited for the digital age than the "old" methods that have their root in classical philology, and does the "old" way have a future? Here I shall address some of these questions from the perspective of a relative philological neophyte to whom the digital realm is second nature. I argue (and I am by no means the first to do so) that digital methods afford opportunities to transcend the distinction between old and new philology, allowing the scholar to adopt the best of both approaches as suits the nature and heritage of each individual text. In order for us to grasp those opportunities, however, the working methods of all philologists must adapt to the realities and capabilities of the digital age. I will discuss here some of the working methods of the digital philologist as pioneered in the late 1990s and early 2000s and adapted for my own doctoral work, and point to some of the technological progress that has been made since then through initiatives such as the Interedition project (Interedition 2012) to make these digital methods ever more feasible for ever more texts. Finally, I will look at the particular problem of text stemmatology-how it serves neatly to divide philological opinion, and how it might be reinvented when we revisit our assumptions about what is possible to analyze and compute.