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Darwin-L Message Log 2:72 (October 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.


<2:72>From SMITGM@hawkins.clark.edu  Tue Oct 12 12:02:49 1993

To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
From: "Gerard M. Smith (HUM)"  <SMITGM@hawkins.clark.edu>
Organization: Clark College, Vancouver WA, USA
Date: 12 Oct 93 10:01:32 PST8PDT
Subject: Manuscript polymorphism

Concerning the polymorphism of manuscripts, a detail of
the analogy would be helpful to those of us who aren't well-versed in
genetics.  Would the scribal/typographic error equal DNA, or would
authorial intention?  Authorial intention, I would
think would be a closer analogy.  Seems manuscript revision has more
equivalence with genetic transmission etc. The scribal/typographic
error would  equal environmental interaction in that the copier
is not a consistent/internal force, but an external variable which
affects the text.  Depending on the scribes workload, working
conditions, amount of ale consumed at the scribe's lunch in some
cases, and the scribe's eyesight, the manuscript has a greater or
lesser chance of being copied accurately. Mutations and
variation in the polymorphic manuscript, then are the result
of random operations and not the "intention" of the organism
itself, of which the author is organically connected. Returning to the
case for manuscript revision as polymorph, take for example Whitman's
LEAVES OF GRASS, the authorial revision process of that text more
closely resembles polymorphism than the drunken scribe, because the
original blueprint is in the author's imagination, and the author is
more "organically" linked with the text. The Romantics defined the
universe and poetry (the mimetic representation of nature) as organic,
in keeping with the scientific enlightenment of the period, so it
might be enlightening to consider their employment of the muse during
revision as part of this comparative study.

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