A "fluid text" refers to any literary work that exists in multiple versions, for example author's drafts, publishers' proofs, revised editions of books, adaptations for film, and expurgations for children. Author John Bryant urges the importance of looking at these variations in their cultural contexts because of the valuable record they provide of the interactions between the artist and society. He argues that although literary works are often considered to be fixed objects, in fact they are fluid works-in-progress that shift and change according to their cultural situation.
The Fluid Text examines authorial, editorial, and cultural (i.e., adaptations, bowdlerizations, etc.) changes to texts and provides the first coherent theoretical, critical, and editorial approach to the study of revision. The theory is developed and then applied to various versions of Melville's Typee to present protocols for fluid-text analysis, and to demonstrate how book and computer screen can be used effectively in tandem to present textual information.
John Bryant is Professor of English at Hofstra University and editor of Melville's Tales, Poems, and Other Writings (Random House, 2001).
Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted February 2003.
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