Proofs of Genius: Collected Editions from the American Revolution to the Digital Age is the first extensive study of the collected edition as an editorial genre within American literary history. Unlike editions of an author’s “selected works” or thematic anthologies, which clearly indicate the presence of non-authorial editorial intervention, collected editions have typically been arranged to imply an unmediated documentary completeness. By design, the collected edition obscures its own role in shaping the cultural reception of the author.
In Proofs of Genius, Amanda Gailey argues that decisions to re-edit major authorial corpora are acts of canon-formation in miniature that indicate more foundational shifts in the way a culture views its literature and itself. By combining a theoretically-informed approach with a broad historical view of collected editions from the late eighteenth century to the present (including the rise of digital editions), Gailey fills a gap in the textual scholarship of the editing history of major figures like Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman and of the American literary canon itself.
“No humanities work is now more difficult or more important than addressing in clear ways—practically, historically, and theoretically—the relation between book history, bibliography, and digital remediation. Amanda Gailey understands this and has written a book that will raise the level of our understanding, coming as it does from a person whose practical credentials are so impressive.”
—Jerome McGann, University of Virginia
“Proofs of Genius works with a broad range of materials and demonstrates the historical significance of the collected edition as a genre, and the relevance of this history for understanding the early editions of Dickinson and Whitman. Gailey also outlines the opportunity now before us with digital editing and relational databases for creating collected editions based on an organizing principle other than the author. In this study, new histories are told and familiar histories gain fresh import by being placed in the broader history of collected editions. Gailey’s light touch as she moves gracefully through a lot of material is a delight.”
—Stephanie Browner, The New School
“Proofs of Genius offers a lively and important account of how the genre of the collected edition reflected, and continues to reflect, changing notions of American authorship, literary property, cultural accomplishment, and audience. Gailey uses the history of the American collected edition to tell a vital story of who we are as a literary nation.”
—Robin Schulze, University of Delaware
“In her timely Proofs of Genius, Amanda Gailey makes the case for the importance of the ‘collected edition’ to our understanding of how we determine the value of authors and literary works in American literature over time. Drawing on book history, biography, literary criticism, contemporary theory, and a sophisticated knowledge of digital scholarship, Gailey’s astute and lively study will engage scholars and students alike.”
—Susan Belasco, University of Nebraska–Lincoln
Cover: (book spines photograph) © Amanda Gailey