|The Future of Literary Studies|
David L. Vander Meulen
I make no pretense either to describe or to prescribe the direction of the profession, but I do wish to recommend a kind of activity that encompasses each of the genres, periods, ethnicities, and languages with which we deal, an approach that I think can invigorate the consideration of all of them. That field is the study of the history of texts. To explain something of what I have in mind, I would like to consider John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, first published in 1678 [figure 1].1 I call this morning’s brief vision “Profession’s Progress” [figure 2]. By coincidence, the work I have chosen as a case study also happens to be about a book, as William Blake recognized [figure 3].2
The authors of a recent study of the Victorian serial say that Pilgrim’s Progress was “a work read by more people in England than any book except the Bible.”3 The situation has been the same in America, and devotion to the book has not been limited to the devout. Ben Franklin loved it. “From a Child I was fond of Reading,” he says, “and all the little Money that came into my Hands was ever laid out in Books. Pleas’d with the Pilgrim’s Progress, my first Collection was of John Bunyan’s Works, in separate little Volumes.”4 After Franklin once rescued a drunken Dutchman who had fallen off a boat, the recovering passenger asked Franklin to dry a book from his pocket. According to Franklin, “It prov’d to be my old favorite Author Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in Dutch.” He praises its illustrations, probably ones from the Dutch publisher Johannes Boekholt that became the model for editions all over the Continent, and he says, “I have since found that it has been translated into most of the Languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more generally read than any other Book except perhaps the Bible.”5
Our colleague Steve Railton attests its popularity in another era. As he points out on his web site for Uncle Tom’s Cabin [figure 4],
In a large percentage of 19th-century American homes, John Bunyan's allegorical narrative about a "Christian" going to salvation occupied a place right next to the family Bible. It is the book John gives Ellen to display his love in The Wide, Wide World. It is the book Marmee gives to each of the March girls for Christmas at the beginning of Little Women. It is even the book Huck Finn tries to read during his stay at the Grangerfords'.6The examples could be multiplied almost endlessly. The story is the backdrop for Hawthorne’s updating in “The Celestial Railroad” (1843). It lies behind e. e. cummings’ The Enormous Room (1922). It is what Ralph Vaughan Williams set as a musical morality play (in various incarnations from 1906 to 1952). It’s what tens of thousands of Americans witnessed as one of the nineteenth century’s most popular forms of entertainment, a panorama. (A rare example of the object actually used was discovered six years ago at the Saco Maine, Museum: two giant rolls of cotton sheeting eight feet high and a total of 850 feet long that had been painted by famous artists and that were scrolled across a stage to the accompaniment of music and narration) [figure 5].7
The power of the metaphoric title persists. Quite naturally, religious traditions draw on it. Before I stopped looking, I quickly found examples on the web applied to or by these different groups, at varying distances from Bunyan’s own position: Congregational [figure 6],8 Unitarian [figure 7],9 Muslim [figure 8],10 Buddhist [figure 9],11 Computer Science [figure 10].12 Even John Updike [figure 11]13 and Joyce Carol Oates [figure 12]14—or, perhaps, the New York Review editors—have proven unwilling or unable to avoid the phrase.
My first generalized point is that if we are to study the role of this or any text in society, we must identify and describe the forms in which it has appeared. That fundamental scholarly task has not yet been carried out for Pilgrim’s Progress. The search of a library union catalog suggests why: the OCLC database has almost 2500 records for this book [figure 13].15 Once we have identified the range of possibilities, we further need to know the nature of these texts. The Railton Uncle Tom site points to this: it says, “Pilgrim’s Progress was, at least in some respects, the model for Stowe’s narrative. . . . Christian’s experiences and temptations on the way Bunyan describes often anticipate scenes in Tom’s journey.” To understand fully a scene from Stowe, it therefore becomes important to know its relationship to Bunyan’s book. But that relationship depends on which text of Bunyan Stowe was using. Again OCLC suggests why the problem is complicated. Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in 1852; in the years immediately preceding and following, from 1845 to 1855, 184 editions are recorded [figure 14].16
To discuss the influence of a work, we need to know the peculiarities, verbal as well as pictorial, of the various forms that people were reading. With Pilgrim’s Progress, some of the variations are dramatic and easy to comprehend. The standard scholarly edition [figure 15]17 is far different from the one prepared by Mary Godolphin in words of one syllable [figure 16],18 a version that itself has gone through various permutations, including another late nineteenth-century edition [figure 17]19 and a twentieth-century one by the well-known children’s book author and illustrator Robert Lawson [figure 18].20 The original text of Bunyan’s book is changed probably more often than not: transformations include “Simplified,” [figure 19],21 “Modern English,” [figure 20],22 “Pictorial,” [figure 21],23 “Retold” (this recent edition with illustrations by Barry Moser) [figure 22],24 versified [figure 23],25 transformed into a beast fable [figure 24],26 marketed for the nuclear age [figure 25],27 provided with its own scholarly exegesis [figure 26],28 and digested for those who have more important things to worry about than nuance [figure 27].29 Characteristic of virtually all these varieties is an expurgation that has the opposite effect of bowdlerization: the most moral parts, the scriptural references in the side margins, are removed. Foreign editions are other obvious reminders that the text of a work can change, while they also testify to the world-wide life and influence of this book. Some estimates now hold that Pilgrim’s Progress has been translated into two hundred languages, among them French and German [figure 28],30 Dutch and Irish [figure 29],31 Swedish [figure 30],32 and Tibetan and Motu [figure 31].33
That the physical characteristics of a book affect our engagement with it is perhaps most easily understandable with illustrations—which Pilgrim’s Progress has had from its fifth edition on. If children grow up with Alan Parry’s image of mortal (and immortal) danger [figure 32],34 what might their response be when they encounter for themselves what is depicted there [figure 33]?35 Pictures can influence understanding of the verbal text, but they can also reflect the environment from which they rise. Perceptions of immorality across three centuries, for instance, can be mapped by the treatment of Vanity Fair. In a nineteenth-century illustration [figure 34],36 the degradation of the fair is symbolized by dice and cards. In the twentieth century, that particular taboo has become hollow, with Bunyan’s work now finding expression both as a board game whose players advance by the roll of dice and as a card game. The board game, whose web site notes the special advantage of “Detachable Burdens” for the game pieces, furthermore provides a note of instruction that is perhaps unintentionally but nonetheless characteristically modern: “Caution: Keep burdens away from small children to prevent the possibility of choking.”37 The other game—see [figure 35] and [figure 36]—also reflects modern mores, here by assuming that its audience is familiar with what in other times had been a vice: the language of the instructions—“highest value card,” “cut,” “wins the deal,” “first lead”—takes for granted that the users are familiar with card playing [figure 37].38 Immorality takes other forms in other cultures: in Tibet, for instance, it is represented as music, food, sword-fighting, and snake-charming [figure 38].39
The seriousness that Vanity Fair held for Christian and Faithful dissipates as time goes by, and, as in an illustration engraved by the Dalziels, a certain robustness creeps in [figure 39].40 Thackeray also lightens the tone, but the fair’s values are still to be satirized [figure 40].41 The same is true for periodicals that arise in nineteenth-century America and England. The indebtedness to Bunyan’s account is obvious on the front page of a New York paper that began in 1859, but a sense of evil has largely departed [figure 41].42 The same of true a London serial that commenced in 1868. As the title pages for its cumulated volumes show, Pilgrim’s Progress is the source both of the series’ subtitle (“A Weekly Show of Political, Social, & Literary Wares”) and of its motto (“We buy the Truth”). The epigraph on individual numbers also comes from Bunyan: “That which did not a little amuse the merchandisers was, that these pilgrims set very light by all their wares” [figure 42].43 In both periodicals, however, except when moral satire happens to overlap with that applied to “Political, Social, and Literary” topics, the former has vanished. And by the time we get to April 2002, satiric impulse of any kind is difficult to spot [figure 43].44
But to return specifically to changes between editions and to their implications for readers’ understanding: some of these variations are less pronounced but equally important. Note for instance an alteration that occurs between the first and second editions. The original description of Christian and Hopeful in the dungeon of Doubting Castle is interrupted by a new seven-page account (pp. 185-92) in which the wife of Giant Despair [figure 44]45 urges their torture. The insertion occurs at the top of p. 152 in the first edition, between the paragraph concluding “’twas through his unadvised haste that they were brought into this distress” and the one that begins “Well, in Saturday about midnight they began to pray [figure 45].”46 Readers of texts based on the first edition miss this scene, and along with it the pilgrims’ anticipation of what Camus would call “the fundamental question of philosophy”—“whether or not life is worth living”—and whether they should kill themselves.47
Differences can also occur between copies of the same edition. A phrase six lines from the bottom of page 10 in the first edition sometimes reads “Slough of Dispondency” and sometimes “Slow of Dispond” [figure 46].48 Determining what happened in order to understand this text is in part the work of what is called analytical bibliography. Another instance where analysis of the printing process is necessary occurs in the first edition of Part 2. Although the text is uninterrupted, three consecutive pages are numbered 105, 120, and 121, and the font of type used on 121 and following is different from that on the preceding pages [figure 47].49
Analysis of the physical features can provide answers to a variety of questions, including about who was in charge of producing this best-seller and how that person went about it. But best of all, this activity can yield a better understanding of the text, especially if, as is so often the case, the investigation is directed toward the preparation of a new edition and thereby prompts the melding of historical knowledge and literary judgment with attention to and assessment of every physical detail, including variant readings.
Although textual study need not be equated with the establishment of a text for a new edition (as it sometimes is), that particular endeavour nonetheless is core, both in the study of texts and in scholarship in general. To be done well it requires—and in turn inspires—an understanding of the history, nature, and meaning of texts. G. Thomas Tanselle emphasizes the fruitfulness of such an approach by showing how it links a number of ways of studying the book. “If book history,” he writes, “is to be concerned—as it should be—with the role of books in spreading ideas, then textual matters are central to it; and the analysis of the physical evidence found in books is, in turn, central to the elucidation of textual questions. Textual study, in other words, provides a direct and inevitable link between analytical bibliography and l’histoire du livre.”50 My goal today likewise has been to underscore the centrality of textual study and, by means of the example of Pilgrim’s Progress, to emphasize that when textual study is thought of as the study of the history of texts, its scope becomes even wider. Such inquiry involves consideration of where and how texts originated and, subsequently, where they went, and in what forms, and with what impact. It ranges from consideration of textual minutiae and other physical elements to the ways that those features affect perception and understanding through successive editions, incorporations, and transformations of the work. The study of textual history is a broad field, but it is also at the heart of virtually all that students of literature and culture do. Knowing how to employ the approach more fully would enrich us all—not least in pursuit of various projects discussed at our conference, in that it would supply a basis for the study of cross-cultural influence or answer questions of how our study might be not only trans-geographical but also trans-temporal. It can apply, moreover, regardless of whether the texts under consideration are handwritten, printed, oral, or electronic. I commend it to you heartily.
1. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World, to That Which Is to Come (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, 1678). Title page reproduced from a facsimile of the British Library copy (London: Noel Douglas, 1928).
2. William Blake, “Christian reading in his book,” in John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (New York: Heritage Press, 1942), facing 10.
3. Linda K. Hughes and Michael Lund, The Victorian Serial (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia, 1991), 5.
4. Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, ed. J. A. Leo Lemay and P. M. Zall (New York: W. W. Norton, 1986), 9.
5. Franklin, 18.
6. Stephen Railton, “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” in Uncle Tom’s Cabin & American Culture, Univ. of Virginia, 5 Apr. 2002 http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/utc/christn/jbpphp.html.
7. “The Panorama of Pilgrim’s Progress,” in The City of Saco, Maine, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.sacomaine.org/historyculture/museum/yorkpan.shtml.
8. “Pilgrim’s Progress,” in Pilgrim Congregational Church, St. Louis, MO, 22 Feb. 2002, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.pilgrimuccstl.org/p091_pilgrim_progress.htm.
9. “Pilgrim’s Progress,” in Unitarian.Org, Minneapolis, MN, Mar. 2002, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.unitarian.org/ph/pp0302.htm.
10. “Pilgrim’s Progress, Duty to God and Country,” in UNFPA: United Nations Population Fund, New York, NY, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.unfpa.org/news/atwork/iran_fp.htm.
11. Pilgrim’s Progress, Kathmandu, Nepal, 5 Apr. 2002 http://dharmatours.com/.
12. Liam J. Bannon, “A Pilgrim’s Progress: From Cognitive Science to Cooperative Design,” in The Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.ul.ie/~idc/library/papersreports/LiamBannon/2/Aisoc.html.
13. John Updike, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” New York Review of Books, 3 Dec. 1992, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=2736.
14. Joyce Carol Oates, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” New York Review of Books, 2 Nov. 2000, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=13887.
15. WorldCat, in OCLC, 5 Apr. 2002 http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org.
16. WorldCat, in OCLC, 5 Apr. 2002 http://newfirstsearch.oclc.org.
17. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to That Which Is to Come, ed. James Blanton Wharey, rev. Roger Sharrock, 2nd ed. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1960).
18. Mary Godolphin, The Pilgrim’s Progress in Words of One Syllable (New York: Hurst and Co., n.d.).
19. [Mary Godolphin], Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in Words of One Syllable. With Numerous Illustrations Designed by Frederick Barnard and Others and Water-Color Reproductions (N.p.: W. E. Scull, 1896).
20. Mary Godolphin, Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan Retold and Shortened for Modern Readers, drawings by Robert Lawson (Philadelphia, New York: J. B. Lippincott Co., 1939).
21. Dorothy Fay Foster, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Simplified Edition, illustrated by David Lamb (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1949).
22. Pilgrim’s Progress in Modern English (Lansing, IL: Matthew Publishing, 1980; repr. 1982).
23. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (Chicago: Moody, 1960).
24. Gary D. Schmidt, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress: A Retelling . . ., illustrated by Barry Moser (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994).
25. Eliza Eberle, The Pilgrim’s Progress, in Verse (Berlin, NY: Eberle, 1854).
26. Alan Parry and Linda Parry, The Evergreen Wood: An Adaptation of The Pilgrim’s Progress for Children (Nashville: Oliver Nelson, 1992).
27. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1961).
28. [Charles Overton], Cottage Lectures; or, The Pilgrim’s Progress Practically Explained (Philadelphia: American Sunday-School Union, 1849); John Kelman, The Road: A Study of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, 2 vols. (Edinburgh, London: Oliphant Anderson and Ferrier, [ca. 1911]).
29. Gary Carey, The Pilgrim’s Progress: Notes, Cliffs Notes (Lincoln, NB: Cliffs Notes, 1968; repr. 1994); Elizabeth Wright, The Pilgrim’s Progress: Chapter Notes and Criticism, Study-Master Chapter Notes and Critical Commentary (New York: American R.D.M. Corp., 1966).
30. Le Pélerinage du Chrétian à le cité céleste (New York: American Tract Society, [ca. 1840]; Die Pilgerreise nach der seligen Ewigkeit (Leipsig: Lur Verlag, n.d.).
31. J. L. Pierson, trans., Des Pelgrims Reize van deze Wereld naar de Toekomende, 3rd ed. (Nijmegen: P. J. Milborn, n.d.); Turas an oilithrigh: fá shamhail aislinge (London: Cumann na Dtráchtas Crábhaidh, 1928).
32. Kristens och Kristinnas Resa (Rockford, IL: Chandler Bros., 1891).
33. Evan MacKenzie, trans., [Tibetan Pilgrim’s Progress] (London: Religious Tract Society, [ca. 1920s]. E. Palgrave Davy, trans. W. G. Lawes et al., Basileia Tauna Ena Laolao: A Translation into the Motu Language of John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as Retold for Children by the late Rev. E. Palgrave Davy . . . (Petersham, New South Wales: Australia and New Zealand Committee of the London Missionary Society, 1951).
34. Oliver Hunkin, Dangerous Journey, illus. Alan Parry (Basingstoke: Marshall Morgan & Scott, 1985), 60-61.
35. Photograph by Daniel Grogan, in Susan Tyler Hitchcock, The University of Virginia: A Pictorial History (Charlottesville: Univ. Press of Virginia and Univ. of Virginia Bookstore, 1999), 189.
36. The Pilgrim’s Progress, from This World to That Which Is to Come (Glasgow: n.p., [ca. 1847]), 12.
37. The Game of Pilgrim’s Progress (Bozeman, MT: Family Time, Inc., ); The Game of Pilgrim’s Progress, 5 Apr. 2002 http://www.midrivers.com/~pilgrim/.
38. Progress [Card game], Pepys Series (London: Castell Brothers Ltd, [ca. 1920s]).
39. MacKenzie, trans., [Tibetan Pilgrim’s Progress], facing 80.
40. John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress from this World to that which is to Come. Illustrated with 110 Designs by J. D. Watson Engraved by the Brothers Dalziel (London: Routledge, 1879), 113.
41. Illustrated title page for William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero (1848), reproduced in Vanity Fair, ed. Peter L. Shillingsburg (New York: Garland, 1989), vii.
42. Vanity Fair (New York: Frank J. Thompson), 31 Dec. 1859, 1.
43. Vanity Fair (London: “Vanity Fair” Office), 20 (1878), volume title; 14 Sept. 1878, 135.
44. Vanity Fair (New York: Condé-Nast Publications), Apr. 2002.
45. Blake, “Christian and Hopeful escape from Doubting Castle,” in Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (1942), facing 160.
46. Pilgrim’s Progress, 1st ed. (1678; 1928 Douglas facsimile); The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come. The Second Part (London: Printed for Nathaniel Ponder, 1684). Pages from Part 2 reproduced from a photographic facsimile of the Huntington Library copy in Early English Books Online (Ann Arbor, MI: Bell & Howell, 1999- ), 5 Apr. 2002 http://wwwlib.umi.com/eebo/.
47. Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, trans. Justin O’Brien (New York: Knopf, 1955), 3.
48. The readings occur, respectively, in copies held by the British Library (Douglas facsimile) and the Huntington Library (Early English Books Online, 5 Apr. 2002).
49. The images are from the Huntington Library copy as reproduced in Early English Books Online, 5 Apr. 2002. The introduction to the Wharey and Sharrock edition of Pilgrim’s Progress (p. cxv) offers an explanation of these anomalies.
50. G. Thomas Tanselle, The History of Books as a Field of Study (Chapel Hill: Hanes Foundation, Rare Book Collection/Academic Affairs Library, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1981), 10. The essay has also been printed as “From Bibliography to Histoire Totale,” Times Literary Supplement, 5 June 1981, 647-49.
|TEI markup by John Unsworth|