Committee on Scholarly Editions

modern language association of america

Annual Report to the Executive Council

25 October 2001






The Committee on Scholarly Editions (CSE) is a standing committee of the MLA, created in September 1976 to replace the advisory board of the Center for Editions of American Authors (CEAA). As the change in name implied, the CSE was charged with fostering high standards not just for scholarly editing of American authors, but for scholarly editing of any author in any language or historical period embraced by the MLA. From the start, but especially under its two previous chair (Jo Ann Boydston, 1988–92, and Gary A. Stringer, 1992–96) the committee has steadily but cautiously enlarged the range of editions (and periods and languages) for which it was willing and able to provide professional advice. In the recent past the committee has dealt with editions in English ranging from The Play of Wisdom, the complete works of Anne Vaughan Lock, and the English poems of Charles d’Orléans, to various titles by Donne, Herbert, Thackeray, Wordsworth, Carlyle, Blake, Conrad, and Woolf. It has also reviewed editions of works in French and Spanish by Marie de France and Luis Vélez de Guevara. And it has continued to provide services for editors of American writers and philosophers well beyond the favored few originally sponsored by the CEAA—now including George Santayana, Charles Sanders Peirce, Frederick Douglass, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Robert Penn Warren, Harriet A. Jacobs, and Robinson Jeffers. It has also continued to inspect standard scholarly editions of William James, Mark Twain, Cooper, Melville, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whitman.

The committee has nine members. Currently they are: M. J. Devaney, Morris E. Eaves, Margaret J. M. Ezell, Isobel Grundy, Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe, Joseph V. Ricapito, Joan Hinde Stewart, John Unsworth, and Robert H. Hirst (chair since 1 July 1996). This is a group with diverse expertise in American, English, French, Italian, and Spanish literatures, in periods ranging from the medieval to the present. It is also particularly strong (thanks to John Unsworth and Morris Eaves) on electronic editions, which the committee continues to find looming ever larger on the horizon of actual and possible editions. Members are appointed for terms of four years and therefore tend to rotate off the committee in an orderly fashion, two, or at most three, each year.

One of the committee’s most time-consuming but essential functions, now and in the past, has been to carry out careful inspections of scholarly editions before publication, and to award the committee’s seal of approval to editions which passed this scrutiny. That inspection process has, by and large, supplied peer review and a measure of quality control for scholarly editions published by many university presses, which publish almost all such editions, and yet are typically unable to supply themselves with genuine, pre-publication scrutiny. Such scrutiny can be and has been supplied by the CSE, which requires its inspectors to work with a sample of the original materials as well as with the editorial treatment being inspected. Since the committee’s last report it has inspected and awarded its emblem (“an approved edition”) to six editions, including volumes in ongoing scholarly editions of  Thomas Carlyle, William James, George Santayana, Willa Cather, and Luis Vélez de Guevara. Inspections of nine additional volumes are under way or about to begin: Thoreau, Emerson, Whitman, Santayana (2), Douglass, Emily Davies, Robinson Jeffers, and two more for Luis Vélez de Guevara. Formal consultations are also in progress or about to begin for large editions of the letters of Robinson and Una Jeffers and of Henry James. (For a checklist of the volumes inspected or now being reviewed, see the end of this report.)

The committee has spent much of the past three years revising, updating, and otherwise refining its working guidelines for scholarly editions. This revision was both a response to changes in the way scholarly editing is practiced (“editorial pluralism”) and to the committee’s own deliberately expanded range. The existing guidelines needed to be rendered in a vocabulary that was more nearly accessible to editors working in periods, languages, and editorial traditions different from those which heretofore occupied the committee’s attention almost exclusively. In addition, the committee has continued to labor toward a workable set of guidelines for inspecting and approving electronic editions. Those guidelines may be expected to continue to evolve as the available technology and the real experience of electronic editors evolve. At our most recent meeting in New York we again discussed and collectively revised our overall guidelines in ways that will allow a single set of guidelines to apply to both print and electronic editions. Plans were also sketched out for a volume to provide guidance on electronic editing, to be co-sponsored by the Text Encoding Initiative consortium (TEI) and the MLA’s Committee on Scholarly Editions (CSE), and possibly funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.[1]

The committee sponsored two, well-attended back-to-back sessions at the annual MLA convention in December 2000: “Whose Standards?” sections I and II, were organized by Katherine O’Brien O”Keeffe. The basic idea was to explore questions of what standards remain, or ought to remain constant among editions from different periods and in very different media (paper vs. electronic, for example). For the MLA convention in 2002, Morris Eaves will work with the committee to organize joint sessions with the TEI, focused on the CSE guidelines and on the projected volume mentioned above. Working title for the session is “Scholarly Editing for Print and Electronic Media.”

This annual report is my last for the committee. At our meeting on 6 September 2001, I resigned as chair, effective January 2002, while agreeing to serve out my term as a committee member (through June 2004). John Unsworth and Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe agreed to serve henceforward as co-chairs of the committee.


Robert H. Hirst, Chair



For the Period September 2000–October 2001

Six Editions Approved


1. William James

Title:   The Correspondence of William James, Volume 10: 1902–March 1905.  The Correspondence of William James. John J. McDermott, General Editor

Editors of This Title: Ignas K. Skrupskelis and Elizabeth M. Berkeley

CSE Inspector: Keen Butterworth, University of South Carolina

Status: approved, 8 September 2001


2. Thomas Carlyle

Title: Historical Essays. The Norman and Charlotte Strouse Edition of the Works of Thomas Carlyle. Murray Baumgarten, Editor-in-Chief

Editor of This Title: Chris R. Vanden Bossche

CSE Inspector: Albert J. von Frank, Washington State University

Status: approved, 13 November 2000


3. George Santayana

Title: The Letters, Volume V–Book 1: 1868–1909, The Works of George Santayana

Editors of This title: Marianne Wokeck, Kristine W. Frost, William G. Holzberger, Textual Editor, and Herman Saatkamp, General Editor

CSE Inspector: Joseph M. Thomas, Pace University

Status: approved, 17 January 2000


4. Willa Cather

Title: Shadows on the Rock, in the Willa Cather Scholarly Edition

Editors of This Title: Susan Rosowski, General Editor; Frederick M. Link, Textual Editor

CSE Inspector: Don L. Cook, Indiana University at Bloomington

Status: approved, 23 October 2000


5–6. Luis Vélez de Guevara

Title: La Serrana de la Vera. Comedias Completas de Luis Vélez de Guevara.

Editors of This Title: C. George Peale and William R. Manson

CSE Inspector: Michael McGaha, Pomona College

Status: approved, 17 May 2001


Title: La mayor desgracia de Carlos Quinto. Comedias Completas de Luis Vélez de Guevara.

Editors: C. George Peale and William R. Manson

CSE Inspector: Charles Ganelin, Purdue University

Status: approved, 31 August 2001



                                          Nine Editions Currently Under Review


1. Emily Davies

Title: Selected Letters of Emily Davies

Editors: Ann B. Murphy and Deirdre Raferty

CSE Inspector: Maryann Valiulis, Trinity College, University of Dublin

Status: committee about to vote


2. Frederick Douglass

Title: My Bondage and My Freedom

Editors: John W. Blassingame, John R. McKivigan, Peter P. Hinks, and Gerald Fulkerson, with L. Diane Barnes, Assistant Editor

CSE Inspector: Thomas L. McHaney, Georgia State University

Status: committee is now voting


3–4. Luis Vélez de Guevara

Title: El espejo del mundo. Comedias Completas de Luis Vélez de Guevara.

Editors of This Title: C. George Peale and William R. Manson

CSE Inspector: pending

Status:looking for an inspector


Title: El Conde don Pero Vélez y don Sancho el Deseado. Comedias Completas de Luis Vélez de Guevara.

Editors of This Title: C. George Peale and William R. Manson

CSE Inspector: pending

Status:looking for an inspector


5. Henry D. Thoreau

Title: Journals. Volume 8 in The Writings of Henry David Thoreau

Editors: Elizabeth Witherell, General Editor

CSE Inspector: Richard D. Rust, University of North Carolina

Status: inspector just chosen


6. George Santayana

Title: The Letters, Volume V–Book 2, The Works of George Santayana

Editors of This title: Marianne Wokeck, Kristine W. Frost, William G. Holzberger, Textual Editor, and Herman Saatkamp, General Editor

CSE Inspector: David J. Nordloh, Indiana University

Status: balloting about to begin


7. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Title: The Conduct of Life. Volume 6 in The Collected Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Editors: Douglas Emory Wilson, General and Textual Editor; Barbara Packer wrote the Historical Introduction

CSE Inspector: Joel Myerson, University of South Carolina

Status: inspection postponed indefinitely by the editor, 30 January 2000


8. Walt Whitman

Title: The Journalism, Volume II: 1846–1848

Editors: Herbert Bergman, Douglas A Noverr, and Edward J. Recchia

CSE Inspector: M. Jimmie Killingsworth, Texas A & M University

Status: inspection was to begin in October 2000; no further word


9. Robinson Jeffers

Title:   The Poems of Robinson Jeffers, 4 volumes

Editor: Tim Hunt

CSE Inspector: Elizabeth H. Witherell, Northern Illinois University at DeKalb

Status: review of the fourth and final volume is still in progress


                                        Two Editions under Formal Consultation

1. Henry James

Title: The Complete Letters of Henry James

Editor: Greg W.  Zacharias, General Editor

Consultant: to be named

Status: still looking for a qualified consultant


2. Robinson Jeffers and Una Jeffers

The Collected Letters of Robinson Jeffers with Selected Letters of Una Jeffers

Editor: James Karman

Consultant: Robert H. Hirst

Status: continuing at well-spaced intervals

[1]Before I  completed this report, John Unsworth had secured $40,000 in funding from Mellon and the MLA Publications Committee had approved publication of Electronic Textual Editing, to be co-edited by Unsworth, OKeeffe, and Lou Burnard.