Journal of the Northern Renaissance

~ Radical Open Access ~

‘Let the more loving one be me’: The Paranoid and Reparative Dynamics of Editing Anna Trapnel’s Report and Plea (1654)

Hilary Hinds

[1] Anna Trapnel’s Report and Plea (1654) recounts the author’s journey from her home in London to Cornwall to continue her work of political prophecy, and her subsequent arrest, court appearance in Truro, return to London under armed guard and imprisonment in Bridewell. The text is a deft, lively and engaging narrative memoir and polemic, but it also offers a number of formulations of the author’s understanding of the processes and politics of speaking, writing and publishing. Her previous publications had principally been transcriptions of her prophecies, in which she repeatedly refused to describe herself as the text’s author, claiming instead to be no more than a conduit for God’s word. In this text, however, the fourth published under her name in 1654, she takes up the authorial position on the title page (‘from her own hand’), in the deployment throughout of the first person and in naming herself as the instigator of the text’s publication: ‘I have thought it meet to offer this relation to the worlds view’ (Trapnel 1654: 28[1]). These elements combine to produce an unusually immediate, evocative and engaging instance of seventeenth-century life-writing.

[2] Trapnel’s conception of her authorship of this text, however, was not predicated principally on thinking of her writing as either reliant on memory or as the literary re-creation of her experiences over several turbulent months. Her recollection of those events, she suggests, would have been inadequate to the task of producing this text: ‘I could not have related so much from the shallow memory I have naturally, but through often relating these things, they become as a written book, spread open before me, and after which I write’ (Trapnel 1654: 34). Even prior to the committal of the account to paper the narrative of events had existed, located beyond the author, generated in previous relations of the events of the journey and its aftermath. Thereby those precious, authorising but ‘shallow’ and nebulous memories acquired the solidity and reliability, even the materiality, of the ‘written book’. All that remained for her to do was to transcribe it. In this account, the act of writing confers on Trapnel not so much the position of the author but more that of the textual editor: the assiduous and faithful copyist of the valued words of a pre-existing text.[2]

[3] The preparation of a new edition of the Report and Plea has given me ample occasion and many different ways of experiencing the relationship that evolves between text and editor, and Trapnel’s own formulations, and her complication of the categories of author and editor and of my own presuppositions about their meaning and remit, have raised my awareness of this dynamic.[3] Like most longstanding relationships, that between editor and text is required to accommodate not only the pleasures and satisfactions to be gained from a growing familiarity with the textual object in question, but also the frustration, and sometimes the boredom, of spending too much time in its company. Such emotional responses may from time to time move centre-stage and become fully conscious, but more often they remain on the side-lines, occasionally glimpsed but never sufficiently pressing to become themselves the objects of scrutiny. Instead, the next footnote beckons, insisting on taking precedence over the vagaries of the shifting affective landscape inhabited by the editor.

[4]  Participation in an event, and now a Special Issue, devoted to ‘Scrutinising Surfaces in Early Modern Thought’, however, gives me the opportunity to step to one side of the usual pressures and preoccupations of editorial processes and practices in order to reflect on the dynamics of the text-editor relationship. In its endeavour to collate and present an accurate, reliable, perhaps even authoritative version of its subject-text, editing might be said to be a critical activity centrally and unusually preoccupied with the textual surface. As the leading theorist of textual editing Hans Walter Gabler puts it, ‘the editorial gaze is not directed at the compass of complexities or depths of meaning of the work’; rather, those depths are eschewed in favour of the textual surface, where the gaze is ‘trained on the material minutiae of the text’ (Gabler 2009: 10; my emphasis). In an editorial project such as mine, where the text in question is neither a manuscript nor one of several distinct editions but a single-edition published text from the mid-seventeenth century, attention to the textual surface comprises, in the first instance at least, scrupulous processes of transcription and comparison. The copy-text is keyed in, the copy checked against the original; the transcription is read aloud and recorded, and then played back while following the copy-text word by word, punctuation point by punctuation point. The few extant copies of the text, held by several different research libraries, are scrutinised so that variants can be logged. Painstaking attention is paid to every imperfectly printed word, every inverted letter, every inconsistent page number or catchword, and fine judgements are made about the reproduction or resolution of all such textual anomalies. Editorial principles have to be established. Should the spelling of the copy-text be retained in the new edition, or should it be modernised? If the former, should it be verbatim et literatim, or more editorially interventionist? If the latter, should every emendation be footnoted, or should some changes be made silently, their presence indicated only in an ‘Editorial Note’? Whatever answers are given to these questions, the intention is to safeguard, reveal and enhance the copy-text by means of an accurate reproduction of its textual surface – the words on the page – so that the edition becomes ‘the one optimally representing the work … the best result achievable from historically aware and textually critical efforts’ (Gabler 2009: 9).

[5] That ‘best result’ would usually presuppose an accurate reproduction of the textual surface. However, ‘accuracy’ can be variously conceived, and definitions and understandings of what it might comprise are not value-free. In the editorial lexicon’s rehearsal of its ambitions in such phrases as ‘remaining faithful’, ‘staying true’, ‘respecting’, or ‘doing justice’ to the original text, the moral imperative informing the enterprise is clear – though it is also open to alternative, though no less judgemental, evaluations, as in the construal of an edition as ‘slavish’ (Mandell 2010: 122), for example. The moral dimension of the enterprise is crystallised in the words of the poet Antanas Baranauskas (1835-1902), chosen as an epigraph to an article on textual criticism: ‘May he never find happiness who alters the orthography, let alone a single word, of the text’ (cited by Shillingsburg 2012: 251), where the words ‘May he never’ – a jussive subjunctive used to exhort or order – have the chilling resonance (for the editor of a modern spelling edition, at least) of a curse on the benighted wrongdoer.[4] Whatever editorial principles are finally adopted, however, resulting in whatever practices, forensically close attention to the textual surface pays homage to a literary composite, comprising not only the text as a complex linguistic structure worthy of reproduction , but also its cultural history, its critical reputation and its claim to scholarly attention in the present.

[6] Such an attentive relation to the textual surface is capable of generating, as I have already suggested, a range of emotional responses in the editor. These result in part from the nature of the editorial enterprise itself, and the dedication, endurance and concentration it requires, but they are informed too by the specifics of the editor’s decisions about principles and practices regarding the reproduction of the textual surface in the scholarly edition, and so the decisions themselves in turn inflect the tenor and timbre of the editor-text relation. Modernising a text’s spelling, for example, might suggest a different distribution of power between text, editor and projected reader than would be produced by a verbatim-et-literatim edition. While there is, of course, an extensive, longstanding and theoretically sophisticated literature on textual criticism and scholarly editing, its interest in the relationship between editor and text is usually conceptualised at the level only of principles and practices: the impact of the standing of the putative ‘author’ on that relation, for example, or the conceptualisation of the ‘text’ vis-a-via the ‘work’, or, more recently, the impact of the digital edition.

[7] When an interest in the affective dynamic between text and editor is evinced, it emerges from between the lines which are directed at characterising the editorial enterprise. In his Presidential Address to the Association for Documentary Editing Annual Meeting in 2013, for example, Phil Chase describes the editor’s ‘intimate acquaintance’ with the documents under examination as the result of ‘scholarly diligence’, a demanding combination of ‘focus, concentration, painstaking care, thoroughness, persistence, and perseverance’ (Chase 2014: 4). This intimacy is hard-won, the result of a protracted and demanding encounter. Editors, Chase suggests, are ‘explorers of the vast, strange world of the past or the intricate worlds of literary or intellectual creation’, but far from seeing them as heroic figures, he describes them as stoically and doggedly pedestrian, ‘plodding mile after mile for months on end, ever attentive to everything around them: typography, geology, flora and fauna, human inhabitants, and human creations. Our aim is not so much to tell others about our journey, but to enable them to make a similar journey and see for themselves’ (Chase 2014: 4, 5). Whatever feats of endurance are required of the editor, the personal reward is considerable: ‘Your truest knowledge and best insights come from your editing’. Moreover, for Chase editing is not only life-enhancing, but life-augmenting: ‘Time spent editing is time added to your life, because you are living simultaneously in two different worlds whenever you edit’ (Chase 2014: 8). The ‘joys’ of editing promised in Chase’s title, therefore, are comprehensive and far-reaching, personal, even existential, as well as professional.

[8] My own labours, however, have led me to conclude that the affective territory inhabited by editorial work is more varied and ambiguous than Chase’s characterisation allows, compacting (among other states) delight, dismay and dislike, enchantment and disillusion, deference and dismissal, anxiety, ennui, suspicion and supplication. It is to the specifics of the constitution, fluctuations and implications of this restless relationship between editor and text that this article will attend, prompted by the sense that there is something particular to the dynamics driving editorial work. These specificities lie in the characteristic modes of editorial reading and writing, of course, which differ in impulse and intention from those of other critical work, but they arise too in the peculiarly and powerfully symbiotic relation of text and editor. If these particularities were to be understood as not only procedural and disciplinary but also affective, and were analysed in relation to their characteristic distribution along the axes of the ‘paranoid’ and ‘reparative’ imperatives, might this sharpen our understanding of what is at stake in the acts, ambitions and affects of textual editing, as distinct from other critical modes? The discussion therefore takes as its starting point the tensions between the projects of so-called ‘paranoid’ and ‘reparative’ criticism: that is, the differential models of the critical enterprise so famously characterised in those terms by Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick.[5] Her interventions have prompted countless responses, which in turn have been ably and amply summarised, reviewed, debated and critiqued (see for example Bewes 2010, Weed 2012; Lesjak 2013; Wiegman 2014; Stacey 2014). Here, rather than offering a further comprehensive overview of the debates thus far, therefore, I shall offer only a brief account of Sedgwick’s thesis and proposition, of the antecedents of and analogues to her critique, including those with an avowed interest in ‘surface’ rather than ‘depth’ studies of literature, in order then to take the terms and premises of the debate back to the particularities of the editorial enterprise.

[9] Sedgwick’s essay ‘Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading’ (2003) has served as a touchstone text in recent discussions of different models of critical practice. She routes her critique and the manifesto it engenders through (in the first instance) Paul Ricoeur’s notion of a ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’, the interrogative stance of the dominant mode of literary and cultural criticism which she glosses as ‘paranoid’. Sedgwick argues that literary criticism needs to loosen its too-singular attachment to paranoid reading practices such as those adumbrated by a hermeneutics of suspicion, premised on ‘protocols of unveiling’: behind or below the ostensible ‘surface’ of the text lurks its more or less hidden – and usually ugly and unpalatable – truth, which it is the task of the critic to unveil. Sedgwick gives instances of some of the characteristic critical modes through which these processes take place: ‘Subversive and demystifying parody, suspicious archaeologies of the present, the detection of hidden patterns of violence and their exposure’ (Sedgwick 2003: 143). Robyn Wiegman has glossed the primary rhetorical genre of the paranoid model as critique, a mode which confers on ‘the critic sovereignty in knowing, when others do not, the hidden contingencies of what things really mean’ (Wiegman 2014: 7). Sedgwick cites Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990) as an exemplary instance of a paranoid critical project, but in an early modern context, paranoid critical impulses or agendas might include, for example, reading for evidence of a Catholic Shakespeare, for same-sex desire in Restoration drama, or for a proto-feminist politics in the writings of Aphra Behn or Katherine Philips. It is not, Sedgwick argues, that such projects are always or necessarily misguided; indeed, she identifies herself as a hitherto paranoid reader par excellence, as indeed do others (Sedgwick 2003: 146; Apter and Freedgood 2009: 144). It is more that a paranoid critical stance has become too rigid a critical orthodoxy, ‘nearly synonymous with criticism itself’ (Sedgwick 2003: 124). Her suggestion is that critics need to recognise that ‘Paranoia knows some things well and others poorly’ (130) and, as a result, broaden their repertoires to include other ways of reading and knowing.

[10] The model Sedgwick proposes as an alternative or ‘alongside’ model to the paranoid is that of ‘reparative reading’, a position she develops through reference to Melanie Klein’s theorisation of the paranoid/schizoid and depressive positions in ego-formation. In these formative processes, the ‘splitting of the mother/breast into good and bad objects produces the fear and suspicion of the breast (paranoid-schizoid position), which is then superseded by the discovery that the breast it hates and the breast it loves are the same breast (depressive position)’ (Stacey 2014: 44). The primary interest for Sedgwick in Klein’s theorisation lies in the impermanence and instability of the paranoid-schizoid position: its ‘hatred, envy, and anxiety’ are always in oscillating relation with the ‘anxiety-mitigating achievement’ of the (equally unstable and temporary) depressive position (Sedgwick 2003: 128). This leads Sedgwick to the speculative proposition of a ‘reparative’ critical stance that would also involve the surrender of the paranoid position’s ‘knowing, anxious[,] paranoid’ (Sedgwick 2003: 146) hypervigilance towards its textual object, whereby it seeks to expose and master its unconscious repressions, affiliations and agendas. In its place, a critical position would be adopted that has been variously characterised as: intimate with or proximate to the object of study; open to and welcoming of the surprises that the text may spring on the reader; generous to the particularities of the text’s character and processes, and to its manifest identifications of its agendas and purposes; and accepting of the text’s limitations and weaknesses (Sedgwick 2003: 126; Wiegman 2014: 7). The reparative reader would seek to replace critical attachments forged by ‘correction, rejection, and anger with those crafted by affection, gratitude, solidarity, and love. Under these affective terms, the critical act is reconfigured to value, sustain, and privilege the object’s worldly inhabitations and needs’ (Wiegman 2014: 7). The words here are Robyn Wiegman’s, but she is alluding to Sedgwick’s much-cited observation that ‘[a]mong Klein’s names for the reparative process is love’ (Sedgwick 2003: 128) – in this case, ‘love’ for the textual object, rather than the paranoid position’s aggressive desire to outsmart it.

[11] Sedgwick’s manifesto on behalf of reparative reading practices has been widely taken up in the last dozen years or so in what Elizabeth Weed aptly calls ‘a groundswell of support for new ways of reading’ (Weed 2012: 95). Sedgwick suggested that, in particular, ‘practices of reparative knowing may lie, barely recognized and little explored, at the heart of many histories of gay, lesbian, and queer intertextuality’ (Sedgwick 2003: 149), and it is indeed the case, as Wiegman observes, that feminist and queer studies have been notable as sites for the enthusiastic adoption of reparative and cognate reading practices.[6] But the reparative impulse can also be seen at work, albeit via a slightly different theoretical genealogy, in literary critic Timothy Bewes’s 2010 call to read ‘with the grain’ of a text rather than against it, and in the introduction to a Special Issue of the journal Representations in 2009 on ‘The Way We Read Now’. There we find a now familiar rebuttal of the ‘depth’ model of reading associated with Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of suspicion, but also with Fredric Jameson’s ‘symptomatic reading’, in which ‘[t]he interpreter … reveals truths that “remain unrealized in the surface of the text”’ (Best and Marcus 2009: 3). Dissatisfied with ‘depth’ criticism’s basis in ‘ideological demystification’, Best and Marcus advocate instead reading practices which ‘seek to understand the complexity of literary surfaces – surfaces that have been rendered invisible by symptomatic reading’ (Best and Marcus 2009: 1). The invocation of a ‘surface’ might seem of necessity to bring with it the notion of depth, dependent on binaries such as outside/inside or upper/lower, but Best and Marcus explicitly reject these associations as embedded within a ‘symptomatic’ purview, where surface is understood as ‘a layer that conceals’. Instead:

we take surface to mean what is evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts; what is neither hidden nor hiding; what, in the geometrical sense, has length and breadth but no thickness, and therefore covers no depth. A surface is what insists on being looked at rather than what we must train ourselves to see through. (Best and Marcus 2009: 9; original emphasis)

For Best and Marcus, such an approach might mean attending to the materiality of the text, to the intricate verbal structures of literary language, to textual description, to ‘literal meaning’, or to textual affects. If a paranoid ‘hermeneutics of suspicion’ requires the critic to take up the position of the ever-mistrustful sleuth, the reader who scrutinises textual surfaces is characterised more as (quoting Anne-Lise François) ‘“bearing witness to the given” … refus[ing] to celebrate or condemn their objects of study’ (Best and Marcus 2009: 18). As they acknowledge, such a stance brings into view a set of critical ambitions that are close to ‘what has almost become taboo in literary studies: objectivity, validity, truth’ (Best and Marcus 2009: 17). These concepts may have become taboo in literary studies, but they have retained considerable currency, albeit in increasingly carefully theorised ways, in discussions of scholarly editing.

[12] In their refusal of ‘depth’ models of reading, whether the symptomatic reading’s revelation of the truth both hidden behind and revealed by the symptom on the surface, or the paranoid’s reliance on the ‘protocols of unveiling’, the advocates of both ‘surface’ and ‘reparative’ reading strategies offer a shared diagnosis of dominant critical modes. And while the counter-position of ‘surface’ reading continues to rely on the spatial metaphor in its very name, so too does the reparative, if more covertly. Sedgwick declares that in Touching Feeling she has tried ‘to explore some ways around the topos of depth or hiddenness, typically followed by a drama of exposure’, but not through the abandonment of a spatial model but by recasting it: ‘the irreducibly spatial positionality of beside … seems to offer some useful resistance to the ease with which beneath and beyond turn from spatial descriptors into implicit narratives of, respectively, origin and telos’ (Sedgwick 2003: 8; her emphasis). If ‘beneath’ and ‘beyond’ imply a supersession of one thing by another, and hence a hierarchy, or at least a sequence, then ‘beside’ suggests the spirit of inclusiveness and generosity to which the ‘love’ at the core of the reparative project aspires.

[13] These debates have focused on literary and cultural criticism, broadly conceived, but their key terms of reference, whether paranoid and reparative or surface and depth, have immediate traction with regard to the critical field of scholarly editing. Editorial work, as I have already suggested, is manifestly preoccupied with the textual surface – not as an opaque veil that has to be lifted to reveal the contours or depths beneath, but as an object (to return to Best and Marcus’s definition) to be looked at rather than through. The bedrock of editorial work, its core activity, eschews interpretation, in the first instance at least, in deference to the claims for attention of the text itself – not only the correct identification of ambiguous words or punctuation points, but also the patterns of its variants across copies, and the textures generated by its typefaces, page layouts and printers’ ornaments. But, beyond this, editorial work could quite credibly be described as not only preoccupied with surface, but also as quintessentially reparative. Indeed, Wiegman’s gloss on the reparative position cited earlier, in which ‘the critical act is reconfigured to value, sustain, and privilege the object’s worldly inhabitations and needs’ (Wiegman 2014: 7) could itself serve as a succinct summary of the remit and ambitions of textual editing. The trajectory of editing begins with valuing the textual object; it proceeds by a sustained and sustaining attention to the object and its ‘needs’; and, with the publication of the completed edition, it concludes by privileging the text’s right to ‘worldly inhabitation’ in the here and now.

[14] Closer examination of the editorial project finds further evidence of its reparative dimensions. In particular, any lingering editorial ambition of critical ‘sovereignty’ (Wiegman 2014:7), of omnipotent mastery or authority over the text – the province of the paranoid position – has soon, or at least ultimately, to be relinquished, exposed as an impossible fantasy. No matter how devoted an editor might be to the idea of faithful reproduction (however conceived) of the text, sometimes that surface proves recalcitrant, resistant to that editorial desire. Even in the case of my edition of Anna Trapnel’s text, for example – a text which, as I have already suggested, is unusually straightforward and ‘amenable’ in textual terms – I found replication of the ‘words on the page’ less fully realisable than I had anticipated. The following demonstrates the most acute instance of a textual crux in the Report and Plea:[7]

The troublesome word is the fifth one on the second line: ‘Oh you Inhabitants of’ – where? Magnification of the word provides some assistance:[8]

The letters are clear enough, apart from the penultimate one, which is possibly, but not definitely, an ‘i’: the letter rises slightly above the level of the preceding ‘o’, which may or may not be the result of the point over the ‘i’ having merged with the letter. It is difficult to find other likely candidates for this letter. Taking it as an ‘i’ does not help much, however, as there is nowhere called ‘Fruroir’. The conclusion I drew was that this word was likely to be the result of the compositor’s misreading of the manuscript’s ‘Truro’, since this was the place in which Trapnel had been accused of witchcraft by the town’s inhabitants and clergy, and the name of a Cornish town some two-hundred-and-seventy miles away would not necessarily be familiar to a London typesetter.[9] In a verbatim-et-literatim edition, the response to this would have been to reproduce the letters as precisely as possible, with a comment on the problem in a brief footnote. In my own modern-spelling edition, I opted for ‘Truro’, with a rather lengthy footnote providing a discussion of the conundrum. The rights or wrongs of either solution is not at issue here; what the example demonstrates is the text’s refusal to allow any certainty, and hence any mastery or sovereignty.

[15] On other occasions, the textual surface presents no such barriers to transcription, but the refusal of mastery emerges instead at the level of editorial understanding. In the case of my edition of Trapnel’s text, Mrs Winter of Exeter, whose house ‘many yeers had entertained and lodged Saints’ (Trapnel 1654: 8) and with whom Trapnel stayed on her way to Cornwall, remains, despite my best efforts, stubbornly untraceable. Such impasses are the fate of all textual editors: Phil Chase (citing the editor Donald Jackson) suggests that ‘the essence of editing is still … a scholar sitting at a desk surrounded by books and papers, … [t]rying to identify a man named Cuthbert Gleep’ (Chase 2014: 9). The continuing elusiveness of Mrs Winter feels like an editorial failure, but perhaps, instead, the limit to editorial sovereignty that she represents might be refocused through a reparative lens as no longer a source of vulnerability and potential humiliation, but as salutary, indicative of the impossibility of the aspiration to render a text fully transparent, to compel it to yield all its secrets. And this reminder might be particularly apposite with regard to textual editorship, in which the moments where the text refuses to be exposed become the occasions when the editor can be. In other critical enterprises, sleight of hand might permit the circumnavigation of gaps or failures in knowledge: it is possible to disguise the fact that one has not read all of Foucault, or of Freud, or of Milton, while still maintaining a voice of comprehensive critical authority. In a scholarly edition, gaps in knowledge cannot be circumnavigated, but are advertised – footnoted – for all to see: ‘Mrs Winter: untraced’.

[16] A corollary or extension of the reparative position’s aspiration to ‘repair’ or reframe the critical stance vis-à-vis sovereignty concerns its willingness to be taken by surprise by its textual object, as to be taken by surprise is an acute instance of the sudden recognition of one’s incomplete knowledge. The paranoid position’s anxiety attaches not only to its own failing sovereignty (actual or anticipated) but also extends to its apprehensive stance vis-à-vis the future, as evinced by habitual attempts to anticipate and thus prevent any unforeseen and disruptive interventions. As Sedgwick put it, ‘The first imperative of paranoia is There must be no bad surprises, and indeed, the aversion to surprise seems to be what cements the intimacy between paranoia and knowledge per se … [P]aranoia requires that bad news be always already known’ (Sedgwick 2003: 130; original emphasis). The reparative position, in contrast, advocates an openness to surprise: ‘[b]ecause there can be terrible surprises … there can also be good ones’, writes Sedgwick, and in the wake of this might emerge ‘hope’, to be found ‘among the energies by which the reparatively positioned reader tries to organize the fragments and part-objects she encounters or creates’ (Sedgwick 2003: 146). If hope is temporally inclined towards the future, it also brings with it a recognition of the possibility that ‘the past, in turn, could have happened differently from the way it actually did’ (Sedgwick 2003: 146) – a recognition inflected not by hope, but by a vulnerability to a sense of loss or grief. The reparative position encourages the cultivation of the possibility of being taken by surprise by a new recognition of the past’s lost potentialities, and to voices, tones and cadences hitherto unheard.

[17] The protracted process of editing generates an ever-increasing familiarity with the text that might seem to be in danger of dulling any such receptiveness to surprise. However, as one becomes more attuned to the text’s tempo and registers, taking pleasure in ‘tarrying’ with it in order to enter the complexity of its history, as Elizabeth Freeman (2010: xvii) puts it, this familiarity can also bring an ease, an intermittent loosening (though never an absolute relinquishment) of the anxiously hypervigilant editorial grip, a relaxation which then allows the text to speak in another voice. In the course of editing Trapnel’s Report and Plea, a pamphlet with which I have worked, on and off, for thirty years or so, I discovered that a text I had always found to have spoken from a place of anger and betrayal also rang with a kind of celebratory, if still defiant, energy. ‘It’s a lovely life the life of faith’, writes Trapnel (1654: 3-4), and once I read with the grain, in Bewes’s phrase, and took that statement at its face (or surface) value, I heard these tones more clearly throughout. Perhaps this might serve as a small but indicative instance of what Sedgwick meant when she suggested that paranoid and reparative positions result in different kinds of knowledge.

[18] Furthermore, the origin of the editorial enterprise might be seen to lie in just the kind of reparative affective attachment postulated by Sedgwick et al as based in affection, generosity and openness. Certainly, Susan J. Wolfson, in a discussion of scholarly editing in the twenty-first century, describes the editor-text relation in these terms:

I want to propose that the desire and stamina to produce a scholarly edition begin with book-love. Why would one want to manage this author, this text, or this archive, in the intimacies that editing involves? Editing is necessarily visionary and creative work: not only gathering and establishing texts, annotating with scholarly care, judgment, and critical imagination, but also introducing, framing, supplementing the texts in ways that reanimate the labors that first brought the book into the world. (Wolfson 2010: 69)

Editing here is explicitly named by Wolfson as an act generated by love. Desire initiates and drives the project, and stamina is required to sustain it over the long haul. The editor is positioned in this dynamic relationship to the text as a composite of manager, lover, midwife, mother, Dr Frankenstein and John the Baptist, his or her love for and intimacy with the text kindling in the editor the vitalising powers of the creative visionary.

[19] And yet the intimate deference evoked by this characterisation of book-love seems perhaps, in the end, to be more in the service of the subject-editor rather than the beloved object-text, to the extent that the augmentation of the critic, perhaps not as sovereign but as prophet, is reinstated by this account. Wiegman suggests that ‘the reparative turn quite significantly rewrites the critic’s value as the consequence of the object’s need’ (Wiegman 2014: 16), but in Wolfson’s characterisation the editor’s value, elaborated through this litany of multiple roles, seems in danger of overshadowing the object in whose service he or she ostensibly labours. In this slippage, the possibility of more paranoid attachments return, though attaching most easily to a different dimension of the enterprise. If the editing of the text is most easily construed as a reparative practice, the construction of the scholarly apparatus that frames, presents and annotates that text can all too easily become the location for the endless rehearsal of editorial paranoia. Here, the text often seems to lie in wait, eager to catch out its insufficiently expert editor – as in the case of Mrs Winter of Exeter. All too soon, footnotes can cease to look like a framework erected out of respect for the complexity of the text and in an act of service to the reader, and come instead to feel more like a scaffold erected for the humiliation of the editor, where his or her own scholarly shortcomings are put on display. What if (this editor asked) I have failed to find the indispensable inter-text for understanding the court procedures Trapnel underwent in Truro, for example? What if it is glaringly obvious to my more expert editor/reader who Mrs Winter was? In the ever-expanding notes at the foot of each page, every phrase, every name, every allusion must be interrogated, its origin, its context and its afterlife brought to light, in order precisely to pre-empt any post-publication bad surprises. If the editing of the text is understood as reparative, therefore, footnoting could quite readily be seen as the epitome of the paranoid critical position: based in a suspicion of the text, driven by a fear of surprises, and unwilling to countenance the adequacy of a text left to stand or fall by itself, unsupported by its surrounding apparatus.

[20] But is the divide between preparation of the text and the construction of the scholarly apparatus quite as neatly divisible as this? Might there not be ways in which a slight refocusing of the lens would reframe the construction of that apparatus, and footnoting in particular, as driven by a reparative impulse? There is a sense in which the preparation of a scholarly edition makes amateurs of even the most experienced editor, the demands of the text requiring us to step beyond our areas of expertise and enter the world brought into being and governed by the text itself. Editing Trapnel’s text required that I school myself in early modern court procedures, in the history of Bridewell, Whitehall inns, piracy and seventeenth-century coach travel. If the predominant current meaning of ‘amateur’ is non-professional, non-expert, perhaps untrained, the word also retains its etymological link to ‘love’, and so returns us to the reparative position, from which, as ill-equipped amateurs of, or enthusiasts for, particular texts, we enter unknown territory for which we have to construct a map as we go as best we can. But neither is that the end of the process. Refocusing the lens again by another quarter turn, the amateur’s ‘love’ is again revealed as not altogether benign, but as also rivalrous, fuelled by anticipation of the responses of other editors, other ‘lovers’ of Trapnel. To appropriate the words of W. H. Auden, the preparation of a new edition is driven by the editor’s paranoid-reparative, generous-competitive wish to ‘Let the more loving one be me’ (2007: 584).

[21] Through this oscillation between paranoid and reparative positions and impulses, text and editor come to occupy profoundly ambiguous positions in relation to each other. Who or what is the subject of the enterprise, and who or what its object? Sometimes, the text figures as the editor’s object, under relentless surveillance by the paranoid reader-editor, subjected to endless and intrusive poking and prying, and permitted to keep no secrets. At other times, the text is the subject of the endeavour. It is the agent acting on the attentive and devoted editor, governing his or her every move. This can sometimes best be construed as a position shaped by reparative love for and intimate proximity with the object of study. But not infrequently the textual relation reveals its paranoid underbelly, when the text shifts from occupying a position of benevolent authority to assuming one of tyranny, eliciting a response of sometimes servile devotion, sometimes resentful hostility.

[22] In the case of the editorial enterprise, therefore, the positions of paranoid and reparative reading turn out not to be alternatives – the one, outmoded, exhausted and bankrupt, to be discarded in favour of the other, fresh, invigorating and revelatory. In this kind of project, at least, the critic does not select from among a range of critical stances, but is instead moved around by a text which is variously experienced as amenable and open, or as stubborn and closed; hence the unstable affective territory occupied by the editor. The project may begin in a version of reparative book-love, but, true to its Kleinian origins, that reparative position does not supersede the anxieties and exigencies of the paranoid, but exists only in impermanent and precarious resolution of them. The plenitude of the reparative position, Klein insisted, is always temporary, and only ever achieved at a cost – the cost of recognising that the good and the bad objects are one and the same. Moreover, the fragile and precarious reparative position is only ever achieved temporarily, and in phantasy, whereby the hatred of the bad object, and the guilt at the resulting damage done to it, is resolved by its integration with the good. Rather than the reparative position being a place of resolved, generous and loving contentment, the polar opposite of the torments and insecurities of the paranoid, it is ‘in psychoanalytic terms … a defence mechanism’ against the guilt induced by the violent hatred characteristic of the paranoid position (Stacey 2014: 45). Furthermore, as Stacey reminds us (via the words of Laplanche and Pontalis), the reparative position itself is generative of new anxieties: ‘“mechanisms of reparation may come to resemble sometimes manic defences (feelings of omnipotence), and sometimes obsessional ones (compulsive repetition of reparatory acts)”’ (2014: 46; Stacey’s emphasis). In short, not only are the paranoid and the reparative always impermanent and always available positions, they are also mutually inscriptive (each is productive of the other), and consequently, because of their necessary relation to each other, they together characterise the inevitable ambivalence of object relations.

[23] Attention to the work of Klein returns the concept of ‘book-love’ to view in a changed form, refocusing it as a more complex attachment, a phenomenon rooted in phantasy, driven and riven by a range of unconscious fears and desires as well as conscious loyalties and affiliations. By this account, it is required to admit to and take account of ambiguous, uncomfortable and demanding affects as well as the generous devotion with which it is more usually associated. In the context of the editorial enterprise, ‘book-love’ comes to be seen as having less to do with a straightforwardly trusting, generous and benign keeping-of-faith with a respected textual object, and emerges instead as a temporary respite from – or even a defence against – the paranoid insecurities and surprises that structure the editorial textual relation. The socially acceptable and professionally desirable claim to be motivated by book-love might, indeed, serve in part as a decoy, distracting from the less laudable, or at least the less easily acknowledged, affective dimensions of editorial work. The murderous hatred which, according to Klein always characterises the dependent infant’s relation to the mother – she who has the power to withhold as well as provide satisfaction – may not find an exact parallel in the text-editor relation. Book-hatred is not the inevitable shadow of book-love. But if hatred is absent, the vulnerability from which hatred might arise can certainly be found – vulnerability to the text’s refusal to give up all its secrets and, consequently, vulnerability to critical exposure. In this, the editorial process is perhaps distinct from other kinds of critical work, in that, as already discussed, there can be no recourse to an obfuscating sleight of hand. Or – on the contrary – perhaps editorial work simply exposes in particularly stark form the vulnerabilities that other critical projects need never confront, precisely because they do have at their disposal a range of discursive strategies and rhetorical formulae able to disguise them. Either way, the paranoid-reparative relation lays bare the ambivalence of the editor’s relationship with the textual object that both bestows and refuses the editor’s rightful claim to the title, precisely, of editor.

[24] Once the reparative is returned to its Kleinian context, therefore, it ceases to be possible to see it as an alternative to the paranoid position. It is instead refocused as presupposing it, reliant on it, travelling hand in hand with it. If the reparative is seen as co-extensive with the paranoid, however, rather than as a position freely chosen by the sovereign critic as a more desirable and more generous alternative to the exhausted and exhausting stance of the paranoid, where does this leave the notion of the textual surface? Best and Marcus’s formulation, discussed above, refuses any sense that the notion of surface is premised on, and necessarily associated with, a concomitant and dependent notion of depth. Instead, they assert that ‘surface’ can stand alone, beyond the binary relation, and serve as an umbrella under which can cluster a range of critical approaches which ostensibly eschew interpretation and critique. To reprise Best and Marcus’s definition, such approaches concern themselves with ‘what is evident, perceptible, apprehensible in texts; what is neither hidden nor hiding; what, in the geometrical sense, has length and breadth but no thickness, and therefore covers no depth’ (2009: 9). The critical ambivalence generated in the oscillating to-and-fro relation between the two positions, the paranoid and the reparative, is refused by this insistence on imagining a surface without an allied depth: ‘demystifying protocols’ (that is, interpretation) are superfluous, Best and Marcus suggest, when the significance of certain cultural phenomena is there for all to see, inscribed and immediately available on the surface (2). Such an assertion is reliant on the possibility of the separation of ‘reading’ from ‘interpretation’, the former distinct from the mediating intervention represented by the latter.

[25] And yet such a claim pits itself almost wilfully against what now stands as critical orthodoxy: that is, that the idea of a neutral or non-implicated reading, free from interpretative gloss, is a fiction. As Peter Widdowson succinctly puts it, ‘literary texts are, in a sense, “re-written” in every act of reading by every reader’ (1999: 10). This is not just a case of readers making different meanings from a given text, but, he suggests, because the process of reading in effect changes the status and constitution of the textual object itself: ‘the reading-positions from which readers read it are different both throughout history and through their cultural location at any given moment – and “the text” becomes the product of those differences’ (11; original emphasis). Widdowson’s formulation neatly reverses the notion that a reading is consequent to a text, and suggests instead that the text is the result of its many readings. The text’s ‘surface’ offers no easier route to the obvious meanings associated with ‘face value’, no unambiguous access to self-evident, reliable and incontrovertible truth, than does a face itself.[10]

[26] If a critical allegiance to surface without depth is founded in a desire to eschew interpretation, to read without rewriting, scrutiny of the editorial process again reveals the impossibility of this wish. Just as the reparative brought with it the uncomfortable vulnerabilities of the paranoid position, so the surface, in the context of editorial work, is always premised on some kind of imagined textual depth. This is most immediately apparent in the text’s explicatory apparatus, whose task is to offer glimpses of textual, intertextual or contextual depth. But even the editorial focus on the textual surface, the words and marks on the page, the punctuation, the layout, the variants, the typographical errors, cannot be sustained without an interpretative engagement with that surface. The letters that seem to constitute the word ‘Fruroir’ cannot be justly rendered without imaginative recourse to a lost original manuscript, in which those letters resolved themselves into some other, more coherent, set of marks, and in which a misreading (an interpretation) by the compositor intervened. At every stage, therefore, a relation between two terms, whether text and context or printed text and lost manuscript original, intervenes. In the opaque relation between the two terms arises the act of interpretation, undercutting the fantasy of a safely sealed, self-identical, surface.

[27] How, indeed, could it be otherwise? The notion of a textual ‘surface’, even one shorn of its association with depth, is itself resolutely metaphorical and therefore bipartite. As a metaphor, the notion of surface is constitutionally reliant on the assertion of an ambiguous, imaginative and indeterminate relation between two distinct and non-identical entities. If ambivalence is inscribed in the psychic to-and-fro of the paranoid-reparative, so ambiguity is inscribed in the two-part structure at the core of the metaphorical conceptualisation of the textual surface. We are left with the paradox that interpretation resides at the heart of the concept invoked to refuse an interpretative critical practice. Just as editors have to learn to live between the paranoid and the reparative, so advocates of surface reading more generally need to acknowledge and recognise the metaphorical character of their flagship concept, and of the act of interpretative reading that it embodies.

[28] Anna Trapnel knew there was no such thing as a self-evident or inert textual surface; hers, she acknowledged, was explicitly crafted with an eye to ‘what is expedient to be written’ (1654: 34). She knew that, like it or not, interpretations would follow, with consequences that extended well beyond the niceties of literary critical debate, and in her case, as far as the locked gates of Bridewell. The twenty-first-century editor might draw lessons from this. Trapnel’s reflections on the process of writing in the Report and Plea turn not only on questions of textual process but also on its affective navigation. She presents her own writing as a process of transcription rather than of creation de novo, thereby casting herself as editor as much as author. Her stance towards her editing is not premised on a deferential or ‘slavish’ devotion to her notional Ur-text, however. It is instead much more bullishly interventionist, including and excluding at will, shaping the account to her own ends, all in the service of expediency. She unashamedly embraces her manipulation of and mastery over her own narrative, a paranoid move at the level of narration enacted in order to banish the possibility of ‘bad surprises’, just as her self-censorship in the Truro court room was intended to outwit the manoeuvres of the Justices against her. In the brisk back-and-forth of courtroom cross-questioning, she shows herself able to think two or three moves ahead and to modify her answers accordingly, anticipating the risks and showing herself to be a paranoid reader par excellence.

[29]  However, such paranoid rhetorical mastery is deployed not simply to defend against hostile onslaughts on the vulnerable figure of Trapnel herself. Indeed, these come to be relshed as indicative of the rectitude of her own position and of the unenlightened state of her opponents. Rather than her paranoid anticipations and omissions operating as acts of self-defence, however, they work in the service of the ultimate reparation, her words a conduit of God’s redemptive love to his chosen ones. Consequently, the ‘surface’ of her text can never be self-identical or self-evident, its meanings never obvious or readily consensual, because the narrative she recounts is never singular. Its plurality lies not only in the disparity of interpretations she anticipates, but also in the invocation of other ‘alongside’ narratives, whether the divine master-narrative or the notional oral copy-text. These are yoked to the printed narration in a contrapuntal relation, no less sonorous or powerful for being present only in intermittent glimpses or half-caught asides from the textual wings. Surface, in the hands of Trapnel the author-editor, is far from a planar, two-dimensional articulation, as imagined by the advocates of ‘surface reading’. Instead, her reflections on the processes of writing conjure intertextual conversations which are evoked by the page though not necessarily inscribed on it. This enables the metaphor of the textual surface to be reimagined not as without depth, but as enfolding a multiplicity of intertextual narrative iterations, held together by the interpretative play between them. It is in these folds, the juxtaposition of one account with another, that Trapnel’s textual surface delivers its own form of polyphonic depth to the reader.

Lancaster University


[1] The page numbering of the Report and Plea is erroneous, and there are two pages numbered 28. These words appear on the first of the two. For a discussion of the possible reasons for the repeat numbering, see Bullard 2008.[back to text]

[2] For more extensive analysis of Trapnel’s complex relationship to authorship, see Bullard 2008 and Wray 2009.[back to text]

[3] This new edition of Trapnel’s Report and Plea was published in 2016; see Trapnel 1654 in the bibliography for details.[back to text]

[4] My edition of the Report and Plea was commissioned for a modern spelling series, so the decision to modernise was taken for me.[back to text]

[5] Robyn Wiegman traces the trajectory of Sedgwick’s thinking with regard to these issues through a series of her publications between 1995 and 2003; see Wiegman 2014: 8-10.[back to text]

[6] Wiegman (2014: 13-16) cites as examples of such projects Ann Cvetkovich’s practice of ‘redescription’ (2012); Heather Love’s call to think with rather than against the object of study (2010a; see too 2010b); and Elizabeth Freeman’s interest in ‘in the tail end of things …whatever has been declared useless’ (2010). For a recent queer engagement with the reparative, see Henderson 2015.[back to text]

[7] From Anna Trapnel, Anna Trapnel’s Report and Plea. Or, A Narrative of her Journey from London into Cornwal (London: Thomas Brewster, 1654), 49. Image published with permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Image produced by ProQuest as part of Early English Books Online.[back to text]

[8] Image published with permission of ProQuest. Further reproduction is prohibited without permission. Image produced by ProQuest as part of Early English Books Online.[back to text]

[9] This point prompts two further observations. First, if this conclusion is correct, then it suggests that the final discrete section of the text, the ‘Defiance’, was set by a different compositor from the preceding sections, where the word ‘Truro’ appears frequently. Second, given that Trapnel seems to have been a careful proofer of the printed text, since a list of errata is included at the end of the text, then it is odd that an error such as this (if indeed it is one) was not picked up. For a fascinating analysis of the textual history of the Report and Plea, including its possible journey through the press, see Bullard 2008. She too argues that ‘there were at least two printers at work on the text of the Report and Plea’ (43).[back to text]

[10] In a trenchant critique of ‘the less-is-more logic of surface reading’, Carolyn Lesjak argues that surfaces need to be understood ‘as perverse rather than as obvious’, and as thus requiring ‘perverse or ardent reading … more reading, at once close, given our attachments, and distant, given the reach of perverse relations’ (Lesjak 2013: 254, 251, 254). On the history of the reliance on the face as a source of truth about identity, see Elliott 2012.[back to text]


Apter, Emily and Elaine Freedgood. 2009. ‘Afterword’, Special Issue: ‘The Way We Read Now’. Representations 108: 139-147

Auden, W. H. 2007. ‘The More Loving One’, in Collected Poems, edited by Edward Mendelson (New York: Random House)

Best, Stephen and Sharon Marcus. 2009. ‘Surface Reading: An Introduction’, Special Issue: ‘The Way We Read Now’, Representations 108: 1-21

Bewes, Timothy. 2010. ‘Reading with the Grain: A New World in Literary Criticism’, differences 21.5: 1-33

Bullard, Rebecca. 2008. ‘Textual Disruption in Anna Trapnel’s Report and Plea (1654)’, The Seventeenth Century, 23.1: 34-53

Chase, Phil. 2014. ‘This Editing Life: The Joys and Imperatives of Documentary Editing’, Scholarly Editing: The Annual of the Association for Documentary Editing 35: 1-10

Ann Cvetkovich. 2012. Depression: A Public Feeling (Durham: Duke University Press)

Elliott, Kamilla. 2012. Portraiture and British Gothic Fiction. The Rise of Picture Identification, 1764-1835. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press

Freeman, Elizabeth. 2010. Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories (Durham: Duke University Press)

Gabler, Hans Walter. 2009. ‘Thoughts on Scholarly Editing. Review of: Paul Eggert, Securing the Past. Conservation in Art, Architecture and Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2009)’. In: JLTonline (03.03.2011) Persistent Identifier: urn:nbn:de:0222-001542 Link:

______. 2010. ‘Theorizing the Digital Scholarly Edition’, Literature Compass 7.2: 43-56.

Henderson, Lisa. 2015. ‘Queers and Class: Toward a Cultural Politics of Friendship’, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism 13: 17-38

Jameson, Fredric. 1981. The Political Unconscious: Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act (London: Methuen)

Klein, Melanie. 1975. Love, Guilt, and Reparation, and Other Works, 1921-1945 (London: Hogarth Press)

Lesjak, Carolyn. 2013. ‘Reading Dialectically’, Criticism 55.2: 233-277

Love, Heather. 2010a. Feeling Backward: Loss and the Politics of Queer History (Cambridge: Harvard University Press)

______. 2010b. ‘Truth and Consequences: On Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading’, Criticism 52.2: 235-241

Mandell, Laura. 2010. ‘Special Issue: “Scholarly Editing in the Twenty-First Century” – A Conclusion’, Literature Compass 7.2: 120-133

Ricoeur, Paul. 1970. Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Sedgwick, Eve Kosofsky. 2003. ‘Paranoid Reading and Reparative Reading, or, You’re So Paranoid, You Probably Think This Essay is About You’, in Touching Feeling: Affect, Pedagogy, Performativity (Durham: Duke University Press)

Shillingsburg, Peter. 2012. ‘Scholarly Editing as a Cultural Enterprise’, Variants: the Journal of the European Society for Textual Scholarship 9: 251-272

Stacey, Jackie. 2014. ‘Wishing Away Ambivalence’, Feminist Theory 15.1: 39-49

Trapnel, Anna. 1654. Anna Trapnel’s Report and Plea. Or, A Narrative of her Journey from London into Cornwal (London: Thomas Brewster, 1654). A new edition, edited and introduced by Hilary Hinds, was published in 2016 in ‘The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe’ series by Iter at the University of Toronto, and the Arizona Centre for Medieval and Romantic Studies.

Weed, Elizabeth. 2012. ‘The Way We Read Now’, History of the Present 2.1: 95-106

Widdowson, Peter. 1999. Literature (London: Routledge)

Wiegman, Robyn. 2014. ‘The Times We’re In: Queer Feminist Criticism and the Reparative Turn”’, Feminist Theory 15.1: 4-25

Wolfson, Susan J. 2010. ‘Our Affection for Books’, Literature Compass 7.2: 62–71

Wray, Ramona. 2009. ‘“What Say You to [This] Book? […] Is It Yours?” Oral and Collaborative Narrative Trajectories in the Mediated Writings of Anna Trapnel’, Women’s Writing 16.3: 408-24

Next Post

Previous Post

Leave a Reply

© 2023 Journal of the Northern Renaissance

Theme by Anders Norén