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Textual criticism

A branch of literary criticism concerned with analyzing and determining the accuracy of texts. By examining the documents themselves in print and manuscript form—as well as any associated documentation such as letters, journals, or notebooks—textual critics attempt to identify and remove errors resulting from multiple transcriptions and printings and restore the work to its most original state. They also seek to present the text in a format that benefits readers and scholars, often with facsimile reproductions of the original manuscripts or print versions, along with a critical apparatus explaining textual variants between versions, critical commentaries, and bibliographies. Textual criticism developed out of ancient, classical, and Biblical scholarship, but has increasingly been used to deal with variations found in much modern literature, whether as a matter of typographical error, authorial revision, or historical and cultural textual support. Recent prominent textual critics include W.W. Greg, Fredson Bowers, G. Thomas Tanselle, D.C. Greetham, Peter Shillingsburg, and Jerome McGann.

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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