Summary of the discussions of larger Chaucer
Held at the New Chaucer Society meeting, Paris, July 1998
By Charlotte Morse
All editors of the Variorum Chaucer should be interested in what happened at the Paris Congress's special session on large Chaucer projects, planned by John Burrow and chaired by Derek Pearsall. I am sending a brief report, in order to give you a sense of the meeting, which very quickly, under the direction of Pearsall and aided by Derek Brewer (both on the podium, as was Daniel Ransom), developed a can-do attitude and concentrated on ways or suggestions for bringing projects to fruition, that is, publication. The Variorum was last on the list and discussed for the least time, but much that had gone before was assumed, so to speak, in the Variorum discussion. That is not surprising, since Daniel Ransom is general editor of the Chaucer Encyclopedia as well as the Variorum. All three projects seem to be having trouble achieving completion, especially since the recent death of Paul Ruggiers.
Mindful of Tony Edwards' choric warnings to me several years ago, "You'll be dead, Charlotte" (before the Variorum Clerk's Tale sees print), I announced my plan to begin putting the Clerk's Tale on the Web and suggested that others might like to do the same. With support from Alastair Minnis and others, the conversation turned towards electronic publication of the Variorum. In the session and afterwards, there was enthusiasm for such a plan. No doubt that enthusiasm grows out of the despair felt by editors whose work is complete or nearly complete but also out of desire by some to have the Variorum available in electronic form (cheaply). Communication between the general editors and contributing editors has been so poor that some editors have not realized how problematic hard-copy publication has become. Others have quit working. And a few of us are trapped with huge amounts of work done and virtually no prospect of publication in our lifetimes (this is not an exaggeration). As word spread during the course of the Congress, a slightly euphoric sense of optimism about the project crept over folks.
If some or all contributing editors are to commit to electronic publication, then obviously work must be done to set some procedures and to assure editors of constructive criticism. Conversation with Dan after the session suggested that he knows very little about electronic publication; in any event, the point of going to the Web is to keep any general editor from forestalling publication altogether by not being able to get around to the work (we do not know how many editions are sitting on Dan's desk, but at least two large editions are entirely complete and not in process and others are near complete).
There is no formal structure at this point, but Alastair Minnis and I will be acting as conveners for the editors, and Jo Koster will be coordinating the website (which you have now accessed if you're reading this). We will want to communicate with you again soon, and we need to know e-mail and regular addresses for all editors (we aim to compile an up-to-date list; we will circulate a list for correction asap). Please see below for a list of editors whom we believe to be working on these texts at the moment.
If you are an editor, please reply to Jo Koster at Winthrop University to indicate that you have received this message (firstname.lastname@example.org). I will be back in Richmond with convenient access to email by August 23 and would be delighted to hear from you then (email@example.com).
HF -- ASG Edwards, Girton, Cambridge this year; Rosemarie Potz McGerr, Indiana U
KnT--A Gaylord, Dartmouth
WBPT--Mark Allen, UT San Antonio
MerT--Ros Fields, Royal Holloway, London
MkT--R. H----, U Nebraska
PardT--Penn Szittya, Georgetown
PF--Jennifer Fellows, Cambridge
Minor Poems, 2--Al David, Indiana, & Helen Phillips (just moving fr. Nottingham)
FrankT--Stephen Knight, Cardiff
Astrolabe--Sig Eisner, Arizona
Boece--Alastair, U of York, & Tim Machan, Marquette
ClT--Charlotte Morse, VCU
Troilus--C. David Benson and Others
We also know eds. of vols. that are out. Charles Dahlberg's RRose is in progress at Oklahoma, we think.