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Work with the texts: Genetic criticism

Genetic criticism is the study of writers’ manuscripts and drafts and different versions, carried out in order to construct a chronological series of the writings, to catch and communicate a sense of textual movements and changes, and to think about how this affects our thinking about textuality, authorship, meaning, style, etc.,

First of all, give some time to consider the following, very specific, questions about the ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’ texts:

  1. In the 1911 and 1914 version, the name of Elizabeth Bates is introduced at the end of the ‘Father’ episode. In the 1910 uncorrected proofs, she is known only as ‘the woman’. What effect does this have on our sense of character?
  2. Why might the children’s speeches in the uncorrected proofs have been deleted? What effect does this have on our sense of the children? How does this change the tale? How does it change your sense of the tale to know that those passages were removed? Can you find out why they were removed? Do you agree with Keith Cushman’s analysis on this site [link]?
  3. In the 1911 version (and the 1910 proofs), Lawrence included the line: ‘There was no quickness, no lightness in her movements’. In 1914, he took this out. Why might he have done this?
  4. Compare the ‘Ending’ of the 1911 with the 1914 version. What are the main changes? What are the effects of these changes on how we read the story as a whole?

It may help you to think about the more general issues addressed in the second series of questions

  1. What are the kinds of information we can gather from comparing versions of a different text, or published versions with earlier drafts?
  2. In what ways does the knowledge of different versions and drafts subvert our normal patterns of reading, of critical practice?
  3. What happens to our sense of ‘character’ when we see different versions of the same ‘person’?
  4. Does seeing different versions introduce problems into our sense of ‘the’ text?
  5. Why should the 1914 ‘Odour of Chrysanthemums’ have primacy over the 1911 text?
  6. Why does any ‘final’ version have primacy over a draft?
  7. Are there different ways to categorize revisions? What categories can you think of?
  8. Can we talk about changes to ‘style’ (rhythm, idiom, description), and to ‘content’ (plot, structure, motivation, ‘morals’) in the ‘Odour of Chrysanthemum’ texts? When do such categories break down?
  9. Why do writers change texts?
  10. Are the authorial changes you have found in the different versions of the text consistent?
  11. What does talking about drafts do to our sense of an author’s intentions?


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