orientation (aesthetic)

The aesthetic orientation is, in some ways, the least “historical” alternative, which may explain why scholarly editors seldom appeal overtly to it as an editorial principle. […] Nonetheless, a great many emendations are made on the basis of an aesthetic orientation. Editors generally appeal to it when they declare their objective to be the preparation of the “best” text of a work. Commercial editors, literary agents, and other merchandisers of literary works unashamedly adopt the aesthetic orientation when they “improve” the work of their authors. Aesthetics being primarily a matter of taste, of course, it is possible to label any editor’s aesthetic orientation in any number of ways–some are crassly commercial, some are coterie eccentrics, some are critically naive, others politically correct, and so on. The point is merely that an editorial concern for the “best” text, for whatever purpose, is always an appeal to an aesthetic orientation towards forms. […] Likewise, appeals to the needs of modern readers for language that follows the conventions to which those readers are accustomed is a preference for currently aesthetic over historical forms. An editor who makes alterations which he defends as being more consistent than the source text forms, he is imposing an aesthetic over a historical form. Authority for the aesthetic orientation resides in a concept of artistic forms–either the author’s, the editor’s or those fashionable at some time.

Contributed by Jesse. View changelog.