==What is a draft?

A draft may refer to written materials that never attain printed form as well as early manuscript compositions and fair copies, typescripts, digital text, scribbles, doodles, leftovers, or other marginalia and extraneous materials that may or may not find their way into archives. ==(Note: This is a more useful definition for my purposes compared to de Biasi)

Modernist writers, composing in the age of psychology and psychoanalysis, were also acutely aware that the category of “draft” might include the evanescent, that which was never written down and had only ever existed as a dream or disjointed fragment of thought. Certainly the William Jamesian “streams of consciousness” that Virginia Woolf and James Joyce attempted to capture in their prose, or the unconscious magic produced in automatic writings, or the extemporaneous and collaborative “cadavre exquis” championed by the Surrealists constitute something like drafts. But could those phrases or rhythms that turn in poet’s head while walking count as drafts? (Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems employs them as an art form.) What of the memory of a conversation accidentally overheard? (Kenneth Fearing begins a noir-ish 1943 poem, “You will ask how I came to be eavesdropping, in the first place/The answer is, I was not.”) The 20th and 21st century rubbish bin might also include extemporaneous experiences and improvisational performances—by the Dadaists, situationists, fluxus, blues, jazz, and rap artists, participants in happenings, mail art, poetry slams, and flarf—events that cannot be contained by paper, that resist representation or reproduction, even if recorded, photographed, or filmed, and whose immediacy can only be glimpsed retrospectively. Are these experiences and performances also drafts? And what of those stories and poems that might be considered “drafts” only because they were never published during a writer’s lifetime—rejected by publishers as “inadequate,” too risqué, or politically contentious, or forgotten, misplaced, abandoned, or rejected by writers themselves? For modern writers, particularly those working in the late 19th through 20th centuries, the marketplace bears its indelible thumbprint on texts that escape the Neverland of drafts.

Kirschenbaum, Track Changes

And what about manuscript revisions made quickly, silently (Track Changes turned off), invisibly right there on the screen, flickers of thought executed by muscle memory in the fingertips, barely even consciously registered if the writer is deep in the flow? What about diskettes and memory sticks? What about the computers themselves, surprisingly intimate objects that are a writer’s companion for much of his or her day? Are they part of what gets boxed up and sent to the archives? What gives us weight? What remains after word processing?

The draft is intimately connected to the archive

The draft is, therefore, intimately connected to the archival, whether the archive is taken as a material site, a discursive structure, or a depository of feeling.

As the place sanctioned to collect, preserve, encode, and enforce the rules of accessibility of manuscripts and drafts, the archive therefore holds a central role in any discussion of the modern draft

the archives that concern modern and contemporary writers, predominantly though not exclusively in the West, and the archival discourse that shapes them are a legacy of Enlightenment and the Age of Revolution and Imperialism, honed and shaped by 18th and 19th-century state-sanctioned heralding of national literatures.

Interpreting draft should consider matter

Any interpretation of drafts must take into account the limits and limitations of matter including the bare fact of a draft’s material existence or its absence.

Drafts must finally be seen to have a complex and intimate relationship to the authorial body and to embodiment, materiality, subjectivity, and writing more generally.

brings the reader face-to-face with the sensory, affective, and politico- economic demands of matter or its absence.

Any interpretation of drafts confronts the limits and limitations of matter. A draft exists—or has existed or is thought to exist—in some form and in some place. It becomes legible because, in some manner, it has been made available.

Manuscripts, especially sole copies, are not objects like other objects, not bodies, like other bodies. While they are often confused with the author, as the debates about copyright suggest, while they bear an intimate even bodily relation to the author and the author’s body, they also are the material witness to an essence, even being, of writing that exists outside of a relation to author or reader. They are materially (even virtually) insistent—bearing a trace of the world in which they were produced. They are strange—and the evidence of estrangement. The last draft, the sole draft, the irreplaceable draft is a monument to the singularity of writing, a witness to the trace of a text that eludes reproduction or reproducibility, that trace that lives on in the era of print and even virtual reproducibility.

That a manuscript or draft can, through natural wear and decay, materially transform irrespective of the existence of human action merely underscores its uncanny nature as a thing apart, independent of and never fully comprehensible only as a property or object that is acted on by humans. This too is part of what produces an original manuscript’s auratic effect. In fact, efforts to collect and preserve manuscripts and drafts might be seen as a means through which modern humans, self-consciously subjectified, attempted to wrest these materials and nature itself from an unknowable independent existence and reign them back into a relational status as subordinate objects and property. Against this backdrop, modern archives, whose function includes the physical and material protection of literary manuscripts and written papers, might actually be seen as a mechanism through which the raw, uncontainable, unknowable “thinginess” of manuscripts is repressed and their tangible object- status reasserted.

Four fields that study the draft

these investigations have been most pronounced within four fields: (a) media theory, histories of the book, and historical materialisms that investigate the substance, matter, and means of production of drafts as well as the technological, pedagogical, and social norms that mediate writing, and the cultural/historical specifics of these materials and media; (b) textual editing, which establishes methods that regularize (or complicate) how scholarly editions are produced and related mid-20th century New Bibliography approaches, which illuminated some of the limitations of manuscript-and-edition blind close reading, especially by the New Critics; (c) French genetic criticism in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, which engages with French post-structuralism and psychoanalysis to look at writing as a dynamic and developmental process that has both conscious and unconscious components; and (d) legal scholarship and debates concerning rights to ownership and possession of manuscripts and drafts and their publication, which developed between the 17th and 21st century.

Purposeful destruction of drafts

Drafts—particularly unread, missing, or destroyed drafts—lie at the border between the dead object and living text. As such, the purposeful destruction of drafts and manuscripts initiates an ontological and ethical crisis that raises questions about the relationship between writing and being, process and product, body and thing.

That is why destroying a manuscript—like the books they beget—is a violent act, a visceral and material act.

Burning a manuscript is an intimate murder, a ritual infanticide. If destroyed by another, it bequeaths an immeasurable wound; if done to one’s own work, it suggests either an effort to forget—or an almost biblical self-sacrifice.

It is due to the fantasy of complete erasure, of undoing the past, that the destruction of manuscripts and books by burning holds a special significance in the realm of political atrocities and has had a prominent role in repressive regimes since Antiquity.

Burning enacts the not-so-gentle fantasy of irrecoverable forgetting, of forgetting without a trace

==The illusion of finality

“In the eyes of these lovers of anxiety and perfection, a work is never complete–a word which to them is meaningless—but abandoned; and this abandonment, which delivers the work to the flames or to the public (whether it be the result of weariness or the necessity of delivering), is for them a kind of accident comparable to the interruption of a thought annulled by fatigue, an importunate person, or some sensation.” (Paul Valéry, “Concerning ‘Le Cimetière Marin’” 140–141)

A literary work could be “fixed” on paper as a manuscript draft, but still paradoxically remain unfixed, changeable, perpetually in the process of being rewritten. How “fixed”—even when in fair copy, even when published—could any work could be while an author still lived? Writers had the persnickety habit of rewriting, revising, and updating even works that had been previously printed and sold.

one might think of modern writers’ propensity to save drafts as a kind of evidentiary claim to authorship by virtue of their singular ability to rewrite a text—to make multiple drafts and choose at will among them.

The literary draft, or lost draft, or unwritten draft offers perpetual potential—it persists—by virtue of its incompletion.

It is unclear how to use drafts

it is never clear how to use them—or not.

“The physical pleasure of finding a trace of the past,” writes Arlette Farge in The Allure of the Archives, “is succeeded by doubt mixed with the powerless feeling of not knowing what to do with it.”

The fragmentary writing found in drafts, notebooks, fair copies, typescripts and page proofs is similar to the shards of pottery and other remains of human activity uncovered in an archaeological dig. They are the only means of reclaiming the processes of creation from the past. Archaeology and manuscript studies essentially share the same basic hermeneutic problem: how does one begin to understand the evidence without already knowing what it means? (Wim Vann Mierlo)

The ethics of archiving drafts

Is it justifiable to make use of—or, worse, expose to public view—writings and images that were not explicitly (and perhaps for the writer never meant to be) preserved, interpreted, published, or displayed?

==The draft is in a liminal space

Because the draft lays no claims to perfection, finishedness, or closure, its terrain is always in medias res. Yet the nature and value of its unfinishedness depends upon the cultural or historical milieu in which it is considered.

Marta L. Werner argues that the modern manuscript is a species “in- between,” no longer insisting on the “adamant materiality of its medieval predecessor,” but not yet “materialized into the immaterial traces common to post-print culture” of the late 20th and 21st centuries.

In other words, what is valued as manuscript—and even more so the draft not the fair copy—is that it remains in process. It is perhaps the “in-process” and serial quality that ultimately defines the modern literary draft and endows it with auratic value, whether that draft has been produced as a handwritten manuscript, typescript, or digital .doc.

And this is true even of manuscripts and drafts that are not burnt. They are always haunted by the dual imperative of potential completion—and extinction, by what one might call without irony their demise. They remain in the realm of the “almost,” fixed and unfixed, living and dead, and serve as a reminder that the death instinct lurks at the edge of any act of creation, which is always also accompanied by the primeval urge to destroy—or, more precisely, to destroy without residue, to obliterate without trace. As if it had never been.

==Draft vs. Fair Copy

Werner’s analysis of the distinction between the fair copy and the draft is important. The modern fair copy, she writes, aspires to fixity and definitiveness as “witness” to a text and thus “bears the greatest resemblance to its classical and medieval forerunners.” Few “drafts” were kept before the mid-18th century; it was not until the 19th century that writers consciously and consistently preserved them. But it is the draft, Werner argues, that “problematical ‘other’ of the fair copy—that emerges as the most ‘modern’.” It remains in the realm of the private, a trace of the secret life of writing, bearing the imprint of process and flux.


She borrows the term “mouvance” (or mutability) introduced by Paul Zumthor to describe the intervocal play between oral and written culture in medieval culture and the tendency toward variation found in medieval manuscripts copied by different anonymous scribes. In Werner’s account, “mouvance” can be said to characterize the variation in modern texts found within different authorial drafts, a characteristic, she observes, that makes the modern “text non-identical to itself.” With a closer eye to Zumthor’s definition, however, mouvance might be employed with regard to modern manuscripts as a way of explaining the network of oral, material, and technological variations that affect the production of a literary text. Indeed, mouvance might include the linguistic and written variations among different drafts, verbal and written exchanges by collaborators and editors, as well as readings and/or performances of a literary text. The draft “reveals only the illusion of genesis, the part of the creative process that has been inscribed on paper,” writes Werner, drawing on Benedetto Croce’s aesthetics. “It is a fallen document, a fragment of the intellectual, abstract, ideal genesis of the work that remains forever beyond understanding.”

==Breaking the boundary between a published work and a draft

More than those before them, 20th century modernists sought to break down the distinction between the published literary work and the working draft. Modern, postmodern, and early 21st century writers have sought and still seek to expose the processes of writing, miswriting, and rewriting through the machinations of aesthetic form. Such efforts, of course, hinge on an a priori understanding of the “draft” as a category of significance and reverberate from the emergence and development of print culture, the concept of autonomous authorship, and the belief in and institutional structures to support collection and preservation.

What drafts force us to confront

The presence of a literary “draft,” in whatever form it exists, forces scholars to confront authorial agency and desire, complicates understandings of authorship, textual fixity, and literary production

Drafts, especially handwritten, create an intimacy to the writer

Drafts hold the seduction of the forbidden and nakedness; they promise a perceived (if artificially manufactured) closeness to the essence of writers, or their milieu, or—.

handwritten manuscripts. They promise proximity, an illusion of intimacy with the writer, to the past.

Infused with a trace of a writer’s body, handwritten drafts insist that the writer was at one time a sentient and living person, a human who labored main à plume.

the handwritten word seems to have a greater degree of “presence” and a closer affinity to speech than does the printed one

If spoken words are “free moving,” writing “‘retains’ words,” constricts them, holds them so “they do not escape.”

For Ozeki, handwriting requires a different level of effort on the part of the reader; it “resists the eye, reveals its meaning slowly,” perhaps because its meaning registers on affective, intuitive, even bodily or sensory levels as much as on cognitive ones. Ruth concludes that handwriting “is as intimate as skin.”

Yet the contemporary privileging of handwritten manuscripts in archival work and the “felt” presence of its meanings are to some extent a legacy of the changing status of handwriting in the West.

the attention contemporary critics pay to handwritten manuscripts is in some measure a legacy of 19th century assumptions about handwriting as a mark of individuality, personality, character, and pedagogical training. But it also alludes to the inheritance of implied intimacy that is a carryover from the Early Modern era in which an author’s own handwriting began to supplant the mediation of scribes.

the almost, never-to-be-had presence of the writing body, of the authorial body and mind, and of the state of creation and the origins of writing itself. It cannot be gleaned by some assertion of intent, or process, or history. The specter of what cannot be known about a text, about the writing process, about writers themselves, is allegorized by handwriting. It promises to show so much, to say so much, and yet this “great” promise is always incompletely fulfilled, and always given—taken—without permission. It amounts to a kind of voyeurism, a desire to see beneath what is graspable by sense.

==The archive, like the draft, is about process

The rules of the archive, like that of the drafts it contains, are fragmentation, partiality, and incompletion.

considering the archive not as a place or a “thing,” but as a “process”

The archive is, in short, a kind of perpetual draft—ever evolving, ever unfixed.

“One cannot overstate how slow work in the archives is,” explains Farge, “and how this slowness of hands and thought can be the source of creativity. But more than inspirational, it is inescapable. The consultation of these bundles, one after another, is never finished.” Even if, slowly, an archivist could find some sort of closure, still there would be a gap.

Modernist writers write with the archives in mind

Writing during a time when literature had been long intertwined with market forces, modernist writers—even if they recused this drive—produced their work while aware of the marketplace and posterity. In most cases, these writers could not help but recognize the potential posthumous life of their manuscript drafts, their notecards, and typescripts. This knowledge must be understood as part of the composition process, even if unconscious, and sometimes at the forefront of thought.

By the mid-19th and early 20th centuries, writers composed with the awareness that any scribbles they had saved during a lifetime— whether prized writing, unsent letters, or aesthetic embarrassments—might end up preserved in a library archive or sold on the auction block. Therefore, the idea that manuscripts, drafts, and other literary papers represent the “private” record of modern writers is somewhat deceptive.

==Archival work is collage work

Through archived documents, we are presented with pieces of time to be assembled, fragments of life to be placed in order, one after the other, in an attempt to formulate a story that acquires its coherence through the ability to craft links between the beginning and the end. A montage of fragments thus creates an illusion of totality and continuity. (Achille Mbembe, “The Power of the Archive and Its Limits”)

Mbembe suggests, in other words, that archival work is cinematic, performed through editing—a sifting, cutting, and juxtaposing of discrete scenes. Mbembe’s use of “montage” to describe the archive is particularly apt, for it references the historical correspondence of the archive as a modern institution with interpretations of the archive that often resonate with and draw upon the formal rules and aesthetic compulsions of the anti-institutional collage and inter-media experiments of the historical avant-garde. Moreover, he alludes to the scattered and fragmentary nature of the archival and of the apparent incoherence of archival materials, even when catalogued, and in which meaning must be made through composition and the conscious arrangement of diverse materials that may seem unrelated.

What the archives should consist

any “useful” archives— are by necessity “archives of feeling” as well as of knowledge.

In charting affects, Cvetkovich insists upon the importance of ephemeral or marginal materials as well as materials that just don’t seem to fit.

The archive is a temple of past works

the material archive becomes the theatre that stages the ritual resurrection of the sacred and auratic, introducing a point of origin and uniqueness to a literary text that is best known, only known, in an endlessly reproducible font.

All those rituals associated with archival research—an advance application to the library, the certification of one’s credentials upon admittance, the ritualized shedding of personal effects and comportment of white gloves in the reading room—serve to induct the researcher into a sacred and elite sphere of access and to reendow the collection’s contents with the status of aura—even if those contents seem themselves banal or mass-produced

The melancholia associated with drafts

Yet the nostalgia many feel for handwritten manuscripts is only one component of a melancholy that has been associated with drafts from the start. By the time the term “manuscript” emerged in the late 16th century (the first entry in the OED dates to 1597), Peter Stallybrass writes, it was “always-already nostalgic,” paradoxically appearing in the English language “a hundred and fifty years after the invention of printing.”

==The draft is always associated with technology (CONT. HERE)

Twentieth and early 21st century writers wrote (and write) at a time when print, then digital/virtual, culture had become ubiquitous, when history was already an established discipline, when the archive had achieved an institutional even national solidity, and when the process of writing itself had become mediated by new and often changing technologies and machines (automatic pens, typewriters, mimeographs, Dictaphones, computers)—technologies that transformed literary production and broadened the boundaries of what constitutes a draft.

In fact, contrary to common assumptions, he explains, “‘manuscript’ is a concept that was produced by printing,” not the other way around.

Manuscripts—and drafts too, as its English etymology suggests— are necessarily modern since they derive conceptually from and in relation to print technology. The obsession with handwriting that emerged from the Early Modern era and that continues to persist has always been a retrospective one and cannot be disentangled from its relation to mechanically or technically mediated type.

By the late 19th century, the form of manuscripts changed dramatically with the introduction of the typewriter. Indeed, the entire field of media and technology studies meditates on the question of how the medium one uses to write—quill, fountain pen, ballpoint, typewriter, Dictaphone, word processing machine, computer—affects the composition itself long before a text ever makes it to print or screen.

Kittler considers the implications of Friedrich Nietzsche’s suggestion that “our writing tools are also working on our thoughts,”

the fundamental question of how the tools one uses to write—quills, parchment, paper, ball point pens, typewriters, or MacBook Air, paper, parchment or screen—affects what is written lingers at the edges of any investigation of a draft.

It has long been true that a writer’s pen or typewriter or daily diary might serve as a museum curio or help researchers understand the day-to-day process of a manuscript’s production. But the computer hosts the body and memory of the virtual draft itself. The machine is a necessary precursor to its “birth” and inextricably a part of it in a way that earlier technologies, even those that played with type and font, could not be.

But this kind of investigation is really just an extension of the sleuthing that critics have long since done. The data-encoded cyborg draft, however, does seem as if it is something else altogether. “Born digital,” it may not exist in any form outside of its memory and code. Still, that code is stored somewhere—even if only in the cloud, which, it helps to remember, is tethered to a server, a machine housed in a warehouse, a fixed material place.

==Paper and drafts DONE

Understanding transformations in the production of paper is itself crucial for making sense of modern manuscripts and drafts.

Gitelman points out that “paper” has come to embody multiple, paradoxical qualities: it is simultaneously a “blank” and “a figure for all that is sturdy and substantial … and for all that is insubstantial and ephemeral.”

While “draft” was used to describe in-process or “rough” forms of writing from the 16th century, it was not until the 1850s to 1880s, when affordable paper was more plentiful, that the assumption that literary compositions might rely on a lineage of a multitude paper “drafts” became part of common language.

With paper as a medium shared by both writing and drawing, it seems no surprise that often “drafts” serve as art works in their own right

==Paperless formats DONE

paperless technologies have and will continue to push the limits of how manuscripts and drafts can be understood—and the aesthetic associations that might be made in relation to them. Most contemporary writers work directly on the computer so that revisions are often buried in computer memory; texts may be written, revised, edited, and even published without ever being mediated by pen and paper. Media scholars, such as Katherine Hayles, emphasize the fundamental difference of electronic literature from print.

For Hayles, the advent of electronic hypertext requires a rethinking of matter itself as a

dynamic quality that emerges from the interplay between the text as a physical artifact, its conceptual content, and the interpretive activities of readers and writers. Materiality thus cannot be specified in advance; rather, it occupies a borderland—or better performs as a connective tissue—joining the physical and mental, the artifact and the user.

“electronic texts must be seen as process more than as solid-state or as anything—another great imprecision—merely virtual.”

Although the materiality of electronic manuscripts has generally been considered radically different from those that existed beforehand, it should be clear that it is impossible to extricate the manuscript or draft as a conceptual form from its interplay with transforming technologies. “Electronic texts are the results of many different layers of instructions rendered in code,” and are “dynamic, changeable at multiple levels,”

==How valuing the process started DONE

although many pre-Enlightenment “authors must have revised their work, few of them, their friends, or their heirs felt that the blotted sheets provided anything of interest or value to make them worthy of preservation.”

This shifted in the era of Enlightenment, when 18th century writers “came to see greater value in the process of thinking through a problem and making public the growth and changes in their understanding.”

“the works of the ancients have become fragments; the works of moderns are fragments at their inception.”

The concern with process rather than product finds an aesthetic expression in English Romantic poetry, in which the fragment becomes a “peculiarly” representative form.

Its impartial, fragmentary, and unfinished nature also calls forth its own opposite: completeness and the whole.

==The tension between fragments and whole in writing DONE

How critics negotiate these twin compulsions reveals a good deal about the obsessions and aporia of the cultures and historical moments within which they live.

a critic understands by making “whole” what is known only in fragments. While this compensatory drive to reconstruct and “make whole” the process of writing was not adopted systematically or in earnest until the 20th century, by the end of the 19th century, Western critics were generally aware of the unfinished and indeterminate nature of writing and literature.

“no good work can be perfect, and the demand for perfection is always a sign of a misunderstanding of the ends of art.” (Thomas McFarland)

An analogous attempt to fix or stabilize an original or most valid version of a text underlay early critical efforts to deal with this problem of scatter associated with multiple draft versions of a text.

==Drafts are used as mirror of a writer’s thoughts or being DONE

Until the early 20th century, manuscripts (and particularly non-fair copy drafts) were referred to using the language of physiognomy—as a face or mirror of a writer’s thoughts or being.

The advent of celebrity culture in the later 19th century increased readers’ interests in writers’ work habits and ways of living and contributed to the reception of individual writer’s works and the production of writers themselves as cult figures.

Drafts and manuscripts were seen to provide insight into a writer’s life history—and reveal the keys to their character and struggles. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, such biographical insights were used to support the narration of plausibly satisfying developmental trajectories for writers and individual works or to ask how sociological factors of modern life experience, political affiliation, class status, and to a lesser extent race and gender might affect what one wrote.

==New Criticism DONE

It was precisely as a rejection of archeological and developmental/biographical or sociological/political readings of literature that, for much of the 20th century, the dominant voices in literary criticism dismissed or ignored the significance of modern authors’ manuscripts, drafts, and literary “ephemera” in their analyses. The New Critics, in particular, felt the processes and permutations of writing were inherently less interesting than—or even irrelevant to—the end result: the published literary work. New Criticism, which dominated Anglo-American literary criticism in middle decades of the 20th century, conveniently conjoined with popular Romanticist fantasies of spontaneous creation and genius. New Critics criticized Marxist and biographical critics who paid attention to the production processes of writing and publishing and advocated instead for a criticism that was, in John Crowe Ransom’s words, “more scientific, or precise and systematic.”

Such precision meant adhering to a view of the literary work as a self-containing and complete object-in-itself. An investigation of manuscripts and drafts could only be useful in this context for those researching an author’s biography or the historical and social moment in which the literary work was produced; both activities were thought superfluous for New Critics and other mid-20th century Anglo-American formalists. Literary works were “well-wrought urns” that should be read closely for their transhistorical formal completeness. A “finished” literary work of art, even if apparently fragmentary, could be seen to resolve its own immanent tensions and contradictions.

==My note: The Talahardin is, therefore, a reaction to what New Criticism is championing: that a work is inherently finished.

New Bibliographers

Even during New Criticism’s heyday, there were those who saw limitations to this approach.

New Bibliographers aimed to pay attention to the “material processes of book production” and emphasized the importance of this line of inquiry for textual criticism and editing. Rather than look at the permutations of textual creation in order to ask questions about labor or material production as Marxist critics might do, New Bibliographers adopted the New Critics’ desire for scientific precision in analysis, but did so for different ends, in particular, for systematic scholarly editing.

The New Bibliographers rejected the New Critical formalist tenet of “intentional fallacy,” which W. K. Wimsatt and Monroe Beardsley called a “confusion between a poem and its origins,” and that dismissed a critic’s efforts to discern an author’s intention as both impossible and irrelevant to interpretation.

the poetry-centered and manuscript- and edition-blind close readings of the New Critics sometimes led to absurdities in interpretation

Problematic and perhaps even insufficiently radical, the synoptic Joyce edition destabilized the editorial fiction that drafts serve only historical interest in the progression of composition or that they are irrelevant to the text stabilized in print. And it anticipated the more radically nonlinear hypermedia innovations used in internet-era on-line manuscript archives, such the Samuel Beckett Digital Manuscript Project, which eradicate or at least disrupt hierarchies among different manuscript versions and editions.

Genetic Criticism

As had been true of the New Bibliography in the United States and Great Britain, the critique génétique (genetic criticism), which developed in France in the 1970s and garnered considerable attention through the early 2000s, was attuned to the “more or less diverse series of draft documents that bear witness to the evolution of the work: there are outlines [plans], scenarios [scenarios], sketches [ébauches], rough drafts [broullions], edited clear copies [mises au net], a final manuscript [manuscript definitive], corrections on proofs, etc.”

Genetic critics pay attention to what de Biasi calls avant-textes (draft documents or pre-texts), not in order to discern a writer’s intentions or to locate or produce a scholarly edition or even online archive, but as a means of interpretation and analysis.

Genetic critics take seriously Schlegel’s suggestion that a real understanding of a text becomes possible only when “one can reconstitute its becoming.”

==The rough draft tells a kind of day-by-day story at once logical, symptomatic of affect, and phenomenological—none other than that of the writer at work: a secret tale, almost always absent from literary biographies, and which nevertheless constitutes the crux of what we would like to know about the author … the rough draft enables us to be present at the birth of the motivations, strategies, and metamorphoses of writing, which, more often than not, labors precisely at effacing its own tracks and at rendering its mechanisms untraceable, secret or problematic in the completed form of the definitive text.

In the case of genetic criticism, according to Laurent Jenny, “‘writing’ is no longer understood as a dynamic process that is immanent to the text, but a pre-textual process … there is no longer a ‘writing’ of the text but only of its genesis.”

Some genetic critics have attempted to lay out scientific classification systems and typologies of avant-texte materials, critical approaches or concerns as a way to “reconstruct, from all available evidence, the chain of events in a writing process.”

All these efforts aside, there are limits to what can be gleaned from the reading of carefully preserved drafts—even if all written variants can be located. Among those factors is how co- authorship and collaboration (whether acknowledged or not) shape a text that is attributed to a single writer.

“Literary collaborations blur the boundaries not only between each other, but between text and speech, between a text and its contexts,”

Destroying drafts

Since the Victorian era, writers have routinely destroyed or curated their archives in an “attempt to build a manuscript record to vindicate themselves to posterity, leaving purportedly ‘private’ accounts of themselves and their contemporaries that were intended for publication after their enemies were no longer in a position … to answer them.”

the idea that a manuscript might be destroyed to protect a writer’s posthumous privacy is largely a modern concept, dependent both on an antecedent understanding of autonomous subjecthood and the historical possibility of individual, professional authorship.

==Benefits of publishing drafts DONE

Advocates of making drafts visible and available argue that the effort to expose unfinished, rejected, and process works is instructive and invaluable, lending a fuller picture of our understanding of an artist or writer.

==My Own Insights

The Talahardin is my personal archive. I create it as I work. I manage the fragments of my works as I do them not for people in a distant future who would work on my work when I’m dead, but for myself.

The idea of the draft was born out of the availability of technology. In the 1850s, this was paper. Because paper was cheap, writers were able to create work through a series or lineage of compositions. When electronic tools for writing were created, this trend was only amplified. The more we are able to hold our writing, the more we think beyond finality, the more we see our work as drafts, never finished. It frees us from the need to deliver a final furnished work. It frees us to experiment with half-finished and unfinished works. It frees us from this debilitating need to always perform.

For example, I emulate poets like Frank O’Hara who publish streams of consciousness thoughts while walking as poems. These are drafts. Likewise, everything in the Talahardin is a draft and yet, everything is published.


Scandura, Jani. “The Matter of Drafts.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Literature, edited by Paula Rabinowitz, Oxford University Press, 2020. (Crossref),