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The Art of Editing
Not available in 2016-17

Module Organiser: Professor Anna Chahoud
Duration: One Term
Contact Hours: 11 hrs (1 hr seminar p.w.)
Weighting: 10 ECTS

Nearly half a century since the successful introduction of innovative approaches to the study of the ancient world, including the reading of ancient texts in translation, we should remind ourselves that "love for the (written) word" (philologia) is where it all started over two thousands years ago. The attentive 'detective' work towards the reconstruction of the 'word of the author' is a fundamental aspect of our discipline: "Textual criticism is not the be-all and end-all of classical scholarship, which is the study of a civilization. But it is an indispensable part of it. By far the greater part of our knowledge of that civilization comes to us from what the ancients wrote. In almost all cases those writings have survived, if they have survived at all, only in copies many stages removed from the original, copies of which not a single one is free from error. Often the errors are so great that it is no longer possible to tell what the author meant to say. It follows that anyone who wants to make serious use of ancient texts must pay attention to the uncertainties of the transmission" (M. L. West).


We shall concern ourselves with the process involved in editing classical texts. The focus will be on Latin texts and documents. The module, while also offering an overview of the discipline and its development, is largely practical. Students will be given the opportunity to familiarise with various forms of transmission, to acquire techniques, and to experiment with the challenges posed to editors of literary and documentary texts.


This module is intended for students with some prior knowledge of Latin language and literature.

Working Methods

The course will be taught as a series of student-led discussion seminars. Guidance for reading and topics will be given in class.


100% continuous assessment

Learning outcomes

Upon successful completion of the module students will be able to:

  • Identify and analyse the theories and techniques applied to the editing of classical texts.
  • Articulate informed views on the development of the discipline from its ancient Greek beginnings to modern times.
  • Distinguish between critical and diplomatic editions and related methodologies.
  • Distinguish between direct and indirect transmission of texts and related methodologies.
  • Demonstrate proficiency in analysing, orally and in writing, a critical apparatus, a stemma codicum, and other specific features of critical editions of Latin texts.
  • Demonstrate critical thinking in oral presentations, discussions and written assignments.

Introductory Readings:

  • E. Kelemen, Textual Editing and Criticism (Norton Publ. 2008)
  • M. L. West, Textual Criticism and Editorial Technique: applicable to Greek and Latin texts (Stuttgart 1973).
  • S. Timpanaro, The Freudian Slip: Psychoanalysis and Textual Criticism (Verso reprint, 2011)
  • R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship from the beginnings to the end of the Hellenistic Age (Oxford 1968)
  • R. Pfeiffer, History of Classical Scholarship from 1300 to 1850 (Oxford 1976)
  • U. von Wilamowitz- Moellendorf, History of Classical Scholarship, revised by H. Lloyd-Jones (London and Baltimore 1982)

Last updated 27 April 2016