About the Edition
This project maps transatlantic publication networks via the development of a digital edition of Susan Warner’s 1851 female Bildungsroman The Wide, Wide World. Warner’s American novel was a transatlantic success that was steadily reprinted for the next one hundred years. We bring together, for the first time, the textual and visual variants from 141 reprints of this unstable text to demonstrate how its cultural function and significance shifted with each locale and material reproduction. Since the 1970s, scholars have studied The Wide, Wide World as a landmark example of nineteenth-century sentimentality. Although sentimentalism, broadly defined as the power of feelings to serve as a guide to moral conduct, was first understood as a relatively circumscribed phenomenon, chiefly manifest through popular novels written and read by women, its extensive reach across nineteenth-century culture is now widely recognized. Only recently have scholars begun to examine the sentimental novel’s interactions in an expansive transatlantic marketplace.
The Wide, Wide World Digital Edition contributes to the humanities by challenging scholarly assumptions about the gendered and national boundaries of sentimentality through an exploration of the reprinting and the reception of Warner’s novel. This project marks a new approach to editorial theory because it focuses on publishers and readers as literary influences on a text’s history and cultural importance. The Wide, Wide World’s story is one of consistent repurposing and reimagining on the part of a plethora of readers, publishers, and editors with little to no concern for the intentions or authority of the author. By exploring the novel’s reprints through the perspective of those who read and reproduced Warner’s text rather than through the lens of authorship, this edition illuminates reprints as sites of what Lawrence Lessig calls “remix culture,” in which publishers and the public participate in the active adaption and re-creation of text according to their own needs and interests. We approach the novel’s transatlantic corpus through a comparative model that visualizes how this widely read, popular text functioned as a site for cultural play for over a century.