draft

Brouillon(s): l’ensemble des écrits rédigés ‘en vue de’ l’ouvrage publié et qui conduisent à lui; la forme achevée en est le manuscrit. L’expression ‘en vue de’ doit ses guillemets au fait qu’elle ne prend sens que rétroactivement: à chaque instant de la rédaction, il y a déjà, pour celui qui rédige, oeuvre et non pas préparation à l’oeuvre; c’est par rapport à l’oeuvre publiée que les brouillons existent comme tels – comme résidus (Bellemin-Noël 1972, 13).

A draft is a preliminary form of a version. Composition is often complex, sometimes tortured. Incomplete forms are often essayed by authors pursuing a coherent intention. Drafts of sentences, paragraphs, or scenes may be produced that cannot be thought of as belonging to completed versions of the work. Yet both critic and editor may well gather insight into the meaning or function of a version from acquaintance with false starts or experimental forms. Determining when a variant in a text is part of a draft and when it represents part of a new version may be difficult, but it is important to try to make that distinction, since one’s response to change may depend on whether it was produced by the same intentionality that produced its alternate form or whether sufficient time had passed to see the change as the product of a new effort. Drafts have the same ontological status as versions; they have no material existence. They are represented more or less well by the manuscripts containing them, but texts of drafts are also capable of misrepresenting the draft intention (Shillingsburg 1986, 48-49).

Brouillon: manuscrit de travail d’un texte en train de se constituer; généralement couvert de ratures et réécritures (Grésillon 1994, 241).

According to the usual definition, a rough draft [brouillon] designates, very broadly, a working manuscript written with the intention of correcting it for use in the composition or final polishing of a text. To take only its literary sense, this definition has the advantage of having a wide application and, to make up for it, the defect, under such loose specifications, of a reduced intelligibility. This explains why the word is frequently used and why a certain embarrassment often accompanies this use for philologists and literary historians enamored of terminological rigor. The difficulty is all the more palpable in that a new breed of researchers–specialists in literary genetics–have recently brought the rough draft to center stage by emphasizing the remarkable benefit that the critical study of texts could derive by recourse to these genetic documents, in which the work of art becomes interpretable through the very movement that gave birth to it (de Biasi 1996b, 26).

The result of all this is that the meaning of the word ‘draft’ today has a broad margin of uncertainty. For the textual critic, concerned neither with manuscript nor with genetic development, the word continues to mean, according to its usual definition, a vague generic term designating the approximate and negligible domain of all that precedes the finished version of the text: a sort of opaque space in which the structures of signification and style are not yet in place and that remains resistant to interpretative designs upon it. For the literary genticist, on the contrary, whose time is devoted to understanding the pre-textual process, the rough draft is an essential link in the chain of transformations that have led from the project of the work to its definitive text: a crucial moment in the avant-texte stage (de Biasi 1996b, 27).

A draft is a preliminary form of a version. Composition is often complex, sometimes tortured. Incomplete forms are often essayed by authors pursuing a coherent intention. Drafts of sentences, paragraphs, or even scenes may be produced that cannot be thought of as belonging to completed versions of the work. Yet both critic and editor may well gather insight into the meaning or function of a version from acquaintance with false starts or experimental forms. Determining when a variant in a text is part of a draft and when it represents part of a new version may be difficult, but it is important to try to make that distinction, since one’s response to change may depend on whether it was produced by the same intentionality that produced its alternate form or whether sufficient time had passed to see the change as the product of a new effort. Drafts have the same ontological status as versions; they have no material existence. They are represented more or less well by the manuscripts containing them, but texts of drafts are also capable of misrepresenting the draft intention (Shillingsburg 1996, 45-46).

When chance first presented me with an opportunity to study the documents of a writer’s composition, I was embarrassed by a terminological difficulty. The French language gave me a choice between two words to designate these documents: le manuscrit [the manuscript], quite literally the sheets of paper covered with signs traced by the hand of the writer, and les brouillons [the rough drafts], that is, the materializations of an unfinished, prospective discourse, sometimes rejected but more often transformed through a process of development. The first word posed few problems; one could easily restrict its meaning to the tangible media of the writing process, those objects destined to be preserved by the generosity of authors and the admiration of lovers of belles-lettres. One could use the second term, it seemed to me, to qualify what was written on the manuscripts. Rough drafts would then include the following: 1) everything that had ever played a part in the composition of a work but had not attained publishable status: the preliminary dossier, the worksheets, and the portfolio of accessory notes; (2) the drafts properly so called, that is, the first draft and its metamorphoses (additions, corrections, erasures, and substitutions) up to the final state of first publication. This last state could again be transformed by print modifications, called “variants” [variantes]. [However, when I] considered the semantic and historical weight of of those two words “rough draft”–the ways they were historically and ideologically charged–it caused me to coin the term “avant-texte” as a substitute (Bellemin-Noël 2004, 29-30).

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