I. Justification for a new critical edition of The Seafarer
One of the greatest problems a student faces when approaching Old English poetry is the matter of context. With most later works of the English literary canon, we have a sense of the author, the period in which the work was written, and the audience for whom the work was composed; this sense of literary context extends to much Classical literature as well. Thus, the Old English Period, roughly 600 to 1100 CE, is framed by Roman and Patristic writings on the one side, and Medieval vernacular poetry on the other, both of which often contain records of the authorship and circumstances of the literature. Of all the debates that have been waged about the obscure contexts of Old English poetry, few have endured as persistently as those concerning The Seafarer. One need only look at the annotated bibliography of this edition to perceive the complexity of the poem's critical reception; it is because of this difficult history that I decided to choose this poem as the subject of this hypertext edition. Questions over genre classification, the number of speakers, and the poem's unity continually arise and, although they are frequently solved satisfactorily for one generation, they resurface in the concerns of the next one with the introduction of previously unconsidered evidence. Ultimately, this dialogue reveals critics' enduring dissatisfaction with their knowledge of the poem and the need for a critical edition that functions as a condensed repository for this complicated critical history. With hypertext, we have a continually revisable edition that has the ability to store a vast number of documents; the main problem for the editor, then, is to create a method of navigating through such an informational archive.
II. The Debate about Hypertext
A hypertext is a series of documents, linked through a markup language known as HTML, or Hyper Text Markup Language. By clicking on a key word or phrase in one document, the program presents the reader with another presumably relevant document. By dividing the screen into frames, one can bring several documents on to the screen simultaneously, so that one may compare and cross-reference the text of several documents. Contrary to what the name suggests, hypertext editions need not be confined to text; they can also include images, sounds, and video clips.
Advocates such as Jay David Bolter and George Landow regard hypertext as liberating, because it allows the reader to partake in the process of establishing a text. Since one can move through various documents in a multilinear fashion, one can decide for oneself how the documents ought to relate. With regard to editing, the editor can present the reader with many different witnesses of a text, and the reader can establish his or her own edition based on the witnesses. Peter Robinson treats this rather optimistically in "Manuscript Politics," in which he describes his edition of Chaucer's "Wife of Bath's Prologue." He and his assistants have transcribed fifty-five manuscript and four print witnesses of the prologue and entered them into a database, with the manuscript images. His project effectively undermines the notion of an authoritative edition, since the reader is at liberty to create his or her own edition from the numerous witnesses. With regard to how a reader is to navigate the documents, even Robinson is baffled, and he notes that "it is likely that no two critics will read it the same way, or even that the same critic will read it the same way on any two occasions" (11). In "Authorship and Collaboration: The Problem of Editing Shakespeare," Peter Holland discusses hypertext with a similar degree of optimism. Like many other advocates, he sees it as offering humanities scholars the opportunity to work collaboratively to produce editions which could overthrow the monopoly on publishing held by expensive print-based publishers (19). Thus, these critics see the hypertext editor as partaking in a holistic recovery of texts from the tyranny of single and biased editors.
Ian Small offers a firm response to such emancipatory celebrations in "Text-editing and the Computer: Facts and Values," in which he questions the allegedly unbiased nature of the hypertext edition. He claims that an electronic edition appears to solve the problems of authority which arise from the fact that "the definitive edition is definitive only for the culture and historical moment which produces it” (25); rather, it is subject, in a much more subtle manner than the print edition, to the biases of the editor. He discusses the nature of facts as the apparently objective bits of information which an editor includes in an electronic edition. The problem with such "facts," he argues, is that they are chosen according to the editor's prioritized sense of information. Because there is a potentially vast amount of information about any given subject, the one who presents facts merely presents his or her decisions about what is important; thus, the contribution of the electronic edition is negligible: "the only change which the computer brings about is to the available number of relevant facts at our disposal; but it has not made them any less selective or any less value-laden" (29). For an example, he refers to Jerome McGann's use of the word archive to describe his proposed Rossetti hypertext project. The problem with McGann's word choice, he argues, is based on the connotation of archive, which "implies a neutral, unmediated storehouse of facts awaiting the reader" (27). Small argues that such rhetoric imitates the popular Marxist arguments put forth by Terry Eagleton and Catherine Belsey and portrays hypertext, like Marxist criticism, as an attempt to "free readers from the authority of those who hold cultural power - editors, critics, teachers, and so on" (27). The problem, he argues, is that as in Marxist criticism, where a new ideology is subtly offered as a replacement for other ideologies, the hypertext editor's choices of facts are disguised as objective truths.
III. Elements of the Edition
i) establishing the textThe Seafarer exists in only one manuscript. Although this considerably diminishes the difficult job of determining whether one wishes to produce an optimist edition, for which one chooses a preferable witness, or a recensionist text, which consists of the editor's attempt at reconstructing authorial intent from many manuscript witnesses (Szarmach 125), the various imperfections of the single manuscript witness make the process of determining the actual text nonetheless perplexing. First, a careful transcription of the manuscript pages had to be made, which is included in the edition. However, I decided not to offer the reader a diplomatic, or unedited, text as the centre of the edition because the inconsistent spelling and lack of punctuation would be too confounding for my target audience, primarily the late undergraduate or graduate student. Although one can still read the unedited text in the same manner as the centred text, as stated above, the edition contains little about the syntactical problems or difficulties in punctuating the text, and therefore, such an ambitious reader is, for the time being, left to his or her own expertise in the matter.
The problem with building the reading edition around the normalized text is that it contradicts my initial ambition for this project, which was to centre a diplomatic text and provide the reader with a variety of critical tools with which to make informed decisions about approaching that text. However, editing is indeed an interpretive act, and rather than deluding myself with ideas of liberated texts, I chose to examine my biases and make them as transparent as possible. Although it is unlikely that one can consciously present all one's biases to one's readers, I trust that my readers will approach my methods with even more suspicion than I have endeavoured to do and gently inform me of my shortcomings. One of the many benefits of the electronic text is the ability of the editor to revise his or her work easily.
As stated above, a diplomatic text, or, as Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe would prefer to call it, a "semi-diplomatic text" (63), resides in the background of the edited text. In "Texts and Works: Some Historical Questions on the Editing of Old English Verse," she notes that what is most often neglected from an edition of an Old English poem is a depiction of the text in its manuscript state, without normalized spelling, modern punctuation, and alliterative verse lines. Thus, neither the poem's position in a time of transitional literacy nor the its presence on the page are portrayed. Instead, she argues, contemporary editing attempts to reconstruct the authorial text to the exclusion of the witnesses. As noted by G. Thomas Tanselle and Jerome McGann, the authoritative authorial text is ultimately a fictional one, and O'Keeffe O'Brien argues that such ideas of authorial intent originated in nineteenth-century romantic ideals, which is incongruous with the transitional literacy of the early medieval scribe. In order to help remedy this highly artificial representation of Old English verse, she proposes a "kind of facing edition where the poem, whether attested singly or in multiple manuscripts, is faced by a scrupulously archeological mapping of the manuscript in print" (64). In such an environment, the reader may easily perceive the artificial nature of the edited text.
My own experiences of grappling with the ideologies of an editor of Old English began when I first encountered the Old English text of The Seafarer in John C. Pope's Seven Old English Poems. Because of his intrusive labeling of lines 1-33a "1st SEAF." and 33b-124 "2nd SEAF.," I was led to believe that the popular opinion of the poem considered it a series of speeches by two speakers. This is not the case. As one can see in the annotated bibliography, the early German critics such as Rieger, and Kluge perceived the poem as a dialogue. After the multiple speaker theory was put to rest in 1902 by W. W. Lawrence, it was only briefly endorsed again by Pope in 1965, and he later recanted this argument. The intrusive indications of the multiple speakers, however, remain in the 1981 second edition of his Seven Old English Poems, which is an "exact photographic reproduction of the seventh printing of the first edition" (v). In a supplement to the second edition, Pope acknowledges his new opinions on the poem, yet states that he allowed the speaker markers to stand (224). Other prominent editions of the poem also reflect the critical opinions of their editors. O'Brien O'Keefe notes that Benjamin Thorpe's typeface was designed to imitate the Anglo-Saxon Square Minuscule letters. Also, the appearance of insular characters and appropriate abbreviations, she notes, reveal Thorpe's concern for the visual element of the text (61). Rieger's 1869 text is set in italics which, one supposes, are vaguely meant to signify the handwriting of the manuscript. Rieger's inclusion of the headings which introduce the speeches of an older and a younger speaker intrude heavily on the text, and make it appear as though it were the script of a play. While this laudably points to the transitional oral element inherent in the text, it makes tenuous theories appear under the guise of facts. Later editions continue these forms of constructing the text: Henry Sweet, for instance, neglected to include lines 109-124. Although many critics thought, and some still believe, that the last section of the poem was a later addition, there is no evidence in the manuscript, other than the possibility of a missing page, that this is the case. This omission marks yet another instance of the editor's skill as taking precedence over the manuscript witness. Other editors, such as Randolph Quirk, Valerie Adams, and Derek Davy do not include the final 16 lines in their 1975 edition, Old English Literature, because, as they claim in a footnote, the last lines simply present too many problems for translation and interpretation.
Because I acknowledge the importance of the manuscript witness or witnesses as the basis/bases and conductor(s) of a text's existence, I include O'Brien O'Keeffe's suggestion of a facing edition, but I do not offer it as the central combination of texts to this edition. Certainly my transcription of the manuscript pages can be viewed alongside the edited text, but because my edition is designed for the undergraduate or graduate student who has little experience with reading Old English verse, the central text is a normalized edition with prioritized access to textual notes and various translations. It should be noted that the transcribed manuscript pages are also highly artificial, not only because of their simulated presence on a computer screen, but also because I have been unable to discover how to make proper insular characters legible on other computers. Æ, æ, Ð, ð, Þ, þ, because they are still used in certain languages, have been assigned ASCII codes and can thus easily be rendered in HTML; insular d, f, g, r, s, t, and w are no longer in use, and thus I have been unable to locate ASCII codes. Also, I was unable to locate various Old English abbreviations and punctuation symbols. Once again, the collaborative nature of electronic editions could easily rectify this problem with characters, since a computer programmer could be employed to assess the possibility of creating such characters. With the permission of Exeter Cathedral, which holds the copyright privileges of the manuscript, I could include the corresponding manuscript images and allow the reader either to view them alone, or alongside the transcription, thus giving the student an opportunity to study the paleography, or alongside the normalized text, or even any of the included translations. Again, because of the common screen size, it would be impractical to place all of these texts on the screen simultaneously, since it would create visual clutter and thus make reading rather difficult, but one can still access four texts simultaneously.
With regard to normalizing the text of the poem, I take as few liberties as possible while still presenting the reader with a sensible text; rather than perform reconstructive surgery, I opted to obey the manuscript. Because of this choice, I do not offer an emendation for the alleged lacunae at lines 16b, 25a, and 112b-113. Also, I normalize the spelling as little as possible, but when normalization seemed necessarily, I follow the choices of previous editors who make as few changes as possible. For instance, I leave the problematic efteadig of line 56a, which is corrected to esteadig by Benjamin Thorpe (1842), whose emendation is commonly accepted, in its original state, because a perfectly plausible explanation for the word as it stands in the manuscript is offered by John Vickrey (1989). The bold typeface in which the word appears, however, indicates that it is troublesome, and the reader may click on the word to have the explanatory note appear in the right-hand frame. In line 72a, I follow Ida Gordon (1960) and John Pope (1966) by emending þæt to biþ. Although the replacement of an entire word seems drastic, it appears to be the only way to bring sense to the apparently corrupted line; by comparison, the rest of the changes seem minor. Following Thorpe, Krapp and Dobbie, Gordon, et al, I emend feran to frefran (26b) fremman to fremum (75a), blæð to blæd (79b), næron to nearon (82a), and swire to swiðre (115b). I also incorporate the common emendation of mod to mon (109a), since it seems unlike that the poet would suggest that "a heart must guide a strong heart," although I do acknowledge the possibility. Although many variant spellings are offered for the emendation of tid ge (69a), I choose to follow Ida Gordon's tiddege. As Thorpe and others note, lines 111-15 are highly corrupted and because of this, they are occasionally disregarded altogether. Rather than attempting to repair the apparently faulty passage, for the most part, I leave it as it appears in the manuscript, and render it entirely in bold typeface in order to alert the reader to its great difficulties. Although such a block of bold text is rather intrusive, it seems not nearly as much so as the apparent scribal errors which corrupted the transmission of this passage. Finally, the emendation of wælweg (63a) to the more commonly accepted hwælweg is troubling, because of the tempting possibility introduced by G. V. Smithers (1957) that wælweg refers to the speaker's journey to the land of the dead. However, the more I consider the poem, the less likely Smithers' interpretation seems because of the lack of any other references to such a journey. If indeed the poem is to be read metaphorically, it seems odd that the poet would lay the subject of the allegory bare for a brief moment, and then return to his allegorical tone. On the other hand, interpreting the poem according to one's own expectations has been a fault of many critics, and there certainly are convincing arguments for this interpretation.
Paul Szarmach, in describing a few of the editorial problems with The Seafarer, remarks, "the situation is almost post-modern, for the text of Seafarer may be left to write itself or the audience may choose to write it" (128). Indeed, critics have traditionally performed the latter. While acknowledging my own role in that tradition, I would like to note again that in establishing the text of the poem, I have tried to remain as loyal to the manuscript as possible. When alterations seem necessary, I offer the most direct ones, except when they seem too unlikely or impossible. I acknowledge, however, that these choices are subject to future changes; like Vickrey's suggestion that efteadig need not be emended, perhaps later critics will find arguments for not emending the words which I have altered.
ii.) The glossary
The next problem with which I was confronted was how I would display the glossary. Since part of the goal of such an edition is to help the student increase his or her vocabulary through translating the text, I do not want the glossary to be invasive by taking up a corner of the screen. Thus, I want a glossary that is both easily accessible and subtle.
I experimented with displaying the glossary in a small window, but it seemed to compete too much with the space which I wanted to fill with textual notes, annotated bibliography entries, and various translations. I also tried displaying glossary entries for each word in a little box which would appear when the pointer was placed over the desired word, but I abandoned this approach because the box would invariably obscure some other important bit of information on the screen; it would most often cover the words immediately surrounding the word about which one is inquiring. I concluded by sending the glossary entries to the small display bar at the bottom of the screen. Although this conveniently keeps the glossary entries from dominating too much of the available screen space, it has two major drawbacks: first, one can not use the 'full screen' option and the glossary simultaneously, because the display bar disappears, and second, the bar at the bottom of Microsoft's Internet Explorer is considerably shorter than that of Netscape Navigator, and thus, the latter is required to see the complete text of all entries, although most are short enough to be completely viewable in Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Because of the small amount of space allowed by the lower bar, however, certain unfortunate limitations had to be set on the glossary entries. First, grammatical information appears in abbreviated form; for instance, asf had to be used in place of accusative singular feminine or pp for past participle, but these abbreviations are fairly standard and appear in many student editions. I include a help file which explains the basic meanings of the various grammatical terms, but even this help file assumes a certain level of grammatical awareness. The possible translations for the words are usually limited to two or three, and where there has been considerable disagreement about the translation of a word, the reader is directed to the textual note which describes the differing opinions in greater detail. Although I acknowledge that my glossary potentially limits the range of interpretive possibilities, I deem this glossary, in combination with the textual notes and annotated bibliography, more than sufficient for giving the reader a sense of the complexity which one encounters when trying to translate this elusive poem.
As stated above, I sought to make this edition as comfortable as possible to read, and thus tried to maintain a balance between displaying many texts simultaneously and keeping enough space between each text so that the reader's eyes might not be confused into submission. In order to achieve this balance, I believe that no more than two texts should be displayed on the screen at the same time; therefore, the screen of the reading section has the normalized or diplomatic text on the left side, and the various translations, textual notes, analogues, and annotated bibliography entries on the right, or vice versa, with a control bar at the top which allows the user to obtain help, send comments through e-mail, or return to the index. I realize that there are some brave users who would prefer to see, perhaps, a screen which displays the diplomatic text, the normalized text, and the normalized texts of The Wanderer and The Dream of the Rood simultaneously, and for such readers, I have provided a quartered screen which can display four texts simultaneously, although I must confess that I find such sustained reading difficult on smaller screens.
iv.) Textual notes
On one level, the textual notes act as an intermediary level between the text of the poem and the annotated bibliography. They contain specific information and debates about troublesome words and phrases. Also, one can see the textual history of the poem, with the emendations offered by various prominent editions. With regard to the debates about specific words, I have chosen to minimize the instances of my own opinion and try my best to represent the earlier scholars fairly. In most cases, I treat the ensuing disagreements chronologically, and allow each critic to speak in order, as it were. Certainly, some elements of certain debates are not present, nor are certain critics, primarily for the purpose of avoiding excessive redundancy. In some cases, however, the reader will note that I can not resist stating my own opinions on matters, which, in the reading section, I try to do sparingly.
Since, like the act of editing a text, translating a text is an interpretive exercise, one must include various translations of the poem, and I started with Benjamin Thorpe's 1842 translation, the earliest of which I am aware. The immense value of the translations is found in the great amount of information which they provide about the prevalence of certain critical approaches. Although certain translations apparently influenced some critics, it seems that translators such as Ezra Pound, who were not themselves Seafarer critics, represented the poem according to what the popular beliefs about it were at the time when the translation was undertaken. Critics such as O. S. Anderson, on the other hand, published new translations of the poem according to their own critical interpretations. In the case of Anderson, the translation is a tool to prove his theory about the unity of lines 1-64a and 64b-102. Most editions do not include even representative translations, which is unfortunate, since they offer valuable insights into both the poem itself and its critical history.
vi.) Annotated bibliography
This is one of the more useful, and yet problematic, elements of this edition. My concern with offering the reader online access to as much critical information as possible prompts the appearance of this annotated bibliography. Because one need not worry about the number of documents one includes in an electronic edition, I did not worry about the size of the bibliography, except with regard to how much time was required for its creation. It was indeed a time-consuming task. I do not claim that this bibliography is completely comprehensive, since, inevitably, there are some essays about the poem of which I am unaware; also, I simply chose not to include some works because of my desire to minimize redundancy. My imperfect ability to read German undoubtedly caused some problems with my annotations of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century German critics, particularly since they wrote such a great deal about The Seafarer; with the help of a native speaker, I only represent those articles which most influenced the contemporary and later English critics. As my reading ability improves, I will add more German articles.
The major problem with my annotated bibliography is the extent to which it appears authoritative. Certainly I am afraid that such a bibliography would shape the students' reception of the articles and encourage students not to bother reading the actual papers, but I think that such students probably would not take the time to look at many of the articles anyway, and who could blame them, considering the amount of material they would have to work through? Rather, I hope that the annotated bibliography will act as a primer, which might inspire students to engage in a dialogue with the numerous and various critics of the poem. When I stated above that the greatest difficulty about approaching Old English verse is the lack of context, I meant to imply that the critics who try to uncover the contexts for reading and understanding the poetry often create those contexts. The annotated bibliography reveals the complexity of the debate which has been running for over one hundred years. I realize that by representing these critics, I have surely filtered out many of their important examples and arguments, and therefore I strongly urge the reader to consult the actual works which he or she finds most interesting. Because the size alone of this annotated bibliography might be intimidating to the reader, I also include three short essays which, somewhat arbitrarily, break the last one hundred years of criticism into three loosely-defined categories:1) early critics, dialogue theory, and disunity; 2) literal versus allegorical readings; 3) contemporary critics and theory. Unfortunately, these essays fail to mention all of the critics who are included in the annotated bibliography.
vii.) Contextual essays
This is the area where the collaborative possibilities of hypertext could be exploited most usefully. As they are outlined here, some of these essays focus on specific areas of debate, which often reside in the margins of the general discussions about Old English poetry, and specifically, The Seafarer. The issue of the element of oral composition in the poem, for instance, is only considered by a small number of critics. Also, the debate about genre has not yet been satisfactorily resolved, and still continues. The sections which display analogues and translations allow the reader to view up to four texts simultaneously. Also, I further break my attempted editorial silence by including an introduction which contains my own approach to the poem.
viii.) Recording of a reading
David Klausner from the University of Toronto kindly supplied a recording of him reading the poem. Unfortunately, the current state of audio digitizing makes it difficult to include a complete audio recording, since a lot of server space is required to contain such a large audio file. Therefore, the CD ROM contains the file, but the online version does not.
ix.) Analogues and influences
This is a very difficult aspect to develop properly within the confines of a master’s thesis. The number of reported possible analogues for and influences on The Seafarer is rather large, and inevitably, one encounters all sorts of problems with providing carefully edited texts and overcoming copyright violations. Admittedly, I use an unrefereed text of St. Jerome's Vulgate which I copied from the internet for Biblical Quotations, and I use translations from the Douay-Rheims Version. Also, I quote other analogues and translations from more or less reputable editions. Therefore, as this edition now stands, it is not suitable for public consumption because of these imperfections and copyright infringements. It would be ideal to be able to link to the analogues as external online edited texts, but, as of yet, few of these texts exist in this format. The analogues I have included, then, are for the purpose of illustrating the manner in which they can be linked, and I do not wish to suggest that their present form is either complete or absolutely sound.
x.) Concordance to the formulaic diction
The Seafarer contains numerous formulaic half-lines and compound words which appear in other Old English poems. Consequently, I have included a text of the poem which underlines many instances of this specialised diction and links to the related appearances in other poems. This feature can be found in both the reading edition and the split or quartered screen section. A formulaic half line is a specific combination of words which, presumably, was part of a poet's vocabulary. By drawing attention to these formulas in The Seafarer, one can perceive the patchwork formulaic diction which comprises the poem, and the frequency with which certain formulas occur in the remaining Anglo-Saxon poetic corpus.
IV. The Elements which are lacking from the Edition
In spite of Small's serious reservations about the hidden biases in a text, one can still design an electronic edition which makes the editor's choices obvious while offering as many relevant documents as possible. Thus, I would like to conclude by mentioning a few things which my edition is lacking and which, by virtue of this medium, can be added at a later time. The first, and I think foremost, element that my edition lacks is a discussion of editorial punctuation in The Seafarer. Although I have roughly followed the choices made by Ida Gordon in her 1960 edition, I have not included a careful consideration of the relationship between an editor's choice in punctuation and the readings which result from these editorial choices. In "The Dangers of Disguise: Old English Texts in Modern Punctuation," Bruce Mitchell argues that a new method of punctuating editions of Old English poetry and prose must be employed, since the application of modern punctuation often obscures the possibility of other correct readings. Although his warning is well noted, I would leave the issue of punctuation to a more capable person, and the potentially collaborative nature of a hypertext project encourages such a sharing of expertise. Second, I have not devoted any space to discussing Old English syntax, versification, and phonology, with the exception of what I have included in the annotated bibliography. The former two certainly impact our reading of the poem, as many critics have continued to point out, and my representation of these issues in the annotated bibliography is not satisfactory. Although I list several representative translations which one can compare in the setup of frames on the screen, I do not offer a careful discussion of how these translations alter our understanding of the poem. Certainly translation is an interpretive act, and much work remains to be done in this area with respect to The Seafarer. My representation of the critical history is limited to specialized journal and book articles; I do not record the writings of general histories of English literature on the poem. Finally, the nineteenth- and early twentieth- century German critics are not satisfactorily represented due to my imperfect knowledge of the German language.
The technical quirks of my edition stem mostly from either the imperfection of the computer technology or my imperfect command of it. Although I solved many problems with the navigation element, which are discussed in greater detail above, I would have preferred to have three text windows available: one for the poem, one for the notes or a translation, and one for the annotated bibliography. I experimented with this format, but unfortunately, the simultaneous presence of all the texts succeeded only in cluttering the screen, so I decided on the present format as the best for my purposes. Another useful tool which is missing from my edition is found in Patrick W. Conner's Beowulf Workstation, in which he includes a frame which allows the student to type his or her comments, interpretations, and translations. These annotations essentially become a part of the student's personalized text, and he or she can easily access them at any time. Such a device directly encourages a student to engage with the text on a level which far exceeds that which is offered by a screen filled only with untouchable information. I acknowledge the usefulness of such a tool, but even if I held the necessary technological wizardry to have included it in this edition I would not have, because of both the above-mentioned issue of screen space and the enduring usefulness of a pen and paper.
The greatest element lacking from this edition, however, is the cultural context. As stated above, one of the greatest difficulties one encounters with Old English poetry is the scarce information about its context. Often, for Old English scholars, the most effective way of creating a sense of context is by collecting and examining apparently related mystifying documents and considering them as a group. For example, many scholars consider The Seafarer in the context of The Wanderer, The Wife's Lament, sections of Beowulf, and homiletic, Biblical and Patristic writings. This edition takes part in bringing to life some of this vast textual universe of apparent analogues and possible influences. What it lacks is a sense of the material culture in which the poem and manuscript originated; however, such a sense can be obtained from Allen Frantzen's Project Seafarer which not only contains a series of primary source documents on Anglo-Saxon life, but also essays on the social framework that produced such writings. Thus, if the ideal of hypertext enthusiasts is actualized, that is, if all relevant documents end up being linked to each other, then what this edition lacks could be compensated for by other electronic editions in a relatively seamless manner.
In this edition, I offer the reader as much information as possible while staying within the boundaries of a master’s thesis. Although many parts of this edition remain incomplete, it still contains a close and careful representation of the poem's critical history and a reading edition which allows the reader to choose between a thoroughly edited edition or a transcribed diplomatic text which follows the manuscript lineation. As stated above, one of the wonderful aspects of the electronic edition is the possibility of conducting continual revisions. If the edition is only on CD ROM, then, like a codex, it has a state in which it can be frozen; however, if one actively maintains the edition on the Web, the imperfections and omissions can be emended. In such an environment, the collaborative nature of hypertext editions can be used profitably, since different editors can contribute to an edition according to their skills, and such additions do not need to be performed before the work is 'published'. As Ian Small and other critics argue, electronic editions can hide the biases of the editor, but if the editor or editors agree to criticize each others' work and make their biases as transparent as possible, the electronic hypertext edition can be a useful and current tool for reading difficult texts.