MLA: Abridgement as a Cultural Practice

Matthew J. Kinservik, U of Delaware

This is a live blogging of the session.

Defoe complained about abridgement. But there was a 1710 Act that held the abridgement as a different work and having copyright. The logic was that this was a way to share knowledge.

Gulliver’s Travels was abridged.

1719-1800 161 Crusoe abridgements published in UK and US. 80% of the market share belonged to abridgements.

robinson-crusoe-front-pagesAbridgements- longer
epitomes- shorter
chapbooks- even shorter

All the earlier abridgements published all three parts of the Crusoe stories together.

Unabridged Crusoe is a radical abridgement of the long presentation of this work.

18th C no unabridged Crusoe published in US

Many abridgements in later versions were for young readers. The publishers (Tom Jones, Pamela, Gulliver’s Travels) revised these significantly. Pamela lost the epistolary form. GT became a third-person narrative.

Many of the abridgements are the way that most people read the works historically. Remarkably little scholarship devoted to abridgement.

Can tell us a great deal about our notion of canon formation, editing, etc. Related cultural practices.

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