Interpretation, agency, entropy: annotating Pope’s Dunciads

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Pope’s The Dunciad. A Heroic Poem (1728), Dunciad Variorum (1729) and Dunciad in Four Books (1743) foreground the modelling and critique of different modes of annotation: elements of the commentary are attributed to a variety of fictitious, fictionalised or actually existing annotators, and the shaping of the material is significantly engaged with questions of print technology and mise-en-page. This paper analyses the techniques by which Pope deploys annotation as part of the work’s oppositional rhetoric, and argues that, in the hands of his authorised editor Warburton, this approach gave rise to annotation that worked against the long-term interests of the poem and its author. In reflecting on the ironies of this situation, the paper asks where this case-study leaves the oft-commended distinction between annotatory information and interpretation, and what the modern editor can (or should) do about it.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)174-198
JournalInternational Journal of Humanities and Arts Computing
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2017