The concept of a single, ‘authoritative text’ for literary works has been recognised for some years as unrealistic, and their polytextual nature accepted as a more authentic basis for the study of imaginative literature. At the same time, presentation of scholarly editions in the traditional paper medium continues to privilege one particular text (the ‘copy‐text’), relegating others to subordinate, fragmentary status as footnoted variants. There is, therefore, an inevitable conflict — perceived or not — between the conceptualisation of literary texts and the documentary form they currently take. Hypertext is thus proposed as an alternative medium for the publication and study of scholarly texts, which would provide a more helpful, flexible, and dynamic environment for the advanced study of imaginative literature. The proposition is illustrated by examples from a small‐scale experimental system, based on a seventeenth‐century collection of poetry, and using the Guide hypertext software.
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