Aphra Behn: cultural translator and editorial intermediary

Here Dr. Jocelyn Hargrave of Monash University shares with us a fascinating insight into the connections between academia and publishing, and how working in both fields has informed her research.  Her article “Aphra Behn: Cultural Translator and Editorial Intermediary” has just been published in Volume 4 of Cerae Journal and can be found here.

Editing, specifically, and making books, more broadly, have been mainstays in my professional life since the late 1990s—they have shaped the person I have become and continue to be. Once I graduated with Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of Sydney in 1997, I obtained an entry-level position at an educational publisher; within two years, I successfully applied for my first editorial position. I have continued to edit since then, either in-house or on a freelance basis, working principally on primary and secondary textbooks. It is an occupation that I never tire of, one that is truly humbling and rewarding.

I decided to return to academia in 2008 to complete a Master of Arts at the University of Melbourne. My professional passion shifted effortlessly with me: my thesis investigated how digital technology had been impacting to date on the Australian educational publishing industry. The research process—from devising my research questions to building knowledge, applying methodology and disseminating my results and conclusions—was intoxicating; the requisite detail of such work appeared to mirror editorial practice. I graduated in 2012 and immediately started considering my next research journey: my doctorate—a life goal since my twenties.

During a late-night journey from Melbourne to Sydney, puttering in my husband’s 1969 Austin, I experienced a genuine light-bulb moment: to combine research and the passion for my craft to investigate the evolution and development of editing. For this, it was necessary to relinquish twenty-first-century Australia and dedicate myself to early-modern England. Completed in the Literary and Cultural Studies Program at Monash University from 2013 to 2016, my doctoral thesis, ‘Style Matters: The Influence of Editorial Style on the Publishing of English’, had two objectives. The first was to complete a historical study of the evolution of editorial style and its progress towards standardisation through an examination of early-modern style guides (known as printers’ grammars at that time), such as Joseph Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises (1683) and John Smith’s The Printer’s Grammar (1755). Style guides provide rules to ensure editorial consistency both within and across all titles produced by a publishing company. They outline the rules governing, for example, grammar, punctuation, spelling, capitalisation and italicisation; explain the parts of a book, their typography and typesetting; and feature proof-correction symbols to mark on page proofs to indicate authorial and editorial corrections to be incorporated by typesetters. The second objective was to explore how multiple stakeholders—specifically authors, editors and printers—either directly implemented, or uniquely interpreted and adapted, the guidelines of contemporary style guides as part of their inherently human editorial practice. One of the case studies in my thesis related to Aphra Behn.

To understand Behn’s editorial practice, I completed a close examination of her romantic novella Agnes de Castro: or, The Force of Generous Love (1688), which was originally written by Jean-Baptiste de Brilhac and entitled Agnès de Castro, Nouvelle Portugaise (1688). This study also entailed a comparative analysis with the contemporary style guide, Moxon’s Mechanick Exercises.

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