Date of this Version
Newsletter of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 5, Number 4, December 1983. ISSN 0196-7134
l am living proof that an editor can be a biographer. Whether an editor should be a biographer, or vice versa, depends on the person and the subject. I cannot speak for everyone faced with that dilemma, but for me as editor and biographer the double life proved that much richer. As a biographer focusing on the thread of biographical narrative I had the advantage of collaborating with an editor, a co-editor, and a corporal's guard of editorial researchers who explored the geography of the labyrinth-the historical context, the principal associates of my central figure, and even what Tom Clark called "the once-at-bat characters" in my story. Colleagues surrounded me who knew the meaningful-and sometimes the meaningless-details as well as I did. Academia these days is such a lonely crowd of specialists that it is a real pleasure to be in such a workshop. As a biographer, I could shed light on the behavior and unfolding character of my protagonist which the editing project could use and had to consider. Editors tend to assume that their own steady focus on the documents and their more exhaustive annotation research give them more complete and certain knowledge than any biographer. It is harder to be smug in that assumption when a biographer is in the house. He knows where the thread leads, which is also crucial knowledge.
Dr. Harlan presented this paper at the ADE meeting in Baltimore. Maryland. on October 7. 1983.