chapter  4
18 Pages

Translator, Editor, Reviewer

While perhaps not as powerful as the translator to alter a text’s message, editors and reviewers still play a significant role in the way texts are received. Martineau and Eliot were aware of this power in their journalism, showing an insight into the materiality of language that is evident in the way they deal with literary texts. They were both also aware of the ‘roles of editor and readers in the formation of a literary career’,1 and manipulated this dynamic from all perspectives: author; editor; reader; reviewer. Martineau’s approach to dealing with editors created a precedent of collaboration, ‘transform[ing] authorship from a solitary to a social enterprise, from a matter of genius to a process of education and acculturation’.2 To varying degrees, Brontë, Martineau and Eliot entered into dialogues as editors, authors and reviewers, thus participating in a more professionalised literary context, as opposed to the reified idea of literary genius. Although Brontë in particular had adamantly held to the authority of creative genius while studying in Belgium (as well as in her defence of her own work in revising Jane Eyre), all three recognised the political contexts of literary production. Indeed, Brontë’s growing awareness of the ‘insidious effect of the review on potential readers’ was what sparked her response to Elizabeth Rigby.3 While the dynamic between editor and author, like translator and author, tends to operate privately, the reviewer brings those tensions into the public forum, exposing the dialogue and adding a new critical level to the reception of the author’s work. The text becomes increasingly dialogic, losing to some degree its idealised connection to the original author.