Editing Modernism in Canada


April 7, 2011

Editing P.K. Page’s “Other” Travel Writing

In the process of editing P.K. Page’s “other” travel writing, which is a way to refer to her unpublished travel writing or everything except Brazilian Journal (1987), I am currently concentrating on the Mexican journal, 378 typed and handwritten manuscript pages covering the time period from March 1960 to January 1964. EMiC funding allowed me to hire Elena Merrill, an M.A. student in the Public Text program at Trent, during the summer of 2010 to continue work she had already started on the journal. Elena is also writing her M.A. thesis on Page’s Mexican journal. Our work involves researching Page’s references to a wide range of topics as her interest over the first part of this period evolves from an exploration of Mexican sites and culture to a study of surrealist art and artists. The final third of the journal moves into a fascinating concentration on the Subud movement and Sufism, which first occupied Page during the latter part of her time in Mexico and remained central to her philosophy and art for the rest of her life. Working with the actual manuscript has its challenges, but Elena and I have benefited greatly from the previous work of Sandra Djwa and Jean Mallinson, who transcribed the manuscript into an electronic file of 416 pages. Working with copies of the manuscript and the electronic file at Trent, in consultation the manuscript at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is a rewarding, although time-consuming process. I am finding my first editing project both invigorating and overwhelming. Throughout this work, I carry one very important moment with me, which demonstrates for me the privilege of working with a research assistant. This “moment” is from August 2010, when Elena and I sat together at LAC and I watched her put on the white gloves and open the manuscript for the first time. Having started work on the journal as a fourth year undergraduate and working with it on and off since 2007, Elena was very moved by this experience.  I watched her examine the notations Page had made on the covers of the binders, which do not get transferred to copies of the manuscript, and handle the pages with reverence bordering on disbelief. Perhaps because we are working with “lifewriting,” gaining a sense of the person who did the writing assumes an importance and relevance beyond what we expected. I look forward to sharing such experiences with two research assistants new to the project this spring and summer.

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