The Red Badge of Courage Nobody Knows?
June 23, 2009 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there any kind of critical consensus about the claim made by Henry Binder and Hershel Parker in the 1980s that previous editions of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage were prepared with cuts demanded mostly by the original publisher and that the edition most people have read is thus much less darkly ironic than it should be, and that Binder's new presentation is a more accurate representation of Crane's original intent?
posted by mediareport to Writing & Language (2 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I cannot speak to critical consensus, but my Modern Library edition contains an excellent introduction written by Shelby Foote in 1993, which does not mention excessive cuts by the publisher. Binder may be right, and his edition may be more authentic--I don't know. But the original version is plenty ironic. The hero hardly obtains the titular red badge courageously.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 11:44 AM on June 24, 2009

Response by poster: Actually, we know it was extensively cut before publication; that's not in dispute. Here's maybe the most famous example, from the last page of the book, when Henry's feeling very good about himself after everything:

He felt a quiet manhood, non-assertive but of sturdy and strong blood. He knew that he would no more quail before his guides wherever they should point. he had been to touch the great death and found that, after all, it was but the great death and it was for others.

Those last five words were cut before original publication and don't appear in most editions. That's not in dispute; from what I've gathered (and this is what I'd like to learn more about) the argument is whether things like that were cut with Crane's awareness/permission, over his objections, or perhaps with something like his grudging acceptance that this was the best version he was ever going to see in print. Binder argues the cuts obviously weaken Crane's ironic presentation in important ways (about Henry's final state of self-assurance in the example above, e.g.) and couldn't have been what he really wanted. I'm wondering if there's been any sort of scholarly consensus about that in the years since Binder proposed it.
posted by mediareport at 2:09 PM on June 24, 2009

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