Scholars Question Accuracy of Transcribed Frost Notebooks

by Staff

Robert Faggen, professor and chairman of the English department at Claremont McKenna College in California, has come under scrutiny for his transcription of Robert Frost's papers collected in The Notebooks of Robert Frost, published by Harvard University Press last January. According to two critics, the compilation of forty-seven of Frost's notebooks contains hundreds of errors.

James Sitar, the archive editor of the Poetry Foundation's Web site, published an article in Essays and Criticism in October 2007 stating that he compared four of Frost's original notebooks, stored in Boston University's archives, to Faggen's work, and found "roughly one thousand" inaccuracies in the transcription.

William Logan, an English professor at University of Florida, also discovered discrepancies while reviewing thirty pages of Frost's notebooks from the Dartmouth archives. In an article forthcoming in Parnassus in March, Logan writes, "To read this volume is to believe that Frost was a dyslexic and deranged speller, that his brisk notes frequently made no sense, that he often traded the expected word for some fanciful or perverse alternative."

The notebooks, which Frost did not intend for publication, are written in a scrawling penmanship obscured further by edits, making the work difficult to decipher. In response to the criticism, Faggen has said, "Any project of this nature and magnitude is bound to invite criticism and undergo changes and improvements, a great many of which have been incorporated into the forthcoming paperback edition," the New York Times reported yesterday.

Harvard University Press is planning to publish several additional collections of Frost's unpublished work, including his letters and lectures, which will be edited and transcribed by Faggen and others.