Before: The avant-textes of “From Man to Man” and Olive Schreiner’s writing practices

Liz Stanley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The “warts and all” transcriptions of two early Olive Schreiner draft manuscripts of parts of what was later published as From Man to Man are examined in detail. They are analysed by treating them as avant-textes and using a genetic criticism approach. Doing so, different aspects of her writing practices come into view around the distinction she made between her “ordinary writing”, which encompassed “in the moment” additions, deletions, and amendments, and what she described as “overworking”, the after the event activities usually termed editing. Although coexisting on the manuscript pages, these are shown to be distinct sets of practices exerting different pressures. Some problems of emplotment and narrative continuity arose through attempting to combine both, so she contemplated having recourse to an earlier version of the manuscript, with hints in letters raising the possibility that this had a different narrative structure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-27
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Commonwealth Literature
Issue number1
Early online date28 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • avant-textes
  • editorial practices
  • From Man to Man
  • genetic transcription
  • Olive Schreiner
  • writing practices


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