Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Stemma

Originally, a family tree. By transference, the term has come to designate "the tree of descent of a text" (OED). As Robert Irwin argues in The Arabian Nights: A Companion (1994), Western Classical scholars have been much inclined to the deduction of stemmata, but the assumption is that there is in fact an original text to discover. This assumption has proven fruitful in Western literature, but (Irwin suggests) can be actively misleading in attempts to trace (say) The Arabian Nights (> Arabian Fantasy) or the Katha Sarit Sagara (> Ocean of Story) back to an almost certainly nonexistent single source. [JC]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.