Suburban Academic

Musings of a domesticated scholar

Category: manuscript (Page 1 of 2)

What do the sheep say?

It was the little knight‘s turn to pick the text for #WhanThatAprilleDay16. In light of his favorite Easter toy (once his dad’s), IMG_2060.jpgand in keeping with my recent interest in sounds of the past, he chose the short catalog of animal sounds in Aldhelm’s De metris et enigmatibus— a treatise on poetic meter.

Aldhelm was a seventh-century Anglo-Saxon, but according to Susan Rankin of Cambridge, “[t]he catalogue of words describing the sounds made by animals– or uoces animantium (animal voices)– goes back at least as far as the mid-fifth century and survives in various textual traditions” (Cantus Scriptus, 13).

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British Library, Additional MS 42130, Folio 163v via http://bestiary.ca/beasts/beast193.htm

For Aldhelm, this list helped distinguish the human, signifying voice from non-human, non-signifying noise. To learn more about classical and early medieval classifications of vox and sonus, look at Rankin’s “Capturing Sounds: The Notation of Language” in Ransom and Dillon’s Cantus Scriptus: Technologies of Medieval Song.

The text appears on an eighth-century leaf bound with a ninth-century copy of Isidore’s Etymologies. Rankin’s transcription is partial, so I’ve included the manuscript  below.

e-codices_zos-pa0032_000a_medium.jpg

Zofingen, Stadtbibliothek PA 32, f. I r. (www.e-codices.unifr.ch)

Nam apes ambizant uel bombizant…asini oncant uel rudunt…boues mugiunt uel reboant…cicadae fretinnunt… elefanti barriunt uel stridunt…equi hinniunt…galline cacillant…galli cantant uel cucurriunt…meruli zinzitant/ oves balant…porci grundiunt…ranae coaxant…

Can you guess which animal is which? Reading aloud will help (and remember, they’re  plural animals). You can also take a quick listen to my recording of Rankin’s excerpt.

By the way, this is a really fun way to introduce yourself (and/or your toddler) to any language. So may your spring be abuzz with sounds– ancient and animal alike!

 

Ælfric and the Rabbit Hole

Welcome back, readers!

I’m working on my  first dissertation chapter–about seafaring saints in Old English hagiography–and I wanted to share my initial experiences. This post is a rant about my frustrations, a suggestion about how others might avoid my pitfalls, and a declaration of my intention to renew the study of Old English by making it–and its contexts– more accessible.

My research strategy was clear: 1) find the Old English saints’ lives that feature boats; 2) close read said texts; 3) find their original Latin sources and compare them; 4) make claims about the seafaring saints’ stories and their analogs.

This is all pretty standard, yes? I’d just go to my editions of hagiography and look at the footnotes. For the Old English Martyrology, this is precisely what I did. Using Christine Rauer‘s “Edition, Translation, and Commentary” I was able to find relevant saints’ tales and their sources. TA-DA!

And then I went back to Ælfric. I have Skeat’s Lives of Saints, whose hagiographic works are  most relevant to my project, and took cursory notes on the Catholic Homilies. Now, Skeat doesn’t give much background on the LS, and the edition is from the late nineteenth century. What followed were days and days and days of fruitless research and of course, all that persistent self-doubt that hitches a ride on these frustrating pursuits.

NationalGeographic

Eventually, though,  I discovered Holy Men and Holy Women: Old English Prose Saints’ Lives and Their Contexts, and it changed everything.  If you want to write on Ælfric, you need this book. 

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Why, you ask?

For the introduction, at the very least. E. Gordon Whatley guides his readers through the Ælfrician canon and the issues attending its many sources in “An Introduction to the Study of Old English Prose Hagiography: Sources and Resources.” His chapter follows “from published Old English  texts to largely unpublished Latin manuscripts” but maintains “its underlying theoretical bias: that English saints’ legends are best read in relation to their individual Latin source texts and in the larger context of Latin hagiography in England and Europe in the early medieval period” (4). Next, he includes a list of “all the texts of individual saints’ lives in OE prose”– a great resource for someone like me who has trouble keeping things straight. The list includes the short title and the text’s id number according to Cameron and Franks’s Plan.

Wait, what plan? “A Plan for the Dictionary of Old English,” which is reviewed here. You might notice that the second paragraph begins by discussing the 280-page “List of Old English Texts” which makes up the third chapter. Is there no better name for this massive document than “Plan”? And why doesn’t every student who’s taken a course in Old English  know about it? Or, even more worrisome, does everyone else know about it? Just how isolated am I?

I didn’t even realize there was a Plan until this week. And this is in part because of how Old English is taught. Once we’ve learned the grammar (and if we do, it’s with no thanks to Bright and Cassidy’s confounding book), we read at first from anthologies. The best of these is Elaine Treharne‘s because it introduces each text within its manuscript context. But of course, the leap from introduction to advanced research is a big one to make, and especially difficult to do on one’s own. It seems to me that  Old English courses should begin in the library, and move out from there. Explain first the bibliographic information, then the manuscript record, and then get to the texts.

Whatley’s explanation of his list illustrates just how complex the field is, even when only pertaining to Ælfric: 

“For reasons of space and redundancy, I have not given manuscript information or, in most cases, citations of printed editions; both are supplied at the appropriate place in the PlanI (which does not, however, include references to Godden’s later edition of ÆCH II). Editions printed since the publication of the Plan may be located in the bibliography of Luke Reinsma for Ælfrician texts and that of Karen Quinn and Kenneth Quinn for non-Ælfrician texts (see second edition), but I have included references (in the Notes) to important editions not mentioned in the Plan, Reinsma, or Quinn and Quinn” (4). 

He recommends other bibliographic resources and clearly articulates particular elements of the  Plan. Then, bless him, he takes us through the many steps of researching an Ælfrician life. Below is a summary of the steps, with my reactions/objections in italics:

  1. Pick a saint
  2. Find the source (passio, probably)
  3. Check an encyclopedia such as Bibliotheca Sanctorum
  4. Consult Books Known to the English, Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture-What happened to SASLC? Is it ongoing? Why can’t I find much about it on their website?
  5. Recall 19th century groundwork: Forster for Legends in CH; Ott for Skeat’s first volume of LS
  6. Consult Acta Sanctorum, a compilation by Bollandists, of “vitae  or passiones of nearly all the known saints of the Christian Middle Ages whose feast days occur from January through November” (10).  What about December?   “Although Acta Sanctorum remains the greatest single collection of hagiographic texts, it is also, like J.-P. Migne’s more familiar library of patristic texts, Patrologia Latina, out of date and deficient by modern scholary standards…[Its] editions of late classical and early medieval texts…are not usually representative of the sort of texts that Anglo-Saxons such as Aldhelm or Ælfric used in their own hagiography” (10-11).Great.
  7. Look for your specific saint in Analecta Bollondiana,another 19th c Bolandist publication, which “publishes articles in the whole field of hagiography…” Although “working through copious indices of notices of one’s chosen saint, text, or manuscript can be tedius,” it is nevertheless “necessary and invariably rewarding…for anyone in the early stages of a hagiographic project” (11). EARLY STAGES? I’M AT STEP 7! 
  8. Find the Bollandists’ monograph series, Subsidia Hagiographica, which “includes editions of longer texts, special studies, and catalogues of hagiographic texts in medieval mss in the larger and smaller libraries of Europe”.  For my purposes, “catalogues of the libraries of Paris, Brussels, and Rome, which include manuscripts of insular origin, some of the most significant of which, for hagiorgaphy in ASE, have only recently begun to be recognized as insular” (11).
  9. Read this against a) Delehaye’s “classic popular introduction to hagiographic literature” and b) Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina (BHL), an alphabetical listing of all the Christian saints, Eastern as well as Western, whose lives are preserved in Latin” (11, 12). But once I find the number, how do I find the actual source? Am I using their database all wrong?
  10. Check the Bollandists’ 2 supplements, which relate recensions, new printed editions, studies, and issues in numbering.
  11. Backtrack: Many saints’ lives come from Greek anyway. Look at Siegmund and Berschin. Footnote reveals that Siegmund writes (not surprisingly) in German. Thankfully, Berschin translated by Frakes: Greek Letters and the Latin middle Ages from Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa).
  12. Ooops! Early MSs of England are rare and Bollandists aren’t cataloguing English libraries anyway. Damnit!
  13. Retrieve Zettel’s unpublished dissertation from library (in my case, I asked my cousin at UVA to send me their copy, since no schools in North Carolina had one).  Zettel finds that the Cotton-Corpus Legendary was actually written after Aelfric, but “appears to derive from a collection of saints’ lives, a legendary in effect, in use in late tenth-century England, which in turn derived from a ninth-century continental collection” (14). Why am I doing this? What’s the point? We’ll never figure any of this out. This is stupid. I’m stupid. Arrrgghhh.
  14. Take courage from Whately’s tip to look at Cotton-Corpus Legendary, Harley 3020, Paris BN Lat. 5574, ff.1-39, BN Lat 10861.

So these are the steps one takes to track down an Ælfrician source. I wish there were a more streamlined way to go about this research, but as of now, I rely on this book, my dissertation director, and my fellow medievalists.

In related news, I will be updating and reformatting the Taxonomic Chart of Medieval Research Tools next week, in hopes of contributing a solution to the problem I have raised here. I welcome all recommendations for websites, databases, and even BOOKS you think should be included.

Until then, wishing you each success in discovering the light at the end of your tunnel.

Baby rabbit

The newest Viking invasion

North_Sea_map-en.png

In my search for a dissertation topic (starting point: Anglo-Saxon prose), I am increasingly interested in exchanges among Anglo-Saxons and their North Sea neighbors.

I’ve recently been reading about spaces, places, and history (see my new Reading List page), but I keep being pulled by seafaring and its cultural impact on the region. So I started a new reading list, got on Amazon, and behold, the Vikings came straight to my door:

I stand by my tweet: “when vikings show up at your doorstep, let them in!”
My new line of inquiry comes as one of many in a series of summer novelties. Two different batches of baby birds hatched in our stoop; Drew graduated from law school (summa, 1st in his class, tons of awards); I’ve engaged in some small projects around the house. 

I also spent two weeks in London with librarians. My favorite firsts include seeing Stonehenge, the Alfred Stone, Oxford University Press, Bath, cave-crepes, and a tenth-century manuscript that I HELD WITH MY OWN TWO HANDS. 

After eleven straight weekends of travel, I was finally able to start my research in earnest. Once I realized that my interests were beginning to shift, I started with Haywood’s Dark Age Naval Power and Unger’s The Ship in the Medieval Economy, 600-1600.  Chapter 3, “Anglo-Saxon Piracy and the Migrations to Britain” was the most useful of Haywood’s chapters to my research. It introduced me to the Litus Saxonicum, a series of Roman coastal defenses along both sides of the channel. 
Litus Saxonicum, Wikimedia Commons

If only I’d picked this book up a few months earlier! I’ve missed the submission deadline for BABEL‘s 2014 “On the Coast”meeting in Santa Barbara, but I’m encouraged that shoreline studies are now on the cutting-edge (HA. get it? edge?).

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Anglo.Saxon.migration.5th.cen.jpg
Aaaaanyway, after the Romans withdrew from Britain in 410, Saxon raids increased. A note on vocabulary here– at this point in the story, no one’s a Viking yet.

Britons were native to the island; Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians were invaders. 
According to Haywood, archeological evidence suggests that the Anglo-Saxon settlements came in two waves: “the first began in the early fifth century and was confined mainly to eastern Britain and was confined mainly to eastern Britain between the Humber and the Thames”and the second, spanning the middle of the fifth century and the start of the sixth,  included “Kent and the south coast” as well as “the Midlands from East Anglia” (80).

 Haywood reads in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle that, “the Anglo-Saxons who came to Britain after the mid-fifth century, such as Cerdic in Wessex or Aelle in Sussex, did not arive as either pirates or federates but as seaborne conquerors” (83). If those names seem at all familiar (and you’re not a medievalist), that’s totally legit. Here’s where you’ve heard them before: Cerdic is portrayed the previously blogged-about King Arthur (left). King Aelle(a) is a character on the TOTALLY AWESOME History Channel series, Vikings (right).
Ok, so, back to the scholarship. After briefly discussing the literary accounts of the 5th century invasions (Gildas, Bede, Gallic Chronicles, Anglo-Saxon Chronicles), Haywood reminds us that the Saxon raiders did not limit themselves to Briton–they raided in Gaul as late as the seventh century (though by now they’re starting from Britain as opposed to Saxony). Next he goes through the development of shipbuilding by the Angles and Saxons, showing that “by the second half of the seventh century we can be quite certain that the sail was in everyday use by the Anglo-Saxons” (107).  Note his use of Anglo-Saxon here. By now, this can refer to Angles and Saxons living in Britain. 
You’re rightly wondering, “where the ___ are the Vikings in this damn post?” Never fear, readers–they arrive just when you don’t expect them [kidding; see below].
The beginning of the Viking Age is marked by most at 789, when Scandinavians came to Portland and were mistakenly identified as merchants by an ill-fated reeve. The reason I included all this background is because in a grossly-over-simplified version of reality, the Vikings did to the Anglo-Saxons what the Angles and Saxons had done to the Britons. Just as Angles and Saxons came to Britain in raiding parties and eventually settled, so the Vikings (mostly Norse and Danish) arrived– at first as pillagers and then, as we can see from place-names, genealogies, genetics, archaeology, history, laws, and literature, as settlers in increasingly important ports. In case you’ve fallen into the “meh, I don’t really care about that” trap, check out McGlashan’s 2003 article about the Vikings’ generous beach laws, which I found in a perfectly-timed tweet by Medievalists.net.
Despite Haywood’s detailed coverage of pre-Viking shipbuilding, Unger’s analysis of shipbuilding technology and its economic impact in his chapter on “Vikings and Byzantines: 750-1000” is surprisingly engaging (and I think better researched). Unger traces the development of vessels within the context of technological, military, and economic changes. He shows us that “[t]he development of the Viking ship was the most important change in European ship design from 750 to 1000″because it  “marked a significant improvement in the ability to move people” (Unger, 80-81). And these people, in turn, went south to Iberia and through the Mediterranean to Alexandria; east to the Black and Caspian Seas; and west to Iceland, Greenland, and Canada. The new Viking ships were stable, deep-seaworthy, and light enough to carry on small stretches of land (82). And how do we know this? Because we still have some. 
You can see a few at Oslo’s Viking Ship Museum, whose gift shop boasts such gems as Terry Jones’s children’s book and slides of the exhibits. SLIDES. 
“Wait, what are these?” And yes, it is THAT cold inside Norwegian museums in December

And the Viking warships weren’t their only vessels to reflect and affect social, political, and economic change. Here’s my last bit from Unger (for now):

The result of Viking voyages was to extend the realm of northern trade, to promote the full integration of Scandinavia into a northern trading network and to intensify trade within that network. The emergence of Europe about the year 1000 from the difficulties, political and economic, of the preceding 150 years was certainly a result of the end of raids by Vikings in their warships. But t was also a result of the ability of Scandinavians to turn their new type of vessel to commercial advantage. (94)
So you see, Vikings were able to conquer and settle; they drew new boundaries on land and carved new “whale-roads” at sea. Awesome, am I right?
My next book to read (and already the prologue was hard to put down) is Studies in the Medieval Atlantic, whose image I posted yesterday to facebook and Instagram. I hope to include it in a shorter post soon, but I’ll leave that for another day when I can give it the attention and space it deserves. 
Until next time, wishing everyone the blessings of newness (and no threats of invasion).

Works cited: 
Haywood, John. Dark Age Naval Power: A Reassessment of Frankish and Anglo-Saxon Seafaring Activity. Routledge, 1999.
Unger, Richard W. The Ship in Medieval Economy 600-1600. London, 1980.

A weekend in England

What a trip! I arrived at Heathrow on the morning of the 5th, making the bus just in time to drop my things at Jesus College
Room with a View
and sit down for the first panel of Oxford and Cambridge International Chronicles Symposium (OCICS).  I was only there for two nights, but the trip was well worth the travel.
About eighty scholars had gathered to share interdisciplinary, and just as importantly, global perspectives on Medieval and Renaissance chronicles. I attended first “Shaping the Past in Twelfth-Century Chronicles” and heard papers on a Danish ruler of England being depicted as a humble pilgrim instead of powerful (and foreign) king, images in John of Worcester’s Chronicle creating “a new scientific history while upholding older monastic conventions,” and William of Malmesbury’s interventions in his sources as attempts to “restore the English and their conquerors.”

Henry I’s dream, John of Worcester (wikipedia commons)

All three presenters ended up speaking about the transmission and transmutations of their texts and the texts’ sources. They all seemed to create matrices of comparison: one author changed this to that for reason a; another changed that to this for reason b, etc. They were all quite interesting but almost laden with evidentiary data, and I began to wonder how much time the authors might have saved if they had a program to help them count and track the changes they discussed. It seems like my map project really will have other applications! 

And yet, I was shocked to see no digital projects. I saw pie graphs and flow charts from historians and literary scholars alike, but none questioned the methodology of counting the words, themes, or images they were tracking. When I shared my surprise to this during breaks, the general consensus was that this was a symposium on chronicles, not digital humanities; there are separate conferences for that. 
Oy.
At this point in my post I should explain what chronicles are; this is, after all, a blog for all readers. But if I learned anything from this conference, it’s that chronicles are much harder to define than I expected. Basically, they are early histories. They can be arranged thematically, around the church for example, or chronologically, like most annals. 
But history, to medievals at least, was a much broader field than it is now. 
Presentations on Matthew of Paris, a manuscript belonging to the Norwich prior Simon Bozoun, and instructors to the illustrator of Lambeth Palace Library MS 6 showed just how rich the medieval understanding of history is. Matthew Paris collected, collated, and created genealogical trees, astrological tables, computational calendars, natural science treatises, and even drew an elephant from life:
“Drawn from life” is a very, very rare notation in the Middle Ages (Parker Library)
According to Judith Collard, the images and texts of Matthew of Paris have been studied too often as distinct from one another and without the context he provided them. She convincingly argued that more scholars, like Matthew himself, especially look to the science in his manuscripts as incorporations to, not exceptions in, his works.
Sam Rostad, now a history PhD student at Notre Dame, had a great opportunity when his supervisor at Cambridge recommended he look into a manuscript belonging to the prior of 14th century Norwich. This particular book begins with Higden’s Polychronicon– a history of everything. 
From one version of Higden’s Polychronicon (British Library)
The eight works that follow range from historical prefaces to Marco Polo’s travels, from History of the East to a commentary on St Augustine.  Yet at closer inspection, this textual gathering is not a miscellany. Bringing together global and regional histories with travel narratives and commentary dedicated more to ancient cultures than to navigation or theology, Bozoun really created a historiography. 
Just as the first panel had mined specific, textual differences among chronicles and their sources, this one examined larger, thematic similarities among different genres of history. Fascinating, no?
This is perhaps a longer, or at least denser, post than usual, so I’ll cut it here. Stay tuned for my adventures in an 11th-c church and an update on Peterborough Chronicle scholarship!
Until soon, wishing everyone a week free from jet-lag.

On yard work and criticism

I hope you’ve all enjoyed the spring! Upon my return from Texas, I went right to work on the house. So far, we’re trying to convert our too-formal tv room into a more functional space, exchanging our giant sofa (let me know if you want to buy it– it’s only a year old!) for a smaller sofa and chair in addition to a shared “work station.”
Sofa, “Toby,” Bryant
Chair, Ottoman, sofa with fabric swatch.

Using peppers and tomatoes I brought home from the farm, I made jalapeno (how do I add a tilde on this damn thing?) salsa per Mike’s recipe and it is, frankly, divine. Super spicy, totally fresh, and of course, salt-free.

This stuff will change your life. 
And, per my post title, I’ve also engaged in some heavy-duty yard work. Behold, the fruits of my manual labor:
We’re planning to replace all of the pine straw with fresh pine straw, but need to get rid of all the random plants, weeds, and vines plaguing our front yard. The picture above shows the yard a little over halfway through my marathon. I find raking entirely addictive; I love it because it gets me outside and active. And in the front yard instead of the back, I get a better chance of visiting with my neighbors and getting some sun. All around, a good gig.
But let me not mislead you. I am not, in any way, trying to suggest that I like to garden. That is a completely different thing. I prefer deconstruction: clearing, sorting, discovering. And discover I do! I’ve found tons of interesting things:
Above: the hatch from “Lost,” a random drain, and an unlikely tulip with a pretty treacherous vine as a neighbor. 
I was reminded, as I was scraping away the layers of my yard’s many years, that my interest in yard work is not unlike my interest in literature. Don’t roll your eyes. You knew this was coming.
Upon introducing myself as a PhD student in English, I usually get the question, “Oh, so you want to write novels?” NO. I don’t ever, ever want to write novels. Or publish poetry. Or do any “creative writing” of any kind. I love that other people do it, but it isn’t for me. I’m not very creative. My skills match my interests: examining, parsing, discovering. And here’s my favorite discovery of the day– one of two beautiful snakes! This fine lady/handsome man was nearly a foot long:
If you can, zoom in to see its tongue out!

I was startled, of course, and then worried that I might have hurt it in some way. It was extraordinarily slow until I stepped towards it; it then slithered, I hope healthily, away. 
I then thought about what I was doing– all day I’d seen beetles and ants, a worm here and there. I’d uprooted weeds and pulled back vines. I was definitely affecting a mini-ecosystem (stay with me– I promise this isn’t about to go crazy hippie on you!) But I did really begin to consider myself a custodian, rather than an owner, of my own yard. After all, this is my third raking snake, and that got me thinking about my scholarship as well.

The pieces I work on are very, very old. They have their own birth stories and their own growth stories. They’ve passed through countless hands, crossed countries, and ended up recopied and now, scanned and on a computer screen. And while authorship is a difficult matter, especially in chronicles whose composition actually spans centuries, I should always be aware that they are someone else’s creation. They are bequeathed to me, but never mine. I’m participating in a community of scholarship in the same way that I’m participating in my own little ecosystem. It’s exciting and challenging; it’s rewarding and productive. Its discoveries are delightful, and I claim those moments of uncovering rather than those of creating. I scrape instead of sow.

Until next time, wishing you a summer full of revelation and, if it’s your thing, invention as well. 

Mapping Family Value(s)

Thrilling discovery! There is an open, searchable map for the Domesday Book: http://domesdaymap.co.uk

Of course, this bodes well for my large-scale project, because the Domesday site also incorporates IMAGES OF THE ENTIRE TEXT– with English annotations to the side.  I’m unspeakably excited about finding this source (which is free, miraculously).

On a professional level, the Domesday Map contextualizes the smaller and larger steps of my own mapping project (in case you missed it)
On a more personal level, the site helps me imagine my family history.
My first documented ancestor is Ralph de la Pommerai, or Pomeroy.  He is recorded in the Domesday Book as lord of Berry [of] Pomeroy, whose castle is pictured right. I’ve spent countless hours wondering what life might have been like here, even in its original structure, but had very little material with which to work.

Despite having a genealogical book of my father’s family, I’ve never known as much about my 11th century ancestor as I would like (indeed, I’m sure I never will).  I could have known more though, had I bothered to look at the Domesday Book myself:

from domesdaymap.co.uk
And although the wikipedia article is similarly helpful, it of course isn’t anything like the entry of Berry Pomeroy on the Domesday Map site: 
domesdaymap.co.uk
It’s really fascinating for me to have Ralph Pomeroy’s holdings– human, animal, and land– seen in this way.  The Berry had 45 villagers, 17 smallholders, and 16 slaves.  Land for 25 ploughlands was worked by 4 lord’s teams and 17 men’s teams; although a seemingly large population, it paid relatively low tax.  How had Ralph managed that? What was his relationship like with William the Conqueror, who landed him in the first place?  With 560 sheep, how often did he eat mutton?
domesdaymap.co.uk

Clicking on him brought me to a map of all sites associated with his name (even if not the same person, as the disclaimer notes).  I found that his holdings extended beyond that one (now purportedly haunted) castle ruins that I’ve known about for so long. Not surprisingly, all 136 locations affiliated with Ralph Pomeroy are in Devon.

As excited as I am to find personal, familial fulfillment in this project, I’m perhaps equally enthused by its implications for mapping the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles.  Who knows what someone else might find? What personal or academic impact might my project, even in its smallest version, have on someone else?

And this is exactly my purpose, as I’ve written about in earlier posts.  There is a problem with medievalists, their sources, their audiences, and accessibility.  Amazingly, this map– a form perhaps first employed to mark boundaries– is now breaking them down.

Until soon, fellow revolutionaries.
(speaking of ironic use of “revolutionaries”– has anyone read the article about the Pope’s speech in Cuba’s Revolutionary Square?)

Meet my mapping project

Old English chronicles only pretend to care about time; they’re really more invested in space. 

I’m currently trying to develop a database and platform with which I can map out the content– the actual narratives– of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. For my Duke class, I will start by mapping invasion sites in the Peterborough Chronicle, one version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle(s).

Google Map and Google Earth allow people to add data to a location (see Wallace’s map).  The problem with these platforms is that there’s no way for the data to interact.  When I make a map of all the invasion sites mentioned in the Peterborough Chronicle, the information that pops up for each place will be isolated.  There isn’t  anything else for me to do with it, like search for “Danes” or “heathens” or “William.”

I’m hoping to develop a way to get the text of each entry to interact– an undertaking which has proven quite difficult to begin.  Once I have time to grow the project and incorporate all sites mentioned in the Peterborough Chronicle, having the right platform and database will allow users to search for things like invasions, fires, deaths or births of kings, miracles, and church construction.  It might also be able to limit searches based on areas or time frames.


From there, if I could get a team of scholars (and a grant) to incorporate each version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles, we could see some differences among them more easiy, than say, Thorpe’s translation:


Thorough though it is, I find this very hard to follow.  Scholars of the chronicles need new ways to rethink these texts, on their own terms and in communion with each other.

Big picture, my project aims to locate the stories of these histories in a virtual space that will help readers reimagine the past.  

But here’s what else I think it could do:
bring chronicles back to the classroom
employ digital media for medieval interests other than paleography and digital collections
reinvigorate the scholarly discussion of chronicles, which confront issues of empire, borderlands, nation-building, kinghsip,warfare, changes in the English language, the study of pre-printing book creation, materiality, and paleography
help us reimagine time as space

I’m excited to attend “Cartography and Creativity in the Age of Global Empires,” hosted by Duke’s BorderWork(s) Humanities Lab.  Here’s the description:


Please join us for this inter-disciplinary workshop, which brings into conversation historians, literary critics, artists, geographers, and the digital and spatial humanities to explore the nexus of mapping, art, and global empire. Our day-long discussion will investigate the consequences of treating maps as “image texts” and also the manner in which modern mapping practices have been engaged by artists across a broad range of image media for understanding the acts of demarcation that have parceled the world into sovereign bounded communities as well as contemporary challenges to these borders, boundaries, and lines of control.

Hopefully I’ll have more to report back soon.  In the meantime (and even after), I’d love to know what you think.

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