Response of Paolo Mastandrea

This two-day workshop has been a fruitful occasion to meet scholars who, like we, agree about the practical utility of DH in order to solve a secular (or better, millennial) problem. Since Philology’s origins, the transit and the reuse of the elements of a text into another have always been considered as one of the main objectives of our discipline. It is now time to improve, adapt and, to a certain extent, create from the beginning digital libraries provided with IT research tools capable of analyse texts in order to catch sight of their mutual echoes and relationships. This way, one will identify every (aware or unaware) presence of memory of a poet within the rewriting activity of every other poet, so that what is usually just postulated, or also proved in an occasional and extemporaneous way, can find objective – or rather, ‘scientific’ – confirmations. The more or less systematic and complete textual exegesis mast be accompanied, sustained and presumably anticipated by accurate data analysis.

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Response of Neil Bernstein

As my current project is a philological commentary on a Latin poem, it was extremely helpful for me to hear various perspectives on practical questions which arise in writing a commentary or intensively studying the intertextual associations of a passage. Discussion focused on how to handle the enormous volume of data generated by digital tools such as Tesserae and Musisque Deoque. These tools shift part of the scholar’s focus from collation of data to the creation of efficient, large-scale representations of results. A related question concerned the methods by which scholars should communicate such work. One vision involved a publicly accessible repository of ancient texts where scholarly interpretation of allusion is communicated in part through text markup. The challenges to making this vision a reality are well-known: unlike other humanities fields, there is no generally accepted mechanism in place as yet for peer review of collaborative digital work in classics.

Pedagogy was briefly mentioned in various discussions, and might be profitably made a theme for a future session. We might want to reflect not only on how to teach our students to use the currently available digital tools but also how to best apply the abilities our students already have as so-called “digital natives.” Many of our students think of digital tools as primary and print-based tools as secondary, and of writing an app as the natural way to solve a problem rather than turning to an app only when traditional philological methods have proven insufficient. How to meet our students’ needs and how to decide which of the skills they already possess are applicable to the questions being asked in our field are questions well worth our consideration.

Response of Gregory Hutchinson

What a wonderful occasion! So much that I didn’t know, so many kind and tolerant people to talk to.

People are important: the question we pose to the machines, the individuality we bring to the interpretation of the data (even if perhaps individuality could perhaps be supplemented by more maths). The study of Latin poetry is probably the area in classical literature which at the moment gives freest scope for aesthetic interpretation and for close reading; it also seems to be the area where digital studies are most advanced. The union of elements is well expressed by the idea of a selective, interpretative, and artistically written commentary, supplemented by links to massive online stores of intertexts and further data.

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Response of Neil Coffee

I found that a key point in the workshop discussions was what the infrastructure for representing intertextuality should look like in the future. New means of intertextual search provided by Tesserae and Musisque Deoque make it easier than ever to find (certain kinds of) intertexts. But should it really be the case that individuals need to rerun certain searches again and again? I’m hopeful that the future agenda for the study of intertextuality will include the ability to store sets of intertexts for easy recall, search, and consultation. With luck, this would also mean that no such work is again consigned to oblivion by being forgotten as commentaries and other works age.

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Musisque Deoque

(From Manca, M., L. Spinazzè, P. Mastandrea, L. Tessarolo and F. Boschetti. 2011. “Musisque Deoque: Text Retrieval on Critical Editions.” Journal for Language Technology and Computational Linguistics 26: 129-140)

The Musisque Deoque Project (MQDQ) aims at creating a digital archive of Latin poetry, from its origins to the late Italian Renaissance, equipped with critical apparatus and various exegetical and linguistic information. This project is focused on the study of synchronical and diachronical intertextuality as illustrated, e.g., in Cicu (2005). For this reason, we give strong attention to formal and material aspects of the text that actually played a relevant role in the poetical tradition. The fixed text of printed critical editions, aimed at the reconstruction as close as possible to the lost originals, provides just a snapshot of the tradition, which is intrisically dynamic, and gives to the modern reader a distorted image of what an ancient text was in fact.

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The Lepzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series (LOFTS)

Monica Berti
Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities – University of Leipzig

The Leipzig Open Fragmentary Texts Series is a new effort within the Open Philology Project of the Humboldt Chair of Digital Humanities at the University of Leipzig. The goal of this series is to establish open editions of ancient works that survive only through quotations and text re-uses in later texts (i.e., those pieces of information that humanists call “fragments”). In the field of textual evidence, fragments are not portions of an original larger whole, but the result of a work of interpretation conducted by scholars who extract and collect information pertaining to lost works embedded in other surviving texts. These fragments include a great variety of formats that range from verbatim quotations to vague allusions and translations, which are only a more or less shadowy image of the original according to their closer or further distance from a literal citation. Continue reading

The Tesserae Project

The goal of the Tesserae Project is to offer ways of exploring allusion, intertextuality, and literary history that replicate and extend traditional approaches.
Tesserae offers a free website that offers various ways to explore intertextuality in ancient Greek, Latin, and English. The principal Tesserae search works by matching a minimum of two words (exact forms or lemmata) in each of two texts. These matches are then sorted by a formula that privileges relatively rare words in phrases that are close together. Testing of this approach on comparisons of Latin epic poems has shown that it can recover some two-thirds of parallels recorded by commentators.

Tesserae has also been shown to be able to add a third to the total number of recorded meaningful parallels between two texts. An example of a novel parallel revealed is notae fulsere aquilae (Civil War 1.244), referring to the glimmer of Roman eagles that frightens the citizens of Ariminum, echoing Vergil’s notis fulserunt cingula bullis (Aeneid 12.942), describing the glimmer of the baldric of Pallas that incites Aeneas to kill Turnus.

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Intertextual Methodology Workshop – Introduction

On February 13-15, 2014, the Fondation Hardt outside Geneva in Vandoeuvres will host a workshop entitled “Intertextualité et humanités numériques: approches, méthodes, tendances. Intertextuality and digital humanities: approaches, methods, trends.”

The goal of the workshop is to develop a better understanding of:

  • what emerging digital methods for approaching intertextuality are and how they are likely to develop
  • the potential and limitations of these methods
  • the practical consequences for the interpretation of literature and language
  • the theoretical consequences for conceptions of intertextuality

The workshop will bring together representatives from several teams developing digital approaches to intertextuality to discuss their work and research plans. Joining them will be scholars of Latin literature with long experience discovering and interpreting instances of intertextuality, as well as defining the larger phenomenon.

This page is intended to host blog posts from participants relating to the conference.