Response of Stephen Wheeler

As a book-oriented library scholar interested in the intertextuality of Latin poetry, I found the Geneva workshop on “Intertextuality and Digital Humanities” to be valuable because it has made me more familiar with a new set of research tools in a fast-developing area that has the potential to revolutionize the reading and interpretation of ancient literature for students and scholars alike. In particular, I welcomed the opportunity to hear from the representatives of different digital humanities projects (Tesserae, Musisque Deoque, eTraces, and LOFTS) about the technical aspects of digitization and data analysis. Marco Buechler’s treatment of intertextuality in the corpora of English translations of the Bible referred to a parallel between a source text and a target text as “reuse.” I don’t know where this term comes from, but it may be helpful to distinguish “reuse” from “use.” For example, to talk about the “spoliation” of classical monuments to decorate late antique monuments could be “use” (serving a present need) or “reuse” (a self-conscious reference to the past). For more on the theory of use and reuse, see Richard Brilliant and Dale Kinney, eds. Reuse Value: Spolia and Appropriation in Art and Architecture from Constantine to Sherrie Levine (2011), especially p. 112, where Kinney cites and builds on Anthony Cutler, “Use or Reuse? Theoretical and Practical Attitudes toward Objects in the Early Middle Ages”, in Ideologie e pratiche del reimpiego nell’alto medioevo, Settimane di Studio del Centro ltaliano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 46 (2 vols, Spoleto: Centro ltaliano di Studi sull’Alto Medioevo, 1999), vol. 2, pp. 1055-83.

As an end-user of the programs presented at the workshop, I would say that it behooves the architects of digital websites to promote the new research tools by using them in the classroom to train a new generation of philologists. Additionally, the same tools should be made more widely available for the research of students and scholars both within the field of classics and in related disciplines. Achieving competency or proficiency in the use of digital tools is a relatively easy goal to achieve. But Joe Farrell’s suggestion that our students learn to mark up text may be more exciting still. It could involve students profitably in activities or capacities that would eventually lead to contributions to the Digital Latin Library Project (DLL: Monica Berti also usefully reminded us that marking up a text is itself an act of critical reading involving many editorial decisions.  Another important issue that Damien Nelis raised in one of the breakout discussion groups is how to represent the significance and value of search results mined during the discovery phase (i.e. through applying algorithms to text data). These results deserve to be archived in a repository that can be evaluated, searched, referenced, commented upon, followed, etc. Chris Forstall and Marco Buechler indicated that preserving records of searches in the public domain was feasible.

In the final analysis, it seems to me to be in the best interest of classical philology to lead the way in showing how digital analysis of a relatively finite and densely interlinked corpus of texts can reveal literary, historical, and anthropological truths about the origins of a polis-based civilization and their immanence in the emerging structures of our new global village.

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