Engaging with one of the most important elements of Europe’s cultural heritage, the matter of Troy, “Transtextual Networks in the European Middle Ages: A Digital Corpus of the Trojan Narrative in Latin Manuscripts” employs material evidence and technological tools to analyse relationships among texts in the Middle Ages. The initial two-year project investigated the manuscripts of three late antique accounts of the Trojan War that have received little scholarly attention even though they were exceptionally influential during the Middle Ages:
- the Ephemeridos belli Troiani [‘The Diary of the Trojan War’] attributed to Dictys of Crete,
- the De excidio Troiae historia [‘The History of the Destruction of Troy’] attributed to Dares of Phrygia,
- the anonymous Excidium Troie [‘The Destruction of Troy’].
Although they were composed independently and include different details, these three works circulated during the same periods, sometimes travelling together in the same manuscripts. The idea behind the project was the proposition that a comprehensive study of complete manuscript contents can reveal that texts that circulate together display how narratives are transmitted and received.
The Trojan narrative constitutes an ideal case for considering networks of texts. Not only did the story of the conquest of Troy by the Greeks provide some of the most important literary motifs for ancient Greek and Roman culture, it also played a role in the genesis of the nations of medieval Europe and continues to touch us in the modern day.
Watch the five-minute lightning talk I prepared in November 2020 for the 13th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age.
The “Transtextual Networks” website is first and foremost intended as an open access resource that includes an online catalogue of all the manuscripts in which these three works are found. It not only aims to make accessible a hitherto disregarded corpus but also to address the phenomenon of texts that travel together by cataloguing all the other texts found in these manuscripts. Ultimately, the intention is to include detailed descriptions of all manuscript witnesses to these works, with complete lists of their contents, and to make records available also in downloadable formats (such as an XML file prepared according to the Text Encoding Initiative Guidelines).
The website and individual catalogue records are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You are free to share and adapt the material as long as you give credit to the “Transtextual Networks” website. Please get in touch if you notice any mistakes or use the data in different ways.
“Transtextual Networks in the European Middle Ages: A Digital Corpus of the Trojan Narrative in Latin Manuscripts” has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Grant Agreement no. 702772. The initial project ran between August 2016 and August 2018 and was housed at the Arnamagnæan Institute at the University of Copenhagen. This research would not have been possible without this generous grant and the supportive environment of the Arnamagnæan Institute as well as the Copenhagen University Library and the Royal Library of Denmark.
I am thankful to the staff in the repositories that these manuscripts are preserved for allowing me to examine the manuscripts in situ and for providing me facsimiles and information I otherwise would not have been able to obtain. I would especially like to thank Dr Renáta Modráková from Czech Republic, Prague, Národní knihovna České republiky for alerting me about ms. XXIII F 194, a previously unknown copy of Dares of Phrygia’s De excidio Troiae historia.
Additionally, I would like to thank the staff in the following institutions for providing me facsimiles of manuscripts that are housed in different repositories: L’Institut de recherche et d’histoire des textes (IRHT), Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS), Paris and Orléans, France; Centro nazionale per lo studio del manoscritto, Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma, Rome, Italy; Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), Saint John’s Abbey and University, Collegeville, MN, the USA.
Needless to say, I am grateful for the recent developments and initiatives in the digitisation of manuscripts, and furthermore, very happy that several manuscripts are now digitised and made freely accessible online thanks to the “Transtextual Networks” project.