My research explores the relationship between medieval literature and the material forms in which it survives. In particular, I am interested in the ways owners, readers, and custodians of Middle English literary manuscripts manipulated and transformed them after their initial production. I argue that tracing the material impact of these activities can tell us how literary works are received and transmitted by historical readers. Manipulation has the potential to unfix textual signifiers, to enrich or complicate literary readings, and to challenge notions of canonicity. Since modern editorial practices generally erase such historical evidence in the process of translating the medieval text to the modern printed page, my work seeks to make visible and legible these transformations.
Where the familiar form of the edition or anthology belies the mutability and contingency of medieval manuscripts and their texts, advancements in digital technologies enable us to augment these objects in new and interesting ways. In my time as a Text Technologies Fellow at Stanford, I’ve been thinking through approaches to more dynamically represent these changes on the screen. Facsimiles, microfilm, and even high-resolution photographs are insufficient for this purpose because they present only a single moment in the history of the book. How can scholars use digital technologies and methods to better contextualize the temporal complexities of medieval manuscripts? How also can existing programs and projects be reconfigured to render those static images into more diachronic representations of our archival objects?
With the support of the Text Technologies fellowship, I have initiated conversations with other scholars working on digital humanities projects to form the foundation for a future collaborative project – one with the potential to better contextualize medieval books for students and researchers working in pre-modern fields.