Old Light on New Media: Medieval Practices in a Digital Ages

Bestiary on iPadOld Light on New Media: Medieval Practices in a Digital Ages

Lucie Dolezalova

Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures 2:1 (2013): 16-34.


This essay offers an insight into the way digital editions of medieval texts can be employed to replicate the medieval reading experience. Awareness of the characteristic features of medieval textuality, exemplified through select late medieval texts, can help in developing increasingly flexible editorial models, which are more consistent with medieval reading practices than current editions. Editions, transformed from single textual occurrences into fluid, communal, and unfolding processes, can uncover a complex notion of medieval hypertextuality by linking texts, images, and tunes. They can then even trace the reception of a given text. As readers are empowered to “zoom” in and out specific textual components, of manuscript witnesses, of families and printed editions, digital editions can present individual witnesses alongside editorial apparatuses and thus bridge the gap between the Old and the New Philology.

Medieval texts often survive in a fragmentary and rather confusing manner. Only a fraction of the original textual evidence is available to the modern scholar. However, medieval works, which appear in analyses as the final result of a unique authorial intention, are in reality only elusive phantoms. Texts that are considered to be the same by modern textual critics, are preserved in manuscripts that differ significantly from one another: entire parts can be added or omitted from a particular manuscript, and variations appear not only in wording, but also in length or format (such as scrolls/codices, or the presence of interlinear and marginal commentaries). Illustrations and musical notation were often integral to a given text. At times clear references to pictorial elements or diagrams survive in manuscripts, even though such elements may no longer accompany the text in these same manuscripts.


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