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Project Description

“Studying Judith in Anglo-Saxon England” is an ongoing project to explore the texts that Anglo-Saxons read and wrote about the biblical book of Judith, as well as the relationships between them. The basis of this project is Jerome’s translation of Judith in what is now known as the Vulgate Latin Bible, which forms the center of what may be thought of as a constellation of texts surrounding it. This constellation of texts includes a range of comments and commentary about the biblical book and its central figure, bringing together patristic writings, continental Latin in prose and poetry, Anglo-Latin writings, and Old English texts. Foremost among the Anglo-Saxon texts included in this study are two Old English retellings of the biblical Judith: the Old English poetic Judith and Ælfric’s sermon De Iudith. Though scholars have addressed some of these texts (most prominently, the Old English poetic Judith), this project brings together a corpus of forty-nine diverse texts in order to understand the entire scope of Anglo-Saxon receptions of Judith—both the biblical book and the heroic figure.

The development of this project will span several phases, as I work with various digital tools. The first phase (already completed) is the publication of an archive of the texts that comprise the corpus, which I have made public in an open-access Omeka site: Book of Judith, hosted by the University Scholars’ Collaborative. A second phase (already begun) includes examining the corpus of texts using text-mining methods (“distant reading” or “macroanalysis”) with tools such as the R programming language, as well as web-based statistical analysis tools such as Voyant. At the same time, I hope to develop the text archive further, by editing the texts in computer-readable markup such as XML/TEI, an important standard for digital editions. Finally, another phase of this project will be to map the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts in which these texts survive across geographies and temporalities, in order to better understand the circulation of texts in Anglo-Saxon England.

One contribution of this project to both digital humanities and medieval studies is in bringing together an array of methodologies and approaches from several fields. These methodologies, in fact, range from traditional, philological approaches still at the heart of literary studies, as well as emerging techniques made possible with digital technologies. Some of these approaches include:

Textual Editing
Source Study
Manuscript Studies
Digital Archiving (in Omeka)
Computer Coding (such as XML/TEI)
Text Mining (such as R)
Geographic Information Systems

By bringing together these disparate methodologies—and the scholarly, epistemological assumptions that accompany them—I seek to examine and present the texts surrounding Judith with questions not previously addressed.

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