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Exploring a literary theme through edition making in Omeka
This project aims to introduce students to the issues of editing medieval texts – especially those with multiple witnesses – while also facilitating a close reading of a text around a certain theme. Students will together create an edition of a text in the exhibition platform Omeka. Omeka will allow them to employ multiple kinds of content. To limit complexity and prevent the exercise from becoming overwhelming, the edition will be done from a certain angle, however this will also help to develop students’ close reading skills.
For the purposes of an example we will use Guillaume de Machaut’s Remede de Fortune investigated from the point of view of soundscape. The theme has been chosen in this example, however, students could also choose the theme once they had read the text. Each member of the project will take a different base manuscript (all of which have now been digitized and therefore easily accessible) and scrutinize layout of text and music, and illuminations and iconography (students will likely require a modern edition of the and translation unless they happen to have a particularly strong background in paleography and medieval French). They will then bring together their understanding of these different manuscripts and work together to create a ‘new’ edition of the Remede.
Creating the exhibition together the students must collaborate, thus developing their skills in this area. The collaborative nature of the work will also give them an insight into medieval scribal and authorial culture - creation of medieval text and music has often been described as a collaborative exercise: authors and scribes work to bring their own perspective to a work and to adapt or change the purpose or meaning of a work.
A project of this nature is an extremely good way of engaging students with medieval literature and music, allowing them to collaborate, learn a text closely, and also reflect on medieval authorial modes through their own methodology.
Tools and materials
- Omeka access for instructor and students and individual accounts set up for everyone.
- An offline sandbox environment set up in Omeka.
- Access to manuscripts or digitized surrogates.
- Modern edition of the text with translation for reference.
- Working closely with the text, students will gain a fluent knowledge of the narrative.
- Additionally they will become well versed with a particular aspect of the text.
- Each student will become familiar with how the text is laid out, illustrated and interpolated in a particular manuscript, and as a result become acutely aware of how different manuscript versions can impinge on personal interpretation.
- Students will become fluent in use of the exhibition platform Omeka and the plug-ins relevant to the project.
- Students will develop their collaborative skills by working together and negotiating to bring in their ideas and understanding from the unique manuscript experience they have had.
- Students will gain an understanding an understanding of medieval manuscript, scribal and authorial culture.
Intended Learning Outcomes
This project is one that can be undertaken over the course of a semester running alongside other work. An initial full class of about 2 hours is required to introduce the students to the project and using Omeka. It is suggested that this take part after the introductory class of the semester, giving students a chance to read the text on which the project is based for the second week. After this 10-15 minutes each week can be spent checking progress – the instructor can extend this if problems are encountered. At the end of the semester the students can collaboratively present their work to the instructor (and perhaps other appropriate invitees) – this should take around half an hour.
Since this project is undertaken collaboratively, it provides a good opportunity for the students to assess each other’s and their own work, with the instructor moderating the final mark. On a course that asks for the equivalent of two essays for assessment, this project should contain enough material to replace the second essay for all students.
Copyright on images used from manuscripts:
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