Heroic Age Logo The Heroic Age, Issue 2, Autumn/Winter 1999  

Electronic Medievalia



L.J. Swain,
Western Michigan University

Recently, one of the listservs to which I subscribe had yet another discussion of what use the web could possibly be. As any tool does, the web has its detractors and its defenders, but there is no real question that the web is here to stay. The purpose of this regular column in The Heroic Age is not only to speak about worthy electronic (not just web) projects, but also to address to some degree their applicability to scholarship, the classroom, and the world of academia in general.

With that goal in mind, I would like to introduce a project that promises some great returns. Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture, or SASLC, was started in 1983 as an outgrowth of the "Symposium on the Sources of Anglo-Saxon Culture" co-sponsored by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the State University of New York, and granted funding by the National Endowment for the Humanities. This meeting then spawned the project inspired by J. D. A. Ogilvy's Books Known to the English, 597-1066. The project expanded Ogilvy's scope to include any written or traceable oral tradition known in Anglo-Saxon England.

The methodology is fairly simple. In any given text, similarity of the passages must be proven. For example, if Bede in a commentary should sound very like a similar comment made by Augustine on the same book, there then exists a possibility that a relationship exists. Once that is established the historical relationship between the two texts is evaluated. In our example, it needs to be established that Bede could have been aware of and read that particular text. As with much of textual scholarship, a good deal of determining parallels and the path of influence from exemplar to the text in question is often an intuitive process.

Some of the scholars involved in the project have been tracing the allusions of particular authors in Anglo-Saxon literature. William Schipper, for example, has been involved in putting the information regarding allusions, quotations, citations and the like from St. Ambrose and Pseudo-Ambrose online. Other scholars have been working on St. Jerome. Some of the material from these two efforts have been published in various formats at this time and are available.

A related project is the Fontes Anglo-Saxoni. The difference between the two projects is that they begin at opposite ends, so to speak. SASLC begins with classical, patristic, and other medieval sources and works forward to determine whether they were known in Anglo-Saxon England. Fontes seeks to find new source relationships and so begins with a particular passage and seeks to find its immediate source. The two projects are thus inverse to each other. They also tend to share many of the same folks on their boards and in producing their work. The URL for Fontes is listed below.

The potential applications of SASLC promise to be an excellent tool for future research. On the one hand, it does in fact make the researcher's work much easier. On the other hand, it requires of those doing the work a knowledge and depth in the literature not only of the Anglo-Saxons but patristics and classics as well, not unusual in the field, but, of course, such achievement should not be overlooked no matter how commonplace among academics. In any case, the project will tell us much about Anglo-Saxon England--who was read, perhaps why those authors were read, and possibly some idea of how their works came to the Anglo-Saxons. The URL is http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/saslc.

Sites of Related Interest:

Fontes Anglo-Saxoni: http://fontes.english.ox.ac.uk/

As mentioned above the Fontes project is related to SASLC. The site is very easy to navigate with a left column frame as a table of contents. Most of the information however regards the project, where in progress they are, and other such information. There is, however, a searchable database that lists citations by Anglo-Saxon author and by source.

Simon Keynes's Anglo-Saxon Bibliography: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/rawl/keynes1/home.htm

Keynes bibliography, now in its third printed edition, is volume 13 of the Old English Newsletter Subsidia series. The online version is found at http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/rawl/keynes1/home.htm. The bibliography is fairly comprehensive, easy to navigate utilizing a left column frame for easy access to the various divisions of the bibliography. The bottom frame allows easy access to the main pages and explanatory material, although the site is set up well enough that I'm not sure that is necessary. This site is a great one for anyone interested in things Anglo-Saxon.

Three professional academics who maintain web links and information are:

Michael Hanly, Western Washington University: http://www.wsu.edu:8080/~hanly/oe/503.html

This page is mostly, though not exclusively, a maintained list of Anglo-Saxon links. They are listed by subject matter. Included is material regarding Hanly's courses, bibliographies, history and material culture, texts, and so forth. This is a handy web guide.

Carl Berkhout, University of Arizona: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~ctb

Berkhout simply lists on his front page links to other pages on his site, which lists links leading to Anglo-Saxon scholarship of past centuries, manuscripts, the labyrinth, and other sites.

Murray McGillivray: http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/engl401

Finally, while many of us have heard of Catherine Ball's excellent site for learning Old English at http://www.georgetown.edu/cball/oe/old_english.html, another fine site on the subject is Murray McGillivray's http://www.ucalgary.ca/UofC/eduweb/engl401. This site is an online class in learning Old English. Reports about the site indicate that, even though it is entirely Internet based, the students have had great success in learning the language.

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