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Nota Bene

Making Digital Marks on Medieval Manuscripts


Edited By Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel

We stand at the cusp of an exciting moment in digital medieval studies. The advent of ubiquitously available digitized manuscripts alongside platforms that host encoded medieval texts has democratized access to the cultural heritage of the Middle Ages, and gives us the potential for greater understanding of that era. Seen through the lens of late medieval French literature, in particular the Roman de la Rose and the works of Guillaume de Machaut, this book exhorts us to be optimistic about what we can achieve. Challenging the pessimism inherent in views that see our historical situatedness as a barrier to truly understanding the medieval era, Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel argues that digital networks of manuscript images, texts, and annotations, can not only aid us in comprehending medieval literary culture, but are, in fact, complementary to medieval modes of thought and manner in which manuscripts transmitted ideas. Using her teaching of Guillaume de Machaut and her work with the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, Mahoney-Steel envisages a future in which the digital humanities can enable us to build transhistorical relationships with our medieval objects of study.
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Chapter 2. Encoding and Decoding Texts: Marking-up Texts for Analysis


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Marking-up Texts for Analysis

In this chapter, I will be exploring how we markup texts with information concerning their structure and contents. If we are to understand annotation as an engagement with a text and its substrate that is in some way external or extra to the text, then we must consider text encoding as central to our concerns here. I touched briefly in the introduction on how texts can be self-exegetical and therefore carry their externality with them, but a consideration of visually hidden yet critically pertinent annotation is more relevant to this investigation of externality. For my purposes here, I will be concentrating on the Text Encoding Initiative (TEI) and considering my experiences with marking up the lyrics and poetry of Guillaume de Machaut for inclusion in an online, searchable archive Je Chante Ung Chant.1 I will first explain the basics of how the TEI encoding works and what it can and cannot do, before proceeding to examine its power in capturing the variety of expression available to us in the manuscript matrix. The central issue I wish to address is how we can meaningfully use a method such as encoding texts using the TEI to capture the nature and intention of a manuscript and its texts when what we are doing is so radically different to what is happening in the manuscript. If my intention is to show that we can build...

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