Multilayered Written Artefacts
Research Field D
Written Artefacts are not just containers. Their contents are always formatted according to conventions, which are shaped by the interplay of materials, social and economic settings and cultural patterns. Generally, contents span the whole range of literary, religious and scientific interests as well as practical concerns. According to particular choices and expectations, a specific content is formatted into a material version realised individually in each written artefact; it is selected and visually organised, copied, expanded or changed by individual intervention, or even erased. The way an individual artefact is shaped in the project of its first creation is therefore never neutral, but always culturally and materially determined.
Written artefacts also undergo changes in the course of a life span of sometimes many centuries. Generations of users – scholars, copyists, simple readers, librarians – may interfer with the original production unit(s), and leave traces which may be termed layers. The three basic options for modifiying a given object are addition (adding text or illustrations, adding writing material), subtraction (deletion or removal of material), and re-arrangement (re-classifying or material re-ordering). The operations may concern the core-content of the artefact, its para-contents or its visual organisation. The analysis of those layers, called stratigraphy by some, helps us reconstruct the personal history of the artefact, but also the cultural context(s) and practices in which it was shaped and reshaped. In many cases these artefacts are the only available evidence for practices involved in their production and use; in other cases, they complement what literary sources tell us.
The Research Field ‘Multilayered Written Artefacts’ will ask questions like the following: were formats devised in different cultures specifically for the representation of multiple layers of content? How is such formatting influenced by materiality (paper or palm-leaf) or book form (scroll or codex) on the one hand, and on the other, by the concerns of particular types of content (e.g. poetry or mathematics)? How does formatting change over regions and periods? Is visual organisation designed to invite annotation, and if so, do conventions for annotation exist? What light does the careful study of multiple historical layers shed on the use of manuscripts in scholarship or in ritual, musical, or other types of performance? Can the concept of layers also be made fruitful when describing epigraphic material? The aim is to develop methods and a forensic and analytical toolkit for the study of chronologically multilayered WA.
Spokesperson: Eva Wilden