TextWorlds Seminar Series

Table of contents:


Individual seminars organised by TextWorlds will be taking place in Autumn 2020 and Spring 2021, typically on weekdays later afternoon CEST. All seminars for Autumn 2020 will be held online as Zoom video meetings. The seminars are free and open for everyone. Participants should submit a registration request to attend individual seminars (listed under each seminar entry below), whereupon they will be issued a link for that seminar.

The TextWorlds Seminars invite speakers to introduce the textual corpus with which they are engaged as well as its digital manifestation in current research. Speakers are particularly invited to focus on quantiative, spatial, and temporal aspects such as corpus scale, extent, and chronology, patterns of script use and genre characteristics, the application and linguistic affiliation of scripts, the social and cultural aspects of texts production and consumption, and the preservation and discovery of textual sources. Papers may address any aspects of the epigraphical specialisation of the speaker but are expected to be accessible to an audience with no prior in-depth knowledge of the area.

Middle East c. 3200-0 BCE: The Cuneiform World

Wednesday 21 October 2020 16.00-18.00 CEST
Registration link: https://forms.gle/FPZrnQVBqghrsdjQ6
Seraina Nett and Rune Rattenborg from Assyriology at Uppsala University are joined by Co-PI of the Cuneiform Digital Library Initiative Émilie Pagé-Perron of the University of Toronto. The seminar dives into the +500,000 texts that make up the cuneiform corpus. Cuneiform is generally accepted to be the oldest script in human history, and was in widespread use across all of the Middle East and adjoining regions for more than three millennia, from c. 3,200 BCE until c. 100 CE.

  • Seraina Nett
    Researcher in Assyriology
    Department of Linguistics and Philology
    Uppsala University
  • Émilie Pagé-Perron 
    PhD candidate
    Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations
    University of Toronto
  • Rune Rattenborg
    Researcher in Assyriology
    Department of Linguistics and Philology
    Uppsala University

Central Asia c. 700-1400 CE: The Database of Turkic Runifom and the Digital Turfan Archive 

Thursday 29 October 2020 16.00-17.00 CEST
Registration link: https://forms.gle/AjPkZQnmnjHPqoP46
Moving to Central Asia, this seminar introduces examples of written corpora from Central Asia. László Károly from Uppsala University will talk about the Turkic runiform corpus, dating c. 700-1000 CE, which extends across the immense Eurasian steppe from Mongolia to Central Europe. Hannes Fellner of the University of Vienna will introduce work to edit textual finds from the oasis of Turfan in the Xinjian province of the People's Republic of China, a corpus covering inscriptions in more than 20 different languages dating from 4th - 14th centuries CE.

Northern Europe 150-1500 CE: The Runic Corpus

Wednesday 18 November 2020 16.00-18.00 CET
Registration link: https://forms.gle/UkoswwEt1kRWpj4PA
The seminar presents researchers behind two major online databases of Runic inscriptions in Scandinavia and Europe, namely Marco Bianchi from Uppsala University, who oversees the Scandinavian Runic-Text Database and Christiane Zimmermann of the Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, associated with RuneS. Laurine Albris from University of Bergen offers an archaeological perspective on Runic inscriptions based on her work with Old Scandinavian personal names.

  • Laurine Albris
    Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow
    Department of Archaeology, History, Cultural Studies and Religion
    University of Bergen
  • Marco Bianchi
    Senior Lecturer
    Department of Scandinavian Languages
    Uppsala University
  • Christiane Zimmermann
    Academy Project „RuneS“
    Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

Middle East 900 BCE-700 CE: Pre-Islamic Inscriptions from the Arabian Peninsula

Wednesday 9 December 2020 16.00-17.00 CET
Registration link: https://forms.gle/j9kQPZGSu9uuThD17
In our final seminar for the autumn, Irene Rossi introduces the c. 10,000 inscriptions from the Pre-Islamic Arabian Peninsula, including texts in Ancient South Arabian, Ancient North Arabian, Aramaic and Nabataean, based on her work as part of the Digital Archive for the Study of Pre-Islamic Inscriptions.

Northern Europe 1200-1500 CE: West Norse and East Norse Manuscripts in the Digital Age

Wednesday 17 March 2021 16.00-20.00 CET
Registration link: http://doit.medfarm.uu.se/kurt18664
For our 2021 opening, we are hosting a larger seminar on digitisation and digital editing of Norse manuscripts as well as current research on this material, with contributions from an exciting line-up of researchers from across Scandinavia and beyond. The seminar will begin with a round of talks by invited scholars addressing the issues of building, sustaining and using digital manuscript catalogues and collections as well as producing digital editions of the manuscripts. We will conclude the seminar with a longer panel discussion of the current trends in the field of digital philology in Scandinavia and the collaborative efforts required to advance the field even further. The seminar is chaired by our network member Alexandra Petrulevich, researcher at Uppsala University Department of Scandinavian Languages and project manager at Norse World.

16:00-16:05     Introduction 
                        Alexandra Petrulevich
                        Researcher, Uppsala University

16:05-16:30     Robert Kristof Paulsen
                        Head Engineer, University of Bergen Library

The MenotaBlitz Transcription Tool
Digital editions are the future of Old Norse textual philology and the Menota transcription standard appears to emerge as a well-documented, versatile norm. Menota (the Medieval Nordic Text Archive) relies on crowd-sourcing in the production of new transcriptions, and contributions are made as a part of university courses, academic projects, and graduation theses. However, there are some complicating factors with this approach: 1) The Menota standard is quite verbose and requires a lot of (repetitive) typing when entered directly; 2) Producing Menota transcriptions requires knowledge of the Menota/TEI XML-specification.
In my presentation, I will introduce you to the MenotaBlitz software for the simplified transcription of Old Norse source material. It allows for an easy, short-hand transcription in a user-friendly GUI environment. Transcriptions are saved locally and there are no system requirements but a suitable font and browser. The software automatically keeps track of your grapheme inventory and allows you immediately to proof-read your transcription on different focal levels. The system’s export function produces valid Menota/TEI XML-files, minimizing the need for the transcriber to interact with source code, which makes familiarity with XML-code less of a requirement in order to produce fully functional Menota style transcriptions.

16:30-16:55     Patrik Granholm
                        Curator, National Library of Sweden

Presentation and demo of manuscripta.se: A Digital Catalogue of Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts in Sweden
The long-term aim of manuscripta.se is to bring together descriptions and digitisations of all medieval and early modern manuscripts (in general pre-1600) kept in Swedish libraries and collections. The catalogue currently contains about 400 manuscripts, of which around 240 are digitised in full. The manuscript descriptions are encoded in TEI and the digitised manuscripts are presented using the IIIF API. The images of the digitised manuscripts are available free of restriction under the CC0 public domain dedication. The infrastructure is developed and maintained by the National Library of Sweden and is built entirely using open source software. The source code, together with the TEI-files, are available on GitHub (https://github.com/manuscripta/).

16:55-17:20     Kent-Inge Andersson and Anna Fredriksson
                        Librarian, Uppsala University Library

Alvin: Platform for digital collections and digitized cultural heritage
Kent-Inge Andersson, librarian and administrator of the system in the Alvin consortium, gives a brief history of Alvin as an explanation to the technical choices made, leading to how Alvin’s metadata is shaped today. We will also look forward, towards the near future with Alvin in SOCH, and towards the distant future with Alvin on Cora, as well as their potential impact on the use of Alvin’s metadata.
Anna Fredriksson is a scholar of Latin Philology and Manuscript Librarian at Uppsala University Library, working daily in the Alvin system and dealing with practical issues concerning manuscript cataloguing and digitization. She discusses Alvin as a tool, actual and potential, for philologists in terms of transcriptions, editions, use of IIIf, data linking and data extraction.

17:20-17:35     Break

17:35-18:00     Agnieszka Backman
                        Postdoctoral Researcher, Stanford University

Truth and the Digital Repository 
Manuscripts and other cultural heritage materials have always been depicted in different ways to increase access and for analysis. The digital repository is one in a long line of representational frameworks like for example, printed woodcuts, painted facsimiles, black and white photographs and analog color images. In social semiotics, modality is used to examine perceived reality or truthfulness of representations, which can be signaled in different ways depending on coding orientation/domain. Manuscripts in digital repositories come with new affordances and modality markers for what is real as they have gone through a remodalization, a translation from analog to digital, and are represented in a new kind of environment. 
This paper will explore coding orientations used in digital repositories, how they are influenced by the ever evolving standards of the internet and the new affordances tools such as Mirador afford us. It will also, maybe most importantly, discuss the cost of the these new opportunities of representation, in work hours and sustainability, with examples from Swedish (and other) manuscript repositories.

18:00-18:25     Katarzyna Anna Kapitan
                        H.M. Queen Margrethe II Distinguished Research Fellow at the Vigdís Finnbogadóttir Institute of Foreign Languages at the University of Iceland, National Museum of Iceland, and Museum of National History at Ferderiksborg Castle

So much data, so few answers: Researching Nordic manuscripts in the digital age
The recent decades have seen a rapid growth in the amount of the publicly available digital information considering Old Norse manuscripts and texts. This not only makes Old Norse manuscripts more accessible to wider audiences, but also opens new possibilities for scholars to engage with these materials. It allows researchers to ask new research questions, apply new digital methods of analysis, and explore new areas of textual and manuscript studies, which lie outside the reach of traditional methods. This optimistic vision of the immense influence that the digital turn had, or could have, on the humanities in general and manuscript studies in particular can be challenged by the dichotomy between researchers’ expectations and the data available online. Building on the experiences from two collaborative research projects (the Network of premodern Icelandic literature project and the Diversity and loss of medieval literatures project), this presentation considers the function and purpose of a digital catalogue of manuscripts in relationship to the recent developments in the fields of digital humanities, material philology, and book history. 

18:25-18:50     Oliver Blomqvist
                        Postdoctoral Researcher, Södertörn University College

The Old Swedish Revelationes extravagantes of St. Birgitta
The Revelationes extravagantes of St. Birgitta are a collection of disparate revelations that only share the common trait of having been excluded – for various and not always known reasons – from the canonical eight Heavenly books compiled by her confessor Alphonso of Jaén. These revelations were not as widely translated and disseminated in Old Swedish as Books I–VIII, and only one single manuscript source exists that contains a collection of extravagant revelations in Old Swedish: ms. Germ. fol. 726. The manuscript is of comparably late date (1487–1496) and only contains revelations 1–46 and 65 out of the 116 extravagant revelations in the first printed edition from 1492. In this talk, I will discuss problems in identifying Latin manuscript sources for the Swedish translations of Revelationes extravagantes. I will also point to the unique (and largely unacknowledged) position the extant Old Swedish compilation holds in the textual history of the Extravagantes as a “missing link” between their messy and heterogenous manuscript history and their firm, established order in the first print edition.

18:50-19:05     Break

19:05-19:50     Q&A session/Panel Discussion

19:50-20:00     Summary and outlook
                        Alexandra Petrulevich
                        Researcher, Uppsala University

South America 1400-1600 CE: Khipu Record-Keeping in the Andes

Wednesday 31 March 2021 16.00-18.00 CEST
Registration link: http://doit.medfarm.uu.se/kurt18665
We are welcoming two experts on khipu textile knots, a system of record-keeping most famously employed by the Incas throughout much of Andean South America prior to the Spanish Conquest in the 16th century CE - but also found in contemporary rural communities of Peru and Bolivia today. Sabine Hyland is a leading specialist and popular authority on khipus and the peoples and cultures of the Andean world more generally. Manuel Medrano is a PhD Candidate and Marshall Scholar using computational methods to further khipu decipherment. His research has been featured by NPRCBC, and NewScientist

  • Manuel Medrano
    PhD Student, University of St Andrews 

    Corpora of Knotted Cords: Inka-style Khipus in the Digital Age
    For over a century, researchers of khipus, the Andean knotted string recording devices, have raised calls to inventory, reproduce, and disseminate information about their object of study. These have resulted in published inventories of canonical Inka-style khipus, which in the last 15 years have been digitized and compiled as part of various databases initiatives. The existing compilations are often informally referred to as corpora. However, khipu scholars have yet to take full account of the many corpus tools that are available to them. Following an introduction to the 1,300 surviving khipus in museums and private collections, this talk will survey current corpus-based approaches to khipu decipherment by way of several case studies. As khipu scholars continue to expand interdisciplinary collaboration, it has become increasingly clear that the tools of historical corpus linguistics and the digital humanities stand to serve decipherment efforts in novel and unexpected ways.
  • Sabine Hyland
    Professor in Social Anthropology, University of St Andrews

    Post Inka Khipus and Iconicity
    Khipus, the knotted cord communication system of the Andes, are often regarded as an excample of a non-iconic writing system.  With few exceptions, scholarly analysis of khipu semiosis has focused exclusively on colours, knots, and ply direction, ignoring any iconic elements.  This talk will present the first survey ever of khipus with iconic elements, concentrating on post-Inka khipus from the 16th to the 20th centuries.  Such iconic symbols include: dried potatoes, dried beans, feathers, human figurines, needlework bundles with symbolic designs, tufts of raw wool, etc.  The significance of these iconic images will be explored in light of the khipus' ritual and economic functions.  As scholars attain a greater awareness of the sophistication and diversity of khipus over their one thousand year history, it becomes evident that iconic representation has played a role in khipu signification.

Mesoamerica 200 BCE-1696+ CE: Maya, Teotihuacan, and Aztec Writing Systems

Wednesday 14 April 2021 16.00-19.00 CEST
Registration link: http://doit.medfarm.uu.se/kurt18671
Another seminar on written corpora from the New World, this time with contributions from three researchers on a selection of native scripts of Mesoamerica. Following a general introduction to the region and its writing systems, the seminar will focus on current research on Maya, Teotihuacan and Aztec (Nahuatl) writing systems.

16:00-16:05     Today's programme
                        Seraina Nett
                        Network coordinator, TextWorlds

16:05-16:15     Introduction to Mesoamerican writing systems
                        Christophe Helmke
                        Associate Professor in American Indian Studies
                        Institute of Cross-cultural and Regional Studies
                        University of Copenhagen

16:15-17:00     An overview of ancient Maya writing
                        Felix Kupprat
                        Institute for Anthropology
                        National Autonomous University of Mexico

Precolumbian Maya societies in southern Mexico and northern Central America employed a logo-syllabic writing system that seems to have emerged in the first millennium BCE. While the most basic components and mechanisms of calendrical notation had been recognized since the 19th century, the proof that Maya writing is phonetic was provided as late as the 1950s. Today, it is possible to phonetically read and translate major portions of the thousands of texts that survive on stone, ceramics, bone, shell and folded bark-paper books. Most of these texts are dedicatory in nature and employ fairly standardized formulae, but many also provide historical information, most importantly dates, names, biographic and political events, ceremonial activities and parentage statements. Current research on Maya writing includes, but is not limited to, the ongoing decipherment of the script, historical linguistics, political and social history and a broad variety of approaches based on literary studies and discourse analysis.

17:00-17:45     Teotihuacan writing: Where are we now?
                        Christophe Helmke

The nature of writing at Teotihuacan has been debated among Mesoamericanists for many decades now. With the pioneering work of Alfonso Caso in the 1930-1960s, and the seminal publications of Karl Taube from 2000 onwards, we are now in a position to discuss Teotihuacan writing in the affirmative, from an epigraphically-informed vantage.  Short texts and a limited corpus remain decided obstacles to the decipherment of Teotihuacan writing.  Yet, despite these hindrances, great strides have been made since the 1980s, as calendrical dates, titles, and toponyms are now identified and semantic decipherments are helping us to flesh out our understanding of this great metropolis and its culture. Here I will present the synthesis of our current understanding, based on recent work undertaken in close collaboration with colleagues at the University of Copenhagen.  The incidence, temporal and spatial distribution of the written corpus are described, prior to discussing the signary and graphic features of the writing system, including its iconicity.  Aspects of syntax are discussed in terms of sign juxtaposition and repetition as well as in linear clauses. Some comments are made as to language affiliation and continuities with later scripts are discussed with regards to the question of a greater Central Mexican script tradition.

17:45-18:30     Nahuatl (Aztec) Hieroglyphic Writing and Texts
                        Albert Davletshin
                        Russian State University for the Humanities

The phonetic decipherment of Nahuatl writing was originally presented in the enduring masterpiece of Joseph Marius Alexis Aubin in 1849. Nevertheless, the system has been denied the nature of ‘true’ writing and claimed to be incipient proto-writing, underdeveloped and incomplete. This is due, firstly, to its highly pictorial nature, and, secondly, due to the seeming absence of lengthier linear texts. We will start with the definition of writing as “a system of visually perceived signs, developed to transmit messages in a particular language in order to control the addressee’s behaviour”. This definition will allows us to see the linguistic perfection of Nahuatl writing as well as its linear texts. We will realise that pictoriality does not have to do with the incipiency but with the way in which reading values are encoded in the system. We will proceed with the definition of verbal text as “a linguistic unity with one communicative purpose”. Given this, we can realise that lengthy texts prevail among the surviving hieroglyphic documents and that the ‘things’ we want to call iconography are notational signs intended to be read aloud. We will see that Nahuatl documents make extensive use of three universal notational systems – lists, tables and maps – and thus can be compared with the texts of Early Mesopotamia and Mycenaean Greece.

18:30-19:00     Questions and discussion

Last modified: 2021-04-11