The Exploring Medieval Mary Magdalene project is an online collection of digital editions containing the legend of Mary Magdalene’s conversion. The project began as the focus of a year-long graduate student seminar held in Harvard’s German Department and conducted by Prof. Racha Kirakosian. Together, this team of philologists and digital humanists has striven to make available the linguistically diverse manuscripts containing this little-known legend in an interactive and fully-searchable format that surpasses the limitations of traditional printed critical editions.
While the study of this particular legend and its manuscripts that this project enables will be in and of itself important for medievalists, Germanists, and codicologists, our team at Harvard has created this resource with an eye to establishing a set of standards for the creating digital editions from manuscripts in order to ease the way for future scholarly efforts in digitalization. Conforming to existing TEI guidelines, our team has established a set of best practices useful for the TEI tagging of textual phenomena ranging from variant spellings and punctuation to scribal corrections and editorial interpolations. These standards and the full TEI code of each digitalized text is available on the “Editorial Principles” and “TEI Documentation” sections of this website.
The Manuscripts and the Legend
The vernacular legend of Mary Magdalene’s conversion attributed to Pseudo-Isidore and circulating in the Lower Rhine area in the Middle Ages has been transmitted in eight different 15th to 16th centuries manuscripts. A critical edition of the texts in question has not been provided yet despite great interest in the material. Written in at least four different Germanic dialects, the texts go all back to one source but they are so called “siblings,” meaning that no hierarchy can be drawn between the versions. This circumstance and the manuscript material itself have hindered scholars from editing the text in the print medium which itself is not suitable for representing the actual transmission. A digital application, however, will perfectly accommodate the complex transmission by allowing an interactive use with the edited texts. Users will be able to generate different types of edition, for example an edition which takes all comparable variants into account or an edition based on a specific text version with variants of manuscripts which the user may choose from a menu. In addition, the texts will be linked to the manuscripts’ images (via Mirador). This digital outcome will be the basis for many research projects as it will be available online. In the future, it can potentially be extended to include Latin versions of the same legend. Linking the online edition to manuscript images will be a truly innovative way to combine different tools: the user will be as close as possible to the “real” primary source despite using an edited text. The project’s impact will also be conceptual as it will serve as an example for similar editions and as it will invite future collaborations with partner institutes. The built application will be able to grow and include other editing projects.
The project would not have been possible without the generous support from the Barajas Dean’s Innovation Fund for Digital Arts and Humanities of Harvard University. We are indebted to Cole Crawford (Humanities Research Computing Specialist) and Rashmi Singhal (Interim Director of Arts & Humanities Research Computing) who have been a tremendous support and source of advice. Joe Wolf (Celtic Languages and Literatures, Harvard, and Robert Rößler (Germanic Languages and Literatures, Harvard) have assisted as Digital Teaching Fellows. Special thanks goes to Prof. Jeffrey C. Witt (Loyola University of Maryland Philosophy Department) for generously sharing his TEI-editor and for general advice.
Please direct all inquiries to Racha Kirakosian firstname.lastname@example.org
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Hans Hansel, Die Maria-Magdalena-Legende. Eine Quellen-Untersuchung. Bottrop 1937 (Diss. Greifswald 1931).
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