Intro to “Rebuilding the Portfolio” Project

Illuminating Tenth-Century France

Tenth-century France is off the art-historical map, although France largely defines studies of the ninth century, and then again the eleventh century and beyond. The Vikings provide the standard grounds for this gap: tenth-century France was ravaged by invasions, which slowed artistic production and created a messy landscape of people fleeing, taking refuge, emigrating, and returning home. We do, in fact, have a drastically under-studied corpus of manuscripts loosely attributed to tenth-century France: books traveled too, as did scribes and illuminators. Much of this record is only cursorily catalogued, and it is scattered through libraries in a great many countries. This state of affairs is daunting, but also offers an enormous opportunity for collaborative scholarship. Faced with tracking the provenance of manuscripts from this period and sorting out the jungle of elements in both text and image that define the material record, a digital platform seems a promising way forward. A corpus must be gathered; varying factors of script, layout, image, text, and book-construction must be weighed, compared, and coordinated with historical geography. If the movements of people and things have been grounds for despair in attempting to account for tenth-century French manuscripts using traditional methods, they may also be the key to understanding this fascinating corpus when framed by new approaches to mapping, spatial- and data analysis. Beginning with the training at George Mason this summer, I aim to develop a digital environment for tackling tenth-century France that cultivates international collaboration, supports the training of students, and relies on the rigorous study of primary materials.

Source: Intro to “Rebuilding the Portfolio” Project