Thursday 11 June 2015

Return to Gaul

This post has been written by first-year students of the master "Humanités classiques et humanités numériques".

We are French students in the master “Classical Humanities and Digital Humanities” at Paris-Ouest Nanterre La Défense University. One of our courses is a short collaborative project and we decided to contribute to Pelagios. The interdisciplinary and contributive nature of this project on ancient places makes it very relevant for students like us.

Due to our background, we were immediately interested in the way literary texts are dealt with in Pelagios. The idea was to choose a text and mark up all place names we would find with the Recogito tool. Our aim was to have a direct experience of the issues raised by digital editing, one of the core activities of digital humanists. Through the actual marking up of Rutilius Namatianus' De reditu suo (a text describing his return from Rome to Gaul – see the map) and the collaborative revision process, we realised that it was not that easy, in some cases, to determine whether a word was indeed a place name and, if so, whether it had to be marked up and indicated on the map. For instance, one special feature of ancient texts is that they frequently refer to mythological places. But is a mythological place really a place in this context? Should we mark up Mount Olympus when it appears as the home of the Greek gods?

When a place is designated by the name of the people who live there, it is not always clear whether the narrator means the country or the people. Marking up texts thus turned out to be a captivating, even philosophical, activity and those who claim it tiresome have, no doubt, malicious tongues.

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