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lenticular in medievalstudies


Hello all,

I'm new here. I am considering applying for a PhD program dealing with Medieval Manuscripts. The topic is wide open and I'm curious if anyone can lead me in the right direction to topics that are of current interest in Medieval Studies?

I have reviewed many online exhibitions and I have also come up with a few topics only to research and find that a great deal has already been covered on that topic.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.




Would I be correct in thinking that you're looking at art history programs, or straight history, or literature, or...

Knowing the kind of programs you're looking at will inform what issues are current.
I am a qualified librarian with a strong interest in preservation, digitisation of archives. The advertisement for the program encourages those with strong latin skills to apply.

I have no studied Latin, but I have spoken with the supervisor of the program and he has encouraged me to still apply as long as my proposal shows that not knowing Latin wouldn't pose a challenge for me.

As a result I'd like to take an approach from the lens mentioned above or do some analysis of French manuscripts, since I do speak that.

All in all, I'd be looking to do a historical analysis of some manuscripts OR looking into preservation, digitisation strategies.

My only problem is I'm seeing established research on these topics. So I am trying to find out what gaps exist in the field, at the moment.

Well, if you're serious about working with medieval manuscripts, you definitely will need to pick up Latin at some point, so keep that in mind.

I'm definitely not a librarian, so I can't speak with any authority to what gaps are perceived in the field from that standpoint, but I can say that as someone who tries to work with manuscripts when I can (I'm in literature) there is a lack of good, quality digitized copies of a number of manuscripts. So knowing best practices as far as that goes, and combining it with a traditional knowledge of paleography and codicology -- or heck, even a basic knowledge of descriptive bibliography -- would endear you to me (at least) as a pearl beyond price.

Where is your program located? That would be something I'd consider. If it's UT or Bloomington, for example, keep in mind that a lot of the manuscript collections are on the east coast so it's not always simple to get practical experience.

Also seriously consider Rare Book School. It's interesting and fun, and for librarians looks really good on a CV. They have a scholarship to take one course free that they offer each year, so you'd only be out travel expenses and room and board if you won that.
It's actually offered in England, a full scholarship to study. I am stupidly determined to study in the UK, even though I'm sure this program will be extremely competitive, and I am likely to have no chance.

If accepted, I plan to take up a course of study in Latin ASAP.

What you've suggested about looking into quality manuscripts sounds just up my alley and similar to what I am thinking to propose, which is to survey projects already completed, evaluate the value of their methods, and suggest the best of these for the school's specific collection with implications to all universities/manuscript archives.
The UK will be ideal for manuscript studies. If I were doing my gradwork over again (and could get in, as you point out), I'd definitely consider the UK from a History of the Book standpoint rather than straight lit.

Another thing you might want to think about is the connection between metadata and the manuscript. TEI, Dublin Core, things like that. Where those initiatives work and where they fall short in terms of the medieval.

I also think you might want to take a look at the Walters' Manuscript archives on flickr. I've been really impressed with how they're combining very nice digitization work (they got a grant and their setup is really impressive) with their mission of public outreach. And the metadata is available for all the images if you need it for scholarly work.
When you say you speak French, I'm not sure how much coursework that entails for historical French? Because some of the more obscure dialects (like Picardy) are very difficult to read from a Mod F background, while others like Anglo-Norman, are pretty easy. Maybe that could help focus your project in a region of France? If you do know the more obscure/difficult dialects, there's tons of stuff that's barely been edited, much less digitized!

Digitization seems to be the route to go--as in the big Hot Thing In Demand. Have you checked out http://www.christianityandculture.org.uk/ ? They have a series of ongoing projects (not just c&c) that involve manuscript studies and I know they need help. They might be able to point your research in a direction they find useful, and you find rewarding.
Another thing to consider about the UK now that I'm thinking about it is that their postdoc system (this is from secondhand anecdotal knowledge, so take it with that grain of salt) involves working on other folks' projects a lot rather than your own. I mention that only as a caveat should things take you in that direction.
Many of the projects I am going for are for projects where the topic is already defined, so I suppose that falls in line with what you mention. This one, however, has a mostly wide open topic. Just that its only focus is medieval manuscripts.