Skip to main content
European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

The Mechanics of Canon Formation and the Transmission of Knowledge from Graeco-Roman Antiquity

Project description

Unravelling the mechanics of canon formation

In literature, the notion of a canonical text or author holds profound significance, conferring prestige and authority upon certain works. Yet, canons are not fixed entities, but rather subject to perpetual evolution. The enigmatic forces shaping these canons and their influence remain elusive. In this context, the MSCA-funded MECANO project seeks to shed light on the mechanics of canon formation and knowledge transmission in ancient Greek and Latin texts. To explore how texts gain canonical status and how these implicit canons change over time, the project deploys qualitative and digital methods across vast text corpora. This initiative fosters a new model for the study of canonicity and cultivating historically conscious, digitally skilled humanities scholars.


To consider a text or author canonical is to invest it with prestige, authority or even timeless value. Canons set standards and define what is deemed worthy of transmission, but at the same time they are constantly undergoing change. The distinction between those who belong to the canon and those who do not inevitably operates a dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. It is not clear, however, who if anyone is the agent of such operations and what influences the way canons are shaped.

MECANO (The Mechanics of Canon Formation and the Transmission of Knowledge from Greco-Roman Antiquity) aims to advance our understanding of the mechanics of canon formation and knowledge transmission of ancient Greek and Latin texts. It will look at a) how texts, ideas or authors become canonical by being cited, translated, studied, imitated, excerpted, or compiled by later authors, and b) how such implicit canons have changed across time and space by being received in different cultural, intellectual and linguistic environments. To study the dynamics of canonicity from a longitudinal perspective, MECANO will combine qualitative approaches to intellectual history and reception studies with applications of digital and computational methods on extensive text corpora. Bringing together six universities and an array of academic and non-academic institutions interested in the topic of canonicity (publishers, museums, academies of sciences, national libraries, arts companies), as well as a centre for entrepreneurship and an ICT company, MECANO created a training programme that responds to the need for historically conscious and digitally skilled Humanities PhDs. MECANO's twofold goal is to develop a new model for the study of canonicity and to train the PhD researchers to become versatile intellectuals ready to tackle the challenges of modern engagement with the topics of canonicity, diversity, and cultural heritage.


Net EU contribution
€ 525 240,00
3000 Leuven

See on map

Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
No data

Participants (4)

Partners (9)