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A Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry

Periodic Reporting for period 3 - CLASP (A Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry)

Reporting period: 2019-09-01 to 2021-02-28

The Issue
A Consolidated Library of Anglo Saxon Poetry (CLASP) offers for the first time a comprehensive multimedia and interactive collection of the poetry produced and preserved in Anglo-Saxon England and after the Norman Conquest, between the seventh and twelfth centuries. This complex corpus of verse, amounts to more than 60,000 lines of poetry in several languages, mostly Old English and Latin. It comprises the works of more than fifty named poets and much anonymous and often undated verse. The issue is that it is often studied in an isolated and monolingual context by specialists, whereas it is clear that throughout this period Anglo-Saxon England was a multicultural and multilingual society with close links, literary and linguistic, to its neighbours both immediate and more distant. To the North lay the Norse raiders, traders, and invaders whose influence on later Anglo-Saxon England was enormous, while in the West the Irish and Welsh had their own highly developed poetic cultures that certainly left a mark on individual Anglo-Saxon authors; from the South and East the entirety of the Continental Christian Latin worldview, occasionally embracing Greek, can be glimpsed frequently in Anglo-Saxon verse. Following the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England to Christianity in the late sixth century, Latin and Old English were the most prominent literary languages, later joined by Old Norse, and with both Celtic and continental impacts easily identifiable. All such influences are explored here, on many levels, and through different lenses.
Its Importance
CLASP is aimed broadly, and intends to introduce poems and poets hitherto largely unknown to the attention of a range of audiences, academic and otherwise, as well as into conversation with each other: it is clear that some Anglo-Saxon verse in both main literary languages was preserved for several centuries in a range of different contexts, and that there was a direct influence of individual poems and poets on later verse compositions. By using a multimedia and interactive platform, CLASP encourages its audiences to compare and contrast different verses, perhaps in different languages, in exciting new ways.
Its Objectives
CLASP is creating a high-powered interactive interrogation tool that will make analysis across every key aspect of Anglo-Saxon poetry possible in previously unimaginable ways. It will enable researchers to make connections between poets, make informed judgements as to chronology and inter-poet influence, as well as identifying the unique creative skill of these precious and gifted wordsmiths of their day. Print publications with research findings will support the academic enquiry represented in the online corpus.
The first stages of the CLASP project have been very successful. The project has achieved and indeed exceeded its interim targets in a number of key areas. It has acquired or has access to manuscript facsimiles for all 60,000 lines of Anglo-Saxon poetry composed both in Latin and Old English, and has not only normalised the corpus (as proposed originally), but also added diacritics to aid pronunciation of the Old English, something which seemed unfeasible at first, but has greatly enhanced the value of the material. In accordance with the Grant Award plan, the content has been marked up and manipulated as a consolidated library that will form an original, unprecedented, and searchable database able to be interrogated on many levels and in several advanced ways to present precisely the innovative, unique and comprehensive tool originally described, with a number of significant added features. With regard to the seven research questions and six research objectives outlined in the Grant Award, the data and analysis required to answer and meet these are now essentially in place.
Communication and dissemination have kept pace with the plans as far as the current viral crisis would allow. The project Conference on 30th October 2019 in Oxford attracted scholars from across North America, Europe, and Japan as distinguished speakers and attendees. Work on the first volume of collected essays for the project, a key output in the current phase, resulting from the workshop and conference events, was able to continue over the summer. The draft text (seventeen contributions, 120,000 words) has been submitted to the editors of the prestigious ARC Humanities Press, who have agreed to publish the volume. This is a key deliverable of the project.
An unexpected honour was paid to the PI, who, as reported) was invited by the British Academy to present their highly prestigious biennial Sir Israel Gollancz Lecture, which was delivered to a capacity crowd in April 2019, based entirely on material derived from CLASP. The resulting paper has now been published open-access.
In summary, the assembly, organization, and input phases, including multiple mark-up, are successfully reaching completion, and include new texts unimagined in the initial proposal. Much of the activity to date is presented on the project website clasp.ell.ox.ac.uk including space for the recordings of poetry, read in the original language. This site is supported by regular communication with followers on social media through the CLASP Twitter account.
Concerning the development of the interactive tool, a plan for significant focused testing of the system is being put in place in early 2021. A network of expert peer reviewers has been approached for comprehensive trials at each stage of the portal implementation process.
The additional item to which the FRP2 report made reference, a new Dictionary of Old English Poetry called the Word-Hord, to be prepared by the PI, was successfully completed in December 2020 ready for print editing and will be converted for online interrogation in the next period.
The project applied in late 2020 for a no-cost extension amendment of 12 months to take the project end date forward to 31st August 2022. Happily, this was granted in February 2021. This will enable the project to implement the ten new, targeted deliverables outlined in the amendment submission, which further enhance the value and completeness of the project’s output and therefore its unprecedented impacts.
Although huge progress has been made, the pandemic has inevitably had an effect on the project and continues to do so. The extension already granted is a great support, however the PI will continue to monitor progress and make an application for a no-cost Covid-19 related extension, if this will facilitate delivery to the high standards which the project has set for its outputs.
These include additional user-resources planned by the team, such as video training films that they will prepare on applying the new tool, and more outreach events for dissemination in collaboration with educational and media partners to access a wider audience. A live Latin conference (as well as online) and enlarged in-person and online final CLASP Conference will promote the exceptional new research opportunities that delivery of this project will generate.
Rafa Metre training workshop Oct 2019
Post Doc presenting
Post Doc R Burns presenting
PI presents at the Conference in Oct 2019
Post doc R Pascual