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CLASP Report Summary

Project ID: 695262
Funded under: H2020-EU.1.1.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - CLASP (A Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-02-28

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

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 for a period after the Norman Conquest) between the seventh and twelfth centuries. This complex corpus of verse, amounting to more than 60,000 lines of poetry in several languages, mostly Old English and Latin, and comprising the works of almost fifty named poets alongside a far larger body of anonymous and often undated verse, 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 periodically 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.
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.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

Progress on the project has been swift and substantial since it was first begun in September 2016: the vast majority of the corpus has now been assembled in electronic form, with roughly half in Old English and the other half in Latin, and is being marked up in a variety of ways designed specifically to assist and enhance pronunciation and aural appreciation of verses that were, after all, primarily intended for the ear as well as the eye. To that end, audio files in a variety of voices will be added later to demonstrate different aspects of the performance of poetry. Given, however, that Anglo-Saxon poetry has survived not simply in manuscript, but also as inscriptions on, for example, stone, in silver, and even carved into whalebone, another aspect of the project will be to present parts of the corpus visually, especially where, as is more common in Latin than in Old English, the very layout of the verses carries extra meaning. Moreover, while most Old English poetry survives in only single witnesses, the majority of the extant Latin verse is in multiple manuscripts, and so a good deal of the first phase of the project, especially on the Latin side, has comprised the identifying and collecting of as many available witnesses as still survive, comprising dozens of manuscripts that the project has assembled, mainly in digitised form. Such primary investigation has already paid off, in the discovery of previously unknown manuscript-witnesses, and raises the exciting possibility of expanding the corpus of Anglo-Saxon poetry still further on the Latin side.
To date, three postdoctoral researchers (Colleen Curran, Rafael Pascual, and Daniel Thomas) and an IT manager (Nick White), together with an Administrator (Martha Buckley), have been employed on the project alongside the PI (Andy Orchard); another postdoctoral position will shortly be advertised to bring the project up to its full complement. Nick has been designing and managing the database interface to make it both flexible and intuitive, assisting the PI and other postdoctoral researchers in providing the correct markup, and refining and developing the kinds of query that will ultimately prove possible. Colleen’s work has focussed on the Latin side, and has ranged from scanning the verse of several of the most prolific named poets (Alcuin, Æthelwulf, Frithegod, and Wulfstan of Winchester), to providing a bibliographical database to supplement the 'Handlist of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Latin Poetry' that she is currently compiling, as well as acquiring relevant manuscripts in digital facsimile. Daniel Thomas worked on the project up to the end of September 2017, and made excellent progress towards marking up the entire corpus of Old English poetry with length-marks and other diacritics to indicate pronunciation, as well as completing the database of Old English poetic compounds, mapping their distribution poem by poem. Rafael Pascual started in February 2018, and has already made extraordinary progress, completing the marked-up scansion of the entirety of 'Beowulf' (which alone makes up more than 10% of the Old English poetic corpus); he is now moving on to the signed poems of Cynewulf, and at the current rate of progress will have completed the scansion of all Old English poetry within a year.
All of the postdoctoral researchers and the PI have now presented papers on the project at various at various national and international conferences, including Leeds, Munich, Dublin, Cork, King’s College London, and Kalamazoo, as well as here in Oxford, and papers have already been accepted for presentation at further venues over the next nine months. A workshop is planned in conjunction with the upcoming TOEBI conference in Oxford, as well as two sessions at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in July 2018; the resulting papers are planned to be published, to go along with several other in progress or in process to be published under the aegis of CLASP. These will joi

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

Inevitably, perhaps, CLASP has grown and developed over the course of its construction. Whereas in the original proposal it was not envisaged to add translations from the various languages into modern English, it has become clear in the course of compilation and consolidation of the corpus that this would be an extremely useful aspect for its intended audience, and therefore a good deal of time over the past year has been taken up by the PI in translating the assembled texts; about a third of the material has now been provided with draft modern English versions, and there looks to be swift progress towards translating the rest. This added feature will significantly add to the value of CLASP as a whole, and will surely broaden its audience and encourage further research.
Likewise, the now-completed Old English compounds database, and the amount of scansion already undertaken takes the study and appreciation of Anglo-Saxon poetry into new areas. Progress to date strongly supports the idea that the project will be completed on time, and indeed looks set exceed the expectations and parameters of its original proposal.
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