Update on Digital Latin Library

The Digital Latin Library (DLL) will be a site on the Internet where people with varying levels of interest and expertise in Latin can find, read, discuss, study, teach, edit, and annotate Latin texts of all eras, whether for personal use or for open-access, peer-reviewed publication by one of the three learned societies affiliated with the project: the American Philological Association (APA), the Medieval Academy of America (MAA), and the Renaissance Society of America (RSA). Similar to a traditional public research library, the DLL will have a catalog, a variety of collections of texts and reference materials, and working space for both individuals and groups. Unlike a research library, it will also provide tools to facilitate the creation and publication of open, born-digital critical editions and other scholarly and pedagogical resources that take full advantage of powerful technologies and techniques such as Linked Open Data (LOD), information visualization, and visual data analysis, opening up new possibilities for the communication of scholarly ideas.

In the last year, with the support of a planning grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (AWMF), members of the APA, the MAA, and the RSA explored the possibility of creating a resource that would usher in a renaissance in scholarly editing and communication in all fields concerned with the Latin language. The group determined that it is not just feasible, but highly desirable to pursue an implementation grant to build a virtual, ubiquitous, sustainable, working space for scholars and readers of Latin texts.

The recent launch of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) has demonstrated the power of Linked Open Data in making information from disparate sources available through a single point of access. Instead of keeping copies of documents and files on its own servers, the DPLA provides ready access to collections in hundreds of other libraries all at the same time. Because those institutions already use commonly accepted standards for their data and metadata, the DPLA can harvest that information and make it available in a single, uniform interface.

The DLL aims to do for Latin what the DPLA has done for materials in public libraries across the United States: provide a single point of access to all Latin texts on the Internet, along with resources and a place for reading and working with them. A major challenge for the DLL is that the Latin projects already in existence do not have much in common other than that they are on the Internet. That is why the DLL working group devoted a significant amount of our planning phase to discussing and developing a metadata standard for describing authors and works in a way that addresses the unique challenges of ancient resources such as fragmentary texts, spurious works, florilegia, myriad anonymous authors, and the intricate relationships between manuscripts.

Since existing catalogs or catalogs in development (e.g., the Perseus Catalog, the Classical Works Knowledge Base) of Latin literature stop at the eighth century CE, a mission of the DLL will be to expand and extend the coverage to authors and texts through the middle ages and into the Renaissance. To that end, the DLL team will spearhead the effort to promote adoption of LOD and a common metadata standard on other sites so that we can approach our admittedly asymptotic goal of providing a single point of access to all Latin texts in existence.

But the DLL will be more than just a virtual card catalog; it will be a library in every sense of the word, with resources and support for the production of new scholarship and educational materials. Once users find the texts they want to read, they will be able either to visit the site that hosts it or, if the text is openly available and in a compatible format, to import it into a working space for use with the resources of the DLL. A number of interfaces will facilitate activities such as reading and annotating texts, either privately or in open collaboration with other users; textual analysis with grammatical, lexical, and search tools; visual analysis with highly interactive data navigation and dissection tools; and collaborative learning and scholarship.

The Library of Digital Latin Texts.  Although some patrons will use the DLL’s space for private study or teaching, others will use it to produce new critical editions and submit them for publication to one or more of the learned societies affiliated with this project. These editions, published together as The Library of Digital Latin Texts, will gradually become not only the centerpiece of the DLL, but standard editions for scholarly use, since they will provide much more information about texts and their transmission than traditional print editions can. The Library of Digital Latin Texts will also provide a reliable model for peer-reviewed publication in the era of Open Access.

The Library of Digital Latin Texts is in many ways the boldest part of this entire project, since it will reimagine the critical edition for the digital age. The editorial techniques established over centuries of practice and scholarly debate will not be swept aside; rather, The Library of Digital Latin Texts will provide an outlet for realizing the full potential of those techniques, long hampered by the constraints of traditional print publication.

Until recently, none of the Latin texts available online had a critical apparatus, which meant they were of limited use to scholars. There are two main reasons for the absence of the critical apparatus: copyright protect and technical difficulty in displaying the information. To date, the sites that have presented an apparatus with their texts have more or less reproduced the format of a printed edition, leaving editorial information abbreviated and removed to the bottom or side of the page. In the case of a printed edition, this format makes economic sense: publishers are reluctant to sacrifice room on the page for something that only specialists will understand.

Free of those constraints, editions published in The Library of Digital Latin Texts will have an enhanced critical apparatus capable of far more than listing variants and conjectures. Editors will be able to explain in situ their arguments for or against certain readings, calling upon all of the resources of the web (e.g., descriptions and/or images of the manuscript in question) for support. Scholarly discussion of the editor’s decisions can occur in real time, instead of according to the timetables of the diverse outlets that publish textual notes and reviews. Because the entries will be in human- and machine-readable form (i.e., according to the standards of the Resource Description Framework), they will be readable and queryable by both humans and machines, which means that even the sophisticated word-searches that we have been able to perform with existing tools will pale by comparison, since the robust techniques of data analysis will finally become available to scholars of Latin texts. As more editions are added to The Library of Digital Latin Texts, its capabilities will increase, as will the possibilities for new avenues of research.

The commitment of the APA, MAA, and RSA to vet proposals for new editions and to provide peer review and editorial oversight through their respective research and publications divisions is the most exciting component of the project’s sustainability. In the past, organizations such as the APA entered into partnerships with commercial presses to print, bind, market, and distribute their scholarly resources. Such partnerships often involved the author and/or the author’s home institution paying subvention fees or other expenses associated with commercial ventures. The DLL eliminates those expenses. Scholars will produce editions and submit them to the appropriate learned society for review. The learned society will decide whether or not an edition is worthy of publication. Those deemed worthy will be published under the aegis of the learned society on the DLL in an openly accessible form, under a Creative Commons license. The entire process will preserve the time-honored elements of scholarly publication: independent scholarship, peer review, endorsement by an editorial board, and the widest distribution possible.

Samuel J. Huskey
APA Information Architect and DLL Project Director
 

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A white marble stele featuring two standing women and two seated women. The central standing woman holds the hand of the central seated woman.

With weary hearts, we consider with you what Classics can do in the face of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade (1973) and Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992). We bring you what we can from our own experience: Amy Richlin spent the 1990s teaching half in Gender Studies in the aftermath of the Reagan-Bush administration, when Planned Parenthood v. Casey was heard, and also taught Roman women’s history and sometimes Roman law during her years at USC and UCLA. Bruce Frier has been on the Faculty of the Michigan Law School since 1986 and has participated in numerous discussions and debates concerning Constitutional interpretation; he also chaired a Provostal Committee to improve the campus climate for LGBTQ+ faculty, students, and staff.

View full article. | Posted in on Wed, 06/29/2022 - 10:50am by .
A dark painting featuring men in togas. A number of men in the center wearing white togas reach towards an older man, seated in a brown toga. As they extend arms towards him, he pushes them away and looks aside.

This two-part series reflects upon AAPI experiences in Classical Studies. Part 1 is catalyzed by the author’s personal experience teaching race & ethnicity in antiquity in the context of the ongoing surge of anti-Asian violence in the country. Part 2 will reflect upon the shared experiences of students and scholars of Asian descent in Classical Studies through a series of interviews.

“Do you know about your Penn Law School colleague Amy Wax?,” a friend texted me in January, as the semester was starting.

“Blocked it out,” I thumbed back. I had, in fact, dimly seen the news, but the idea that a professor at the same university where I was excited to be newly teaching might be publicly rejecting the civic fitness of Asian Americans like me had, frankly, been too much to contemplate. “Good mental health strategy,” my friend responded dryly.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 06/27/2022 - 9:05am by .
A black-and-white image of the reverse of a diadrachm of Magas, dated 300–275 BCE, depicting the silphium plant, with a small crab on the right side and Greek letters interspersed in the branches of the plant.

I guess I should say “thank you.” Gratias vobis ago. Thank you to the Republican Party’s long game, a partisan SCOTUS, years of deliberate Democratic avoidance. You see, I’ve been wanting for a while to write a book about social control, forced reproduction, and their effects on real people living under an authoritarian government. Of course, I was planning to write about Augustan Rome. But with the Court’s decision yesterday, ending nearly 50 years of Roe (that is, legal abortion in America), I’ve got a great reception study. And in real time.

View full article. | Posted in on Sat, 06/25/2022 - 1:39am by .

The 2023 Alexander G. McKay Prize competition for the best new book in Vergilian studies is now open!

The Vergilian Society is pleased to announce the opening of the next competition for the Alexander G. McKay Prize for the best book in Vergilian studies. The prize, which is accompanied by a cash award of $500 or a life membership in the Vergilian Society (valued at $800), is awarded every other year to the book that, in the opinion of the prize evaluation committee, makes the greatest contribution toward our understanding and appreciation of Vergil or topics related to Vergil. Works of literary criticism, biography, bibliography, textual criticism, reference, history, archaeology, and the classical tradition are all eligible, provided that Vergilian studies represent a significant portion of the discussion. The current competition will cover books published during the years 2020 and 2021. The winner will be announced at the Vergilian Society session at the annual meeting of the Society for Classical Studies in New Orleans in January 2023. The authors of books being considered for the McKay Prize must be members of the Vergilian Society at the time their books are submitted; for new members or to renew memberships see https://www.vergiliansociety.org/memberships-and-donations.

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 06/21/2022 - 11:44am by .

Symposium Cumanum – Call for Proposals for June 2023

View full article. | Posted in SCS Announcements on Tue, 06/21/2022 - 11:40am by .
A row of six people, all but one dressed in varied togas. Two of the men raise their right hands in an oratorical gesture. Above each person is the name of a character in the Phormio.

In a discussion of the concept of the “good slave” in her book Reconstructing the Slave: The Image of the Slave in Ancient Greece, Kelly Wrenhaven rightly argues that “representations of good slaves are as much a part of the rationalizing ideology of slavery as bad slaves, as both help to justify and reinforce the institution.” Examining enslaved nurses depicted on Athenian tombstones, Wrenhaven points out that, out of a total of 15 extant tombstones for nurses, nine include the word chreste. Other inscriptions further confirm the association between the adjective chrestos and enslavement. On a 4th-century tombstone from Thasos, a shepherd named Manes is described as chrestos tais despotais (“useful to his masters”). Enslaved people are also described with this adjective in Menander as well as in Greek tragedy. What we get from considering the adjective chrestos in these and other contexts, as Wrenhaven makes clear, is that “the positive qualities most often attributed to slaves are precisely those which were most useful in the context of slavery.”

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 06/20/2022 - 10:24am by .
A mosaic with a black background. The top reads SCA PERPETUA. Beneath that is a bust image of a woman in a circle. She has brown hair pulled back, wears gold robes, and has a gold saint halo around her head.

Last year, I published an edition of Perpetua’s Passio together with a group of students: Mia Donato, Carolyn Engargiola, Eli Gendreau-Distler, Elizabeth Hasapis, Jacob Nguyen, Siddharth Pant, Shamika Podila, Anna Riordan, and Oliver Thompson. I worried that a book with ten names in the byline would look like a monstrosity. I worried that, since nine of those names belong to students, people would dismiss it as a school project, of interest only to the parents of the students on the cover. Yet the book has been warmly received: reviewed in journals, adopted for classes, and most recently honored with the 2022 Ladislaus J. Bolchazy Pedagogy Book Award from CAMWS. I say this not to trumpet their work (though I’m certainly proud of it), but rather because I think it speaks to a question that is relevant to the wider scholarly world: what role can students take in academic research and publication?

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 06/13/2022 - 1:50pm by .
A screencap from Hypotactic.com showing the text of Catullus, Poem 1. The words in the second line are highlighted in different colors by syllable.

Hypotactic.com is a website that provides open-license metrical scansions for a broad range of Greek and Latin texts. The main project interface, while relatively simple in its design, supports the user in reading ancient texts metrically through a variety of customizable annotations. The user can toggle between various display formats, including the addition of macrons, scansion, and marks for foot-breaks and/or caesuras. Particularly helpful for reading aloud is the innovative option to apply color-coding that highlights metrical units (and elisions) without the need to consult a separate line of metrical annotations.

A screencap from Hypotactic.com showing the text of Catullus, Poem 1. The words in the second line are highlighted in different colors by syllable.

Figure 1: Clicking on a line reveals the metrical analysis.

In metrically complex texts, such as Plautus or Pindar, every line is annotated with its metrical identification (e.g., ia6 for iambic senarii), such that transitions between meters are obvious to the reader without having to consult a separate commentary.

A screencap showing text with annotations. One line is highlighted green and blue by syllable.

View full article. | Posted in on Fri, 06/10/2022 - 11:32am by .
TAPA Books Fanned

JOIN TAPA FOR A VIRTUAL OPEN HOUSE

Join co-editors Joshua Billings and Irene Peirano Garrison, and editorial board members Catherine Conybeare, Lorenzo Garcia, and Nandini Pandey, for an open house via Zoom on June 15, 2022 @12:00 pm EDT.

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*Once you are registered you will receive a Zoom link 24 hours before the event and a reminder on the morning of June 15.

Open house attendees will learn about how to submit to TAPA, the peer review and editorial process, and particular areas of focus.

The Spring 2022 issue of TAPA is now out and that it includes scholarly articles and also short essays on Classics after COVID.

View full article. | Posted in Conferences, Lectures, and Meetings on Tue, 06/07/2022 - 10:15am by .
Four fragments of pottery with different marks on each. Beneath each photo of a pottery sherd is a drawing of that sherd. From left to right, the sherds are labeled Geometric Mark, Complex Mark, Script Sign, and Multi-sign.

Today we take our saturation in a graphic world for granted. When we see baseball caps with logos or nonsense writing on graphic t-shirts, we don’t immediately recognize them as evidence for writing. But in the case of the Late Bronze Age script of Cyprus (ca. 1600–1000 BCE), the undeciphered Cypro-Minoan script, we have more baseball caps and t-shirts than longer texts. Multi-sign texts with two or more contiguous signs, likely to represent words, number around 250. Most of these multi-sign texts are quite short, consisting of only one or two words.

The baseball caps in this analogy most often take the form of what are called Cypro-Minoan “potmarks,” mercantile vessels bearing single-sign texts. The potmarks contain both Cypro-Minoan script and non-script marks without equivalents in the Cypro-Minoan script. The single-sign text potmarks number over 1000. Like a Yankees cap or a graphic tee, the potmarks employ recognizable and non-recognizable elements of writing. But should they be taken as evidence for literacy?

This is the question at the heart of my dissertation. If the single-sign text potmarks were made by literate individuals, then Cypro-Minoan is not a meagerly attested script, but a mercantile script in wide use within Cyprus and, less widely, outside of it. Significantly, it would be one of the few scripts in the region that survive the Late Bronze Age collapse, and the only one that would be well-documented during this transitional period.

View full article. | Posted in on Mon, 06/06/2022 - 12:47pm by .

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