‘Making this thing other’: Transforming our Cultural Record in the Digital Age”

Stanford University digital humanities expert and scholar of Old and Middle English, Professor Elaine Treharne will be talking about the challenges of transforming the history of humankind from a physical reality into digital data in a free public lecture at Swansea University.

Professor Elaine Treharne

‘Making this thing other’: Transforming our Cultural Record in the Digital Age”

The lecture entitled ‘Making this thing other’: Transforming our Cultural Record in the Digital Age, will be on 22 March 2018 at 6.30 pm at Faraday Lecture Theatre, Faraday Building, Swansea University, Singleton Park Campus.

In this Modern Humanities Research Association (MHRA) Centenary lecture, Professor Treharne will focus on themes drawn from The Anathemata, by Anglo-Welsh poet David Jones.  In this poem Jones tackles the history of humankind and, focusing on Britain with its rich array of myths, legends, languages, and cultures, emphasises transformation and 'making' as fundamental to the human endeavour.

Professor Treharne will examine questions such as:

  • What does it mean to take the history of humankind, evinced within a cultural record of some 72,000 years, and transform it from a physical reality into digital data?
  • What are the ethical responsibilities of those who undertake this transformation and transmission?
  • What elements of the original will exist in the digital representation?
  • What positive consequences emerge from this new telling of the human story?

Using both medieval manuscripts and modern pieces as illustration she will look at what the present shows, and what the future should hold in these exciting early years of the digital era.

Dr Alison Williams, Associate Professor in the Department of Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting said:  “Swansea University has a long history of working closely with the MHRA, with staff from Modern Languages, Translation and Interpreting being editors of its flagship journal Modern Language Review. We are therefore delighted to be hosting one of the lectures to celebrate the centenary of the MHRA. As a medievalist I am especially pleased that Professor Treharne is delivering the Swansea lecture as her scholarship celebrates the literature and culture of the past and engages with ways in which it can be preserved for and influence the future.”

Originally from Aberystwyth, Professor Treharne is Roberta Bowman Denning Professor of Humanities, Professor of English, and Professor of German Studies at Stanford University, where she is also Director of the Centre for Spatial and Textual Analysis and Director of Stanford Text Technologies, as well as a Stanford Fellow for 2017-2019.

Her research focuses on manuscripts and all handwritten objects, and she is currently working on a project (Stanford Ordinary People, Extraordinary Stories—SOPES) recuperating the lives of individuals, only discoverable through their textual remnants, such as autograph books, notebooks, letters, and photograph albums. In her medieval work, Professor Treharne has published twenty-nine books, most notably perhaps The Oxford Very Short Introduction to Medieval Literature (2015), Living Through Conquest: The Politics of Early English (OUP, 2012), and Old and Middle English Literature: An Anthology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009).

Professor Treharne has written many articles on medieval literature and its manuscript contexts. She is working now on The Phenomenal Book, which tells the story of the medieval manuscript from 600-1400; and The Deceptive Manuscript (with Professor Andrew Prescott) on the importance of UNremarkable manuscripts.

She is also writing on borders and landscapes in early Britain and is researching new material on David Jones, Waldo Williams, John Gwenogvryn Evans, and early Welsh manuscript culture. Elaine is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Fellow of the English Association.