DH Midterm (Hess and Michael)

DH MIDTERM: The Homer Multitext

Describe and evaluate the significance of the scholarship for the humanities:

This project addresses the variance between different versions of the Homeric Iliad and Odyssey and attributes them in a cultural and historical framework. Many scholars of classical studies refer to these two literary sources to develop a better understanding of ancient Greek societies. By providing multiple sources of the same stories, the website allows for researchers to evaluate the Homeric poems in more ways.

How does the project push forward (or fail to push forward) the state of knowledge of a discipline?

One of the tools that this project offers is a search ability to find lines in the Homeric poems from multiple sources. From this, users have access to multiple sources of the same lines of poetry and can further analyze the different perspectives offered by each source. This is a great feature because users can compare the sources precisely. This function falls short, because it fails to provide translations of the transcriptions from the primary source. This really limits this project’s potential to be applied to the discipline of classical studies. Adding a translation feature would allow the project to be utilized by researchers who speak languages other than the ones used in the source text.

Can you identify the project’s primary research question? What is it? A series of questions?

How are Homer’s texts changed over time with respect to various historical frameworks? How can the evolution and multiformity of Homer’s texts be understood in its many different historical contexts?

Describe and evaluate the project’s design and interface. Evaluate the interactivity and modes of navigation of the project.

A drawback of this project is the lack of description and lack of engagement with the users. For example, the manuscript browsers do not offer instructions on how to efficiently utilize its function. Offering a brief introduction/explanation of the search tools would improve this project’s utility to a wider range of users.

Navigation: The site’s navigation is simple. There are tabs along the top of the page that, when clicked on, bring up their respective pages which can be further navigated through utilizing hypertext within the reading and through “Next” and “Previous” options which help guide the user through a sequence of ordered pages.

Accessibility/Readability: While the site is free to access and is easily searchable, the information it presents cannot readily be used by a layperson. Images of manuscripts are written in ancient Greek with no translation provided.

What technologies does the project employ (both front-end and back-end) and how does the scholarship make use of these technologies?

The HMT depends on many code libraries as well as specific programs that address specific needs of the project. For example, Mandatory On-going Maintenance (MOM) is a project that validates and verifies editorial work for the HMT project. It assembles a single archive from project data in various XML and .csv files then uses the library to analyze the contents. The HMT virtual machine is available for use by editors to validate material. A front-end technology that this project employs is the MS browser which allows users to search for a specific line from Homer’s texts and the website will bring up multiple different versions so that similar passages can be readily compared.

Maintenance/ Sustainability: The HMT includes various manuscripts of different versions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, all of which the website claims are currently being edited. The site contains a link to a project blog that lists updates as well as discusses on-going research related to the HMT.

What do you consider to be the successes and failures of the project?

A notable success of the project is the simplicity of its navigation as well as the MS browser it provides as a tool. The browser allows any line from multiple variations of Homer’s texts to be searched and compared which helps users answer the website’s research questions. A failure of the project is its inability be efficiently utilized by a layperson. The archive includes thousands of images of text from multiple different versions of the Iliad and Odyssey that are all written in ancient Greek. While having images of the original manuscripts is ideal, no translation is readily provided, limiting the website to only be fully utilized by those who can read Greek.

The project fails to stay up to date with its visual layout. The content of the project is adequate, but the way it is presented could be improved. How the information is delivered is just as significant as the information itself when it comes to digital humanities projects. Many of the pages of this website simply presents text in a bland and minimal arrangement. The aesthetics of a website should keep up with modern day standards so that the impression is that the project is updated and maintained.

Consider the role of the project director (listed in parentheses). What influence does the project director have on the project’s success (or failure)?

The Homer Multitext project’s current director (Gregory Nagy) values the multi-generationality of the team working on the project, and because of this, students and professors whose level of study ranges from undergraduate to post baccalaureate help to shape dynamic models of research to teach at all levels of education.

Credibility/Funding: The Homer Multitext Project is funded by several prestigious organizations such as The National Science Foundation, The National Endowment of the Humanities, and The Mellon Foundation. Additionally, contributions are collected from multiple colleges and universities such as Washington University, Harvard University, and Gustavus Adolphus College.

Academic Contribution: While the site seeks to present the textual transmission of the Iliad and Odyssey in a historical framework, it leaves it up to the user to discover and engage themselves with Homeric tradition. It offers a library of images and texts of various versions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey told during different time periods to examine the changes of the text over time and places it within cultural and historical contexts.

Room for Growth/Extendibility/Raise other Questions?:

The extendibility of this website is very limited as most other versions of Homer’s works have been lost or destroyed over time. The archive has already collected images from the best quality sources that still have managed to exist today. However, one addition that could have educational value are videos of plays being performed with respect to each version. Additionally, translations should be provided in order for anyone to be able to utilize the website.

Michael Hoffman

Heson Oh