Marie-Claire Beaulieu

Marie-Claire Beaulieu, assistant professor in the Department of Classics, is working on a digitazation projecte titled, Greek Epitaphs Online.  Abstract is below.

As is commonly done in the sciences, I am working with my collaborators across campus to design and test an integrated platform on which students will collaboratively transcribe, edit, and translate Latin and Greek texts, creating vetted open source digital editions. This project, while giving students the opportunity to work with original untranslated documents, also contributes to the efforts of the scholarly community worldwide to meet the challenge of publishing large numbers of primary source documents online while preserving high editorial standards. The students’ work will be vetted by experts, encoded in XML TEI following best practices in the Digital Humanities, and published online in the Tufts Digital Library and the Perseus Digital Library, which receives more than 700,000 visits a month. The integrated platform will be made available as open-source software and can be used as a model for editing and translating any source documents in any language and any Humanities field.

Our learning and research platform will be created by adapting existing open-source software and designing a language-independent interface to link and access the resources. The platform will allow for easy classroom application of a complex workflow formerly accessible only to specialists. We expect to produce a transferable model for teaching the Humanities using hands-on training and direct student contribution to professional research under expert supervision, as is commonly done in the sciences.

Maire-Claire has answered some questions about open access –

Please tell us a little more about your research.

My research concerns a collection of about two hundred Greek epitaphs which date from about 100 BC to 425 AD and which come from all over the Greek world. The epitaphs under consideration are long poems inscribed on headstones and sarcophagi to commemorate the dead. They represent a significant innovation in Greek poetry. While earlier Greek funerary poems were usually composed in one rhythmical pattern, or meter, this set is polymetric, i.e., the epitaphs are composed in multiple sections that follow a different rhythmical pattern. Some epitaphs are even bilingual, with the Greek and Latin sections composed in different meters.

Polymetry has been explained by scholars as the result of external factors such as the need to accommodate the metrical patterns of personal names or the disappearance of the traditional conventions of Greek poetry in the centuries following its golden age. As a result of prior research, I have come to the conclusion that polymetric patterns were intentional and form an inherent part of the poems, as reflected in the arrangement of the writing on the stones. Indeed, most polymetric epitaphs are inscribed as a single block of text, regardless of metrical distinctions, or are arranged in regular patterns, often with decoration between the blocks of text. Polymetry was therefore not accidental, but was deliberately chosen by the composers and patrons of the epitaphs as an actual poetic style. By publishing the epitaphs in a database with the help of students, who are learning the Greek language and pursuing research at the same time, I am collecting the dataset for my upcoming book on the subject.

Why are you choosing to make you digitize materials available open access?

Ancient Greek inscriptions, despite the fact that there are thousands and thousands of them, are fairly obscure texts. It is usually difficult for students and non-specialists to access them because they are in large part untranslated and only available in specialized publications. Yet, inscriptions provide a wealth of information on the life of the ancients, from their political institutions to their occupations and religious beliefs. My project seeks to make these texts available to as many students, scholars, and interested members of the public as possible by offering transcriptions, English translations, and commentaries on the ancient texts. An open-access online publication is the ideal medium to achieve these goals.

What kind of impact do you think open access will have on your field in the future?

Open access online publication is already transforming the way ancient texts, artifacts, and archaeological data are published in the field of Classics. Digital media have allowed us to publish large quantities of materials that used to be reserved to specialists and make them available to the general public while creating tools that make our research easier and more efficient. Furthermore, such tools have made the collection of entirely new types of data possible, and the fact that the data is made freely available opens our field to more participation, in particular from students and members of the public.