Mediation, Meditation, and the Manuscripts of Piers Plowman
My dissertation looks at Piers Plowman in all its myraid forms and tries to make sense of the whole labor of inscribing Piers in fifty-two different manuscripts, three different "texts" (A, B, and C), and eight different shapes of the poem, all produced over a 150-year period.
In order to say something about the Piers corpus, rather than one text or manuscript, I have done some graphical and statistical analysis of the entire collection of manuscripts. For an explanation of the different modes of graphing and analyzing, please check out my Prezi linked at the right. There is also a video of my keynote presentation for Kzoo 2013. If you would just like to peruse the images check out the links below.
To see how the code for a co-occurrence network graph is written for R and igraph, please see this blog from my collaborator, Aaron Schumacher.
As part of my ongoing digital work with the Piers manuscript corpus, I have created a color-coded map of geographical locations to which manuscripts have connections through either dialect or other historical evidence. Regions grow darker as manuscript incidence increases.
To the left, you can see the data in Google Maps. Below it is in CartoDB.
Yellow regions indicate A-text dialects Red regions indicate B-texts
Blue regions indicate C-texts
Orange regions indicate A/B hybrids
Green regions indicate A/C hybrids
Purple regions indicate B/C hybrids Brown regions indicate BAC hybrids
Teal indicates Z-text
Each of these maps displays various limitations. By far the most accurate maps are those displaying the regions to which MSS can be traced based on dialect evidence. Some MSS, however, can only be traced to a general vicinity (see, for instance the A/C hybrids tracable only vaguely to the East Midlands) and some are not tracable to a particular location at all and thus do not appear on the region map. And while the region maps display MS information if you click on a region, there is no way to get a general sense of the dates in which MSS appeared.
To get a sense of time, I have produced two different time-lapse graphs. In the graph above, the timelapse is done based on draw-order. Any MSS dated to roughly the same period, for example "ca. 1400," all appear on the map at the same time, and the next period appears immediately following. This graph displays the best accuracy we have for the date of each manuscript, but doesn't necessarily reflect the unfolding of MS production in a way that is proportional to the actual time it took to produce them. The graph to the right, MSS appear in an order proportional to the passage of years, with every second representing two years' time in the 160-year production history.
In both cases data is a rough estimate designed to give us an idea of production, but not necessarily as accurate of data as the map portends to display.
In both time-lapse maps there are a series of points that appear in the North Sea. These are manuscripts that can be relatively accurately dated, but not located. They are not included on the region graph, but are included here to demonstrate the frequency of copying during a period, even if we cannot know where precisely they were produced.
Points do no actually represent the locations attached to MSS with as great of precision as appears in either the table or the map. They are points chosen arbitrarily within the confines of what we do know about the manuscript, i.e. that it is from West Worcestershire. Likewise, dates in the above map are arbitrarily chosen and distributed within the designated timeframe since it is unlikely that all the MSS dated to a particular quarter century would have occurred at once. Neither the order of their appearance nor the precise date of it can be located. Rather, what we can know from the map is generally when manuscripts were produced in certain locations, and whether there are spatio-temporal patterns in the movement of the text from one place to another.
Multiple Variable Comparison
Click the graph to use the sliders to isolate variables.
Because my digital work on Piers Plowman has expanded greatly, and because some of the interactive data presentations make more sense in a native digital environment, I have begun to present many of the visualizations I've built in code on my new blog A Material Piers Living in a Digital World.
In addition to data visualizations, the blog also hosts an effort at describing the complete Piers MS corpus in JSON code to create linked data for the Piers Plowman manuscripts.
The blog also hosts extended new research in the Mapping Medieval English Vernacular Manuscript Networks digital databse project.