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Time, Space, and the Itinerary

Mapping the Siege of Jerusalem

Alyssa McLeod, Author

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Toward a Model of Heterogeneous Time and Space

Johanna Drucker derides the humanities' use of Google Maps and linear timeline applications as "a grotesque distortion...of the very foundation from which [humanistic approaches] arise" ("Humanistic Theory" 94),  the foundation being the interpretive basis that underlies humanistic knowledge. But as I have shown, this problem of interpretive distortion stems from the data (or capta) humanities researchers collect from the text, a fault on the part of the original reader of the poem as much as the platform. Indeed, as Jerome McGann notes in Radiant Textuality, the act of reading, or "concept-based interpretation," is itself a "performative and rhetorical operation" with its own type of grotesque distortion (106). Reading and internalizing a piece of literature is just as deformative an act as displaying narrative information as a map or graph. Just as the city of Jerusalem, as Martin Smith observes, contains layers of historical and spiritual meaning that continue to grow as the city's populace expands and changes (11), so the Siege of Jerusalem contains layers of meaning created by the the interpretive biases of the poem's changing audience. Poetic meaning is negotiated between reader and poem, an interaction a digital platform can facilitate but not determine. [19]

Recent critical editions of the Siege of Jerusalem also distort the text of the poem. Compare this digital facsimile of the opening lines of the poem in the Huntington Library manuscript to the first twenty lines of Michael Livingston's 2004 digital edition of the Siege for the Middle English Texts Series.

Based on a collation of a version of the poem found in MS Laud Misc. 656 with variants from eight other manuscripts (Livingston 36), Michael Livingston's edition presents a version of the poem that never existed in manuscript form. Textual variants aside, even the differences between each text's mise-en-page would affect the reader's understanding of the poem: the red letter introduction to the poem in the Huntington Library manuscript ("Here beginneth the sege of ierusalem..."), the editorial addition of the word "Prologue" and the textual notes in Livingston's edition, and so forth.
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