Reckoning Time in Medieval Pisa


The anonymous Pisan chronicle is rich in temporal language, and as has has been demonstrated, its author makes deliberate references to time. These are not neutral, but often loaded, as the author uses temporal markers to communicate concepts that are more than merely temporal. Through the digital analysis of temporal markers in the chronicle, we were able to appreciate how the author used time, both regularly and exceptionally. In this endeavor, the use of the British Library's manuscript was useful, as this version of the text differs in significant ways from the RRIISS version. As we wrestled with the author's construction of time, one of our goals was a comparison of the two known witnesses to the text, which in addition to providing insights relevant to the initial question also raised new and interesting questions. The lines of missing text (expounded upon in previous pages) do help to create a clearer picture of how the author of the chronicle envisions time; it underscores the association of liturgical time and the populo minuto. At the same time, the list of persons killed in the storm allows historians a look at Pisans not often visible in the surviving historical record. Through the work of textual comparison, we have provided new lines of questioning for this chronicle, which has previously been studied and cited only in its less-complete form.

In an attempt to explore this new version of the text, our team has explored two areas of the author's work in particular depth: namely, his use of calendrical time as signifying political authority (or the lack of political authority), and his association of sacred time with popular and civic concerns. In doing this work, the uses of temporal markers, and the ways that sacred, calendrical, and self-referential time served different purposes in the text, were not always obvious, and in these cases the digital taxonimization of the chronicle's temporal markers was essential for our analysis. Yet, this digital component was not meant only to serve the creation of these case studies. More than proving one or the other interpretation of the use of temporal markers, our digital approach to this text acts as a proof of concept, demonstrating one way that digital methodologies can inspire new collaborative modes of historical inquiry.

Throughout the course of completing this project, each member of our team has come to understand the value of this collaborative mode more deeply. Diverging from the lone scholar mentality, our engagement with digital tools furthered our interaction with one another. Just as we each used tools which supported our individual work in this project, we also relied on each other's work, such that each of us informed the other's research. Our conclusions are the product of a collaborative effort, and our hope is that our work will support future scholarship.