Each year the UT Graduate School funds a limited number of student/faculty research awards. These competitive grants are intended to advance the scholarship of graduate students and faculty working in partnership. In 2019, two of these awards went to Marco faculty and graduate students for collaborative research projects.
Out of the Classroom and into the Laboratory
In the twelfth century, a presbyter named Theophilus wrote a manual explaining how to make parchment. In this text, Theophilus instructs the parchment maker to soak animal hide in a series of lime baths, which loosen the hair follicles and extraneous layers of skin. Next, he instructs, the hide should be stretched on a wooden frame and its surface scraped with a rounded blade called a lunellum, or “moon-knife.” After drying in the sun, the hide is powdered with chalk before being prepared for writing.
Supported by one of the Graduate School’s research awards, graduate students Karen Norwood (Department of English) and Jason Stubblefield (Department of History), in consultation with Professor Maura Lafferty (Department of Classics), set out to learn more about medieval methods of parchment production by following Theophilus’ parchment recipe themselves and documenting the process through detailed journals, pictures, and videos. With help from UT colleagues, they ethically acquired, vacuum-sealed, and froze a sheep hide. With the generous support of the UT Department of Animal Science, Karen and Jason secured a laboratory space to work on the hands-on components of the parchment making process over the summer. They are now compiling their research and plan to document their findings in a forthcoming blog, for the benefit of students and scholars at UT and beyond.
Collaborative Archival Research in Paris
Professor Anne-Hélène Miller and PhD candidate Klayton Tietjen received a 2019 UT student/faculty research award. This funding allowed the pair to undertake a two-week summer residency in the manuscript department at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BnF) in Paris. The joint-research proposal had twin goals: to provide Klayton with pertinent hands-on experience and training with Old French manuscripts and to further Professor Miller’s research through the ample resources of the BnF.
Professor Miller specializes in medieval French language and literature. The two weeks at the BnF produced essential research for concluding her current book project, The Literary Status of French and Cultural Boundaries in the Long Fourteenth Century: The Formation of a Francophone Identity. Her monograph reconsiders the imperialistic nineteenth-century construct of a linear and national literary history of French and recasts a more nuanced narrative that sets the development of the French language within a broader context of epistemic changes both within and without the borders of medieval France.
During their time in Paris, Klayton aided Professor Miller with the critical apparatus of her monograph, and she taught Klayton how to locate and access key manuscripts, and how to examine and analyze them. Klayton was able to work with several original manuscripts including BnF fr. 1374 and BnF fr. 1448. These date to the twelfth century and contain Old French epic poems such as “Girart de Vienne,” “Couronnement du roy Loys,” and “La prise d’Orange.” Klayton is in the early stages of forming a dissertation topic reinvestigating the classification and historical significance of some of the earliest and less studied chansons de geste (Old French epics). His time spent reading and examining these manuscripts was instrumental both in his development as a highly skilled medievalist and in the eventual writing of a groundbreaking dissertation.