Radboud University is a partner in a new international research and training programme - MECANO – which aims to advance our understanding of the mechanics of canon formation and knowledge transmission of ancient Greek and Latin texts. Dr Shari Boodts and Prof Maarten De Pourcq will lead two PhD projects and two work packages from the Radboud Institute for Culture and History, and organise a Spring School.
To consider a text or author canonical is to invest it with prestige, authority or even timeless value. Canons set standards and define what is deemed worthy of transmission, but at the same time they are constantly undergoing change. The distinction between those who belong to the canon and those who do not inevitably operates a dynamics of inclusion and exclusion. It is not clear, however, who if anyone is the agent of such operations and what influences the way canons are shaped.
MECANO (The Mechanics of Canon Formation and the Transmission of Knowledge from Greco-Roman Antiquity) aims to advance our understanding of the mechanics of canon formation and knowledge transmission of ancient Greek and Latin texts. It will look at a) how texts, ideas or authors become canonical by being cited, translated, studied, imitated, excerpted, or compiled by later authors, and b) how such implicit canons have changed across time and space by being received in different cultural, intellectual and linguistic environments. To study the dynamics of canonicity from a longitudinal perspective, MECANO will combine qualitative approaches to intellectual history and reception studies with applications of digital and computational methods on extensive text corpora.
Bringing together six universities - KU Leuven (coordinator), University of Helsinki, University of Leipzig, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem en Ain Shams University (associated partner) - and an array of academic and non-academic institutions interested in the topic of canonicity (publishers, museums, academies of sciences, national libraries, arts companies), as well as a centre for entrepreneurship and an ICT company, MECANO created a training programme that responds to the need for historically conscious and digitally skilled Humanities PhDs.
MECANO's twofold goal is to develop a new model for the study of canonicity and to train the PhD researchers to become versatile intellectuals ready to tackle the challenges of modern engagement with the topics of canonicity, diversity, and cultural heritage.
Dr Shari Boodts, in collaboration with KU Leuven, will supervise a PhD project on how physical text transmission and canon formation influence each other. To this end, anonymous late antique sermons attributed to Augustine over the centuries will be studied.
Prof Maarten De Pourcq, in cooperation with the University of Leipzig, is supervising a PhD project on what patterns in references to Greco-Roman antiquity in twentieth-century journalistic texts tell us about changing canon formation in times of world wars and decolonisation.
Students can gain professional experience within the project by doing an internship. From Nijmegen, they can do so at Uitgeverij Brepols and the Valkhof Museum.
MECANO runs from 1 March 2024 to 29 February 2028. More information can be found on the KU Leuven site.