Friday, February 4, 2011

The first article I ever published

Green, Jonathan. “‘Waltharius’ Fragments from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 133 (2004): 61–74.

The first article I published was based on the second research project that I started in grad school. The summer after I finished my master’s thesis on Hildegard of Bingen, my thesis advisor gave me the project of checking the bindings of early printed books in the Rare Book Room of the University of Illinois Library for manuscript fragments. He even convinced the librarians to bring me whole carts full of books at once. It occurred to me one afternoon that I was probably sitting next to a million dollars worth of old books at any given moment.

So I went through all 1,000+ incunable volumes and as many sixteenth-century books as I could manage one at the time, checking the pastedowns and flyleaves and quire reinforcements for the presence of text-bearing parchment or paper fragments. I found a lot of them, actually, because discarded medieval books were a ready source of parchment for early modern bookbinders. Mostly I found Latin religious texts of one kind or another, but I also turned up a few noteworthy bits.

“What would you think of a series of parchment strips with a Latin text that mentions Burgundy, Hildegund, Gunther, and Hagen?” I asked my advisor one day.
“You’re kidding, right?” he said. I suspect he knew immediately what I had found, but he let me finish the detective work.

It turned out to be fragments containing 130 lines of the Waltharius, a ninth-century Latin epic involving the older generation of characters from the Nibelungenlied. Fragments of the same eleventh-century manuscript had turned up at various times over the previous century. The natural place to publish finds like this is in ZfdA, where the article appeared—five years later, in 2004. Once I had finished my Ph.D. and started teaching at the College of Charleston, I discovered that the safety net that grad school provides for research and publication, with a helpful advisor to keep you from saying anything too silly in public, had suddenly disappeared. So for my first article, I turned to Waltharius.

See also Benedikt Vollmann, “Marginalglossen zu den ‘Waltharius’-Fragmenten aus Urbana,” Zeitschrift für deutsches Altertum und deutsche Literatur 135 (2006): 336-39, who points out that the transcription misplaces a glossed o.

1 comment:

  1. Well, it is good to see that some of your research breaks through! I think you really like writing to have more articles. And from the looks of it, your articles can help with thesis writers who also have the same field as you. Anyway, have you written an article lately?