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Oregon Petrarch Open Book earns a Digital Humanities Start-up grant

Romance Languages Professor Massimo Lollini’s labor of love and scholarship, the Oregon Petrarch Open Book (OPOB), has won a Digital Humanities Start-up grant from the Office of Digital Humanities.  The Level II grant of $49,978 will support development of a more interactive database-driven website for OPOB.

OPOB is built around Petrarch’s 14th century collection, the Canzoniere.  The ODH award will fund an open-sourceware rebuild of OPOB’s digital assets and tools, and strengthen the groundwork for international collaboration among scholars and institutions around this central work of world literature. In OPOB, a scholar may read a poem in the original, examine a Renaissance commentary, compare a series of different translations, analyze contemporary rewritings, and finally, explore multimedia assets associated with the poem.

Lollin writes, “We call OPOB the ‘open-book’ initiative, partly in homage to the open source software movement whose tools we will be using (Drupal, PHP, MySQL), and partly in reference to the way computer-mediated communication (CMC) technology and online professional networking has opened up new ways of building academic communities. But mostly we call it ‘open’ because our approach articulates new interdisciplinary paths for teaching and learning in Romance Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature, Linguistics, and Translation Studies.

“In designing a system around the idea of the open book, the Canzoniere is the perfect text. Not only is it the most influential collection of poetry in the European tradition, but it is constructively and profitably read as a work-in-progress and as an unfinished text; Petrarch continued to produce different versions of his collection and shift the order of the poems until his death in 1374. The last version of the manuscript, as  printed today, merely reflects the last of his edits and ignores the fragmentary nature of the different versions emphasized by its original Latin title, Rerum vulgarium fragmenta, or Collection of Fragments in the Vernacular.

Lollini argues that the idea of a text as an ongoing and emerging project is muffled by the very nature of a printed book. To view and understand a text’s development and its many possible iterations, it is necessary to see the parts in different orders, see the connections between the parts, the drafts, and the future incarnations of the text. This is only possible through the use of digital technology thanks to hypertext and its ability to make the relationships between textual components visible and explicit.

Massimo Lollini’s work ranges from the 18th Century philosopher Giambattista Vico through contemporary testimonial literature. He is the author of  Il vuoto della forma, and Scriturra, testimonianza, e verità (Genova: Maarietti 1820, 2001), for which he received the American Associate for Italian Studies book award. He has co-edited five volumes, including the 2006 Reason and Its Others: Italy, Spain and the New World (Vanderbilt University Press) and Reading and Writing the Mediterranean: Essays by Vincenzo Consolo (Toronto University Press). He has received UO’s Thomas Herman Faculty Achievement Award for Distinguished Teaching; he also received UO’s Norman H. Brown Faculty Fellowship Award in Arts and Sciences.

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