ATNU/IES Virtual Speaker Series 2020/2021 #6

If ‌you couldn't join us for the live event, you can watch the lecture here.

For next event in the ATNU/IES Virtual Speaker Series, we are very happy to welcome Dr Mike Kestemont, from the University of Antwerp. Mike will disccuss how the use of methods derived from ecological studies might reveal the degree to which medieval manuscripts have been lost to history, and how this reveals an unexpected link between medieval studies and ecology. Join us on the 23rd of February at 17h00 (GMT) from wherever you are in the world. For more information, see the abstract below and don't forget to register to receive the joining link!


Estimating the loss of medieval literature with methods from ecology

Mike Kestemont

Tuesday, 23rd of February 2021

17h00 (GMT)


The century-long loss of material artifacts is one of the major impediments to the historic study of human culture. Literary historians, for instance, by necessity have to work with the heavily biased sample of documents that still survive. In many cases, it is unclear to which extent the surviving literature accurately reflects the original corpus and how much has been lost beyond retrieval. In this talk, I'll survey some of our recent and ongoing team efforts, in which we apply methods from ecology to the handwritten corpus of the medieval chivalric fiction (in six European vernaculars). We cast the quantitative estimation of the survival ratios in these literatures as a variant of the unseen species problem from ecodiversity, which is meant to monitor biotic richness in the face of incomplete samples. Our results highlight stark regional differences in the losses sustained by different linguistic communities. Noteworthy is the special status of insular literatures in this respect, which we tentatively link to similar observations in island biogeography.

Last modified: Wed, 03 Mar 2021 17:23:12 GMT