The origins of the Modern Humanities

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Marianne Pade


Aarhus University


DKK 842,942




Monograph Fellowships


I shall write a monograph on Philology in the Early Modern Period (c. 1400-1700), thus exploring a field that has been called 'the forgotten origins of the modern humanities'. I shall investigate both the theory and practice of the broad range of Early Modern philological activities. Studying the work of both acclaimed textual scholars like Lorenzo Valla and Poliziano, and that of a number of lesser known figures, I shall endeavour to identify all the 'tools' employed by Early Modern scholars in their textual work. Thus my investigation will be interdisciplinary and address the wide range of methods developed and defined by Early Modern textual scholars, methods which grew into the fields we now call palaeography, historical linguistics, source criticism, numismatics, archaeology etc.


Philology has historically been the most important component of the humanities. It is the discipline of making sense of texts, the critical self-reflection of language, but it is often overlooked by modern intellectual historians, maybe because it is so ubiquitious that it is taken for granted. However, today the existence of a sizeable digital corpora of the writings of Early Modern scholars and the development of new digital tools for text mining will make it possible to ask new questions and follow the impact of new concepts on a hitherto unimaginable scale. What will set this monograph apart from earlier treatments is the emphasis on Early Modern scholars' own definitions of their fields, of their practices, and of the societal values of the discipline.


The book will evolve in a dialogue between in-depth analysis of the works and theoretical statements of a series of already acknowledged key figures of Early Modern philological scholarship on the one hand and a wider exploration of the results of this analysis by text mining of an extensive corpus of Early Modern Latin scholarly texts on the other. Thus the investigation will reveal intellectual landscapes and trace scholarly networks beyond already well-known names and challenge conventional research patterns by using modern text mining technology to pursue ideas and concepts across many typologies of texts, including texts written by authors outside the established scholarly canon.

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