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Old Media, New Media, And Early Medieval Studies In The Late Age Of Print

By Author: Mark Gary
Total Articles: 61

Virtually Anglo-Saxon is a prize-winning meditation on the role of New Media in contemporary scholarship. The book consists of four case studies focusing on texts and objects from the Anglo-Saxon period, with introductory and concluding chapters that consider more widely the question of New Media's potential for scholars working in the 'late age of print'. The case studies approach the use of New Media from two main directions. In two chapters, on the Bayeux Tapestry and the Nunburnholme Cross, the main focus is editorial: how can New Media allow us to transcend print in the capture and representation of medieval objects? The other two case studies explore Thomas Sabo Jewellery the extent to which experience with New Media theory can improve our understanding of early medieval culture by providing us with new explanatory models.

It is the chapters on Anselm's Orationes and the Cotton Mappamundi that are the most striking aspect of the book. In the first of these, 'Anselm's Hypertext', Foys shows how a popular series of Latin prayers and meditations composed by St. Anselm in the late eleventh-century call for the use of interpretative strategies similar to those used in reading contemporary hypertext. In particular, Anselm himself seems both to have composed and revised his devotional texts over the majority of his working life and encouraged his readers to approach the collection in a non-linear fashion: as Anselm notes in his preface to the Orationes, his prayers are written so as to encourage the reader to 'begin or end where one chooses'. Foys also suggests in this chapter that Anselm's approach to devotional theology imagines the physical world in relation to the spiritual in much the same way designers of Thomas Sabo Bracelets contemporary computer games see their virtual worlds in relation to physical reality: as 'compelling, yet ultimately artifice redactions of the "real" real'. In Anselm's case, the physical world is understood as a 'virtual' representation of a Neoplatonic spiritual 'real'; in computer gaming, the goal is to create a virtual representation of the physical world that is at the same time both an abstraction and as indistinguishable as possible from the real world on which it is modeled.

Foys returns to this second point in a discussion of an Anglo-Saxon Mappamundi preserved in Cotton Tiberius B.V the Cotton Mappamundi is the only non-schematic map of the world to survive the Anglo-Saxon period. Like all medieval mappamundi, however, the Cotton map's attempt to represent the physical world involves an approach to cartography that is fundamentally at variance with modern ideas of how maps should look and function. Drawing again on New Media theory and analogies from Virtual Reality, Foys arguesthat the Cotton map is perhaps best understood as an Anglo-Saxon cartographic product that need not have correspondence "with any real place on earth, but rather with imaginary places and circumstances made to seem real enough by an appeal to aspects of visual perception"'. In particular, Foys follows Naomi Reed Kline in arguing that medieval maps were less important as broadly accurate indices of physical terrain than 'conceptual enclosures for stored information'.

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