As Kerby-Fulton tell us in Chapter 4 of OUMEM, the annotation of medieval manuscripts often reflected the social or cultural conditions of the time: “annotators were gripped by the same kinds of social, gender, and political issues as we are today.”  In Part I of the chapter, the author details some of the different styles of annotation, and what they meant to reflect. Based on those qualifications, and your own experiences with contemporary texts, what kind of “marginalia” exists in our present-day society? What are some of the different ways and reasons we interpret modern productions? How do those commentaries reflect or echo the medieval methods of annotation we encounter in the reading?

7 thoughts on “BLOG QUESTION 3/28

  1. In detailed books or text books, the marginalia included usually serves the purpose of explaining a difficult phrase, translating, or explaining some obscure or foreign reference. Chapter 4 tells us that this type of marginalia can be found in manuscripts, but so can Ethical Pointers, which (usually) are not found in modern texts. In terms of a modern adaptation of marginalia, one could say that the comments of a piece of writing published online could be considered “marginalia.” Comments on online articles allow readers to write their own “notes” of the article and, usually, to mark/express points in the article that generate an emotional response, which is a type of marginalia that Kerby-Fulton explains is present in medieval manuscripts. As far as online comments go, the most common type of “marginalia” found online would be considered Polemical Responses, or, “political, religious, or social comment” (Kerby-Fulton 210). In modern times, the average person is subjected to “Polemical Responses” every single day in the form of things like television shows, class discussions, and (especially) news broadcasts. We have shows specifically designed to allow multiple people to collaborate, discuss social/political/religious topics, and then broadcast their comments world-wide. To answer how commentaries like these reflect the medieval methods of annotation, I would say that “marginalia” or comments on texts in modern day either serve to explain a reference or translate for the reader, or serve to express an individual’s social/political comment. Basically, we don’t have the wide range of different types of “marginalia” anymore, but have instead limited ourselves to explanation and individual expression. Furthermore, technology has created a variety of different ways for one to comment of a text or information, which also allows for a much larger audience to be reached than those reached by medieval manuscript. Technology also allows for anyone to contribute and write “marginalia,” which differs from medieval annotators because not “annotators” do not have to be well versed or educated, they just have to have access to a computer.

  2. I was heading in to the comments area to tell Rob that he was YELLING AT US with his announcement of tomorrow’s date at the start of his question, but then I saw Kat’s thoughtful response and found instead that I wanted to say how interesting it was! ( I will say that those speaking in the margins of these medieval manuscripts are also talking to the future, hundreds of years after them, so I’m not sure how “much larger” the audiences for current (online) marginalia are–ha!

  3. One thing I enjoyed reading about was the glosses which some texts included. I tend to think that as modern reader we need glosses more desperately than a medieval reader would have. But I’m not sure why I thought this. Medieval readers would have needed glosses for latin and other foreign things. I also found it interesting that the book said that Piers Plowman was not glossed it was annotated. This tells me a great deal about the way people interacted with Piers. To my mind a gloss is more of a scientific translation and an annotation is a friendly (and conjectural) aside. I would guess that an annotation would demonstrate a great deal more about the character of the marginalia than a gloss ever could.

  4. There are a couple different things that come to mind when I think about marginalia. First ,is obviously, the notes that I take myself as a student in my text books. Who knows, someday maybe my textbook will be one of the only surviving copies of a work from our time and I’ll be “student A” (not likely). Secondly, in magazines, on the sides of articles a reader can often find printed blurbs that highlight quotes or give additional facts. That seems similar to the marginalia found in medieval manuscripts. Finally, the most modern type of marginalia can be found in some ebooks. If a section of a book is popular enough and highlighted by enough readers of the novel there is an option to see other people’s comments on that section of the book on the Kindle. To me this is a type of advanced sharing of marginalia available in only a digital format.

  5. Marginalia and and annotations are examples of methods of interacting with a text that have been preserved in human culture since the middle ages. We continue to use the same conversational system today as manuscript editors did in the beginning of the history of text production, especially in online communities where interaction is immediate and complex. For example, on an online resource such as Wikipedia, live editing is encouraged by anyone who takes the time to become a Wikipedia editor and this position is open to the public. Much like a scribe copying work and tweaking it to fit her perspective of whatever work she is copying, the Wikipedia editor is live-organizing information about an encyclopedia topic and including whatever relevant information within the system of organization that they have created to inform the public on a topic. On Wikipedia, this system includes a title, picture, brief synopsis of the umbrella topic that linked the reader to the article and a section of links. Further, the article takes each organized link regarding the topic and expounds on each piece of sectioned information. Although this is a very different template than the pious and romantic tales and informational/instructional guides that were included in middle english manuscripts, the idea is the same. Editors can live edit Wikipedia articles with clarified or re-positioned perspectives. This resource, as well as many of the comment sections on other online forums such as Reddit and Youtube allow for live editing from whoever decides they have an opinion to share about a piece of text, much like the marginalia and annotations in middle english manuscripts.

  6. I would definitely agree with Kat with her idea that our contemporary society leaves our “marginalia” in the online comments of published media. One thing that is different with our “marginalia” and the comments in the margins of medieval manuscripts is the fact that we have more collaboration. Because online media is able to reach far more than a medieval manuscript, it allows for various comments and “polemical responses”. Each poster brings his or her own religious, cultural, and political bias into their comments whether they intend to or not. In a way this diversity in response allows for a broader sense of all ideas and is able to challenge ideas in a variety of ways. Whether or not this is more valuable than a select few educated scholars adding their comments in the margins of a manuscript is debatable considering many people who post comments neglect to read an entire article in its entirety before making a conclusion. This has been hilariously tested on Facebook when false news stories are posted just to get a rise out of people and prove just how ignorant people can be when it comes to reading things online.

  7. I was sort of inspired by some of the previous comments about marginalia on a digital medium, particularly social media. I think in the future, people will look at our social media content similarly to how we look at source material in books to give us an idea about a previous culture in time. In particular, the thought that came to my mind (at least in terms of politics), are all the political statuses that people love to post on Facebook. These have become especially popular due to the election process. I often see people on my Facebook new feed duking it out on topics like Black Lives Matter, feminist issues, Donald Trump’s antics, and so forth. Sometimes they often cause large controversy between Facebook users and we end up seeing a lengthy discourse between commenters on a certain status’ subject matter. One thing that I think will be different, however, is the difficulties associated with “enigmatic” readings of annotations mentioned in OUMEM: “the attitudes of annotators, even in polemical matters, can be enigmatic: does that Nl annotator at VII. 3270 (table 3) really agree with Physiologus about female power or is he just having a good laugh?” Readers in the future looking at our annotations on social media will have more information about the author in order to determine the value of their annotation. They will have access to personal information on our profiles, previous thoughts we may have posted in our own statuses, and a general idea of what our lifestyles were like.

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