How much of medieval literature is lost and why?

Why is a lost account of medieval European chivalry like an unknown species? The findings of new studies show that these can be calculated with a mathematical model. The findings are consistent with existing estimates of lost literature, and suggest that ecological models can be surprisingly applied to many areas of the social sciences. 5th century AD to the end of the 14th century), like the chivalrous romances about King Arthur's court, have disappeared over time. But calculating this damage is difficult. "One of the things we don't know ... is the part of the literature that didn't last," says Mike Kestmont, one of the authors of the recent study and an associate professor in the department of literature at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Knowing what we've missed can tell researchers more about the Middle Ages, and according to Daniel Sawyer, a research fellow in medieval English literature at the University of Oxford, there are reasons why it's still valuable today. "Thinking about how cultural heritage endures seems like a useful thing to do," Sawyer says. Because at present, this issue is one of the important categories, along with other issues, that are threatened by things like climate change. In the longer term, we as a species should probably be thinking, "How do we preserve and record what we have?" And it's not irrelevant to have more information about what kind of distribution pattern might help these things survive." and Dutch science, discussed the issue of literary damage, and Karsdorp has compared this question to the challenge of tracking biological species. When ecologists study the flora and fauna of an area, some things inevitably remain hidden from their view. But thanks to statistical models, they can use the samples they observe to estimate the diversity and size of unseen populations. And it seems that the same model can be applied to very different unknowns.

BingMag.com How much of medieval literature is lost and why?

Why is a lost account of medieval European chivalry like an unknown species? The findings of new studies show that these can be calculated with a mathematical model. The findings are consistent with existing estimates of lost literature, and suggest that ecological models can be surprisingly applied to many areas of the social sciences. 5th century AD to the end of the 14th century), like the chivalrous romances about King Arthur's court, have disappeared over time. But calculating this damage is difficult. "One of the things we don't know ... is the part of the literature that didn't last," says Mike Kestmont, one of the authors of the recent study and an associate professor in the department of literature at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Knowing what we've missed can tell researchers more about the Middle Ages, and according to Daniel Sawyer, a research fellow in medieval English literature at the University of Oxford, there are reasons why it's still valuable today. "Thinking about how cultural heritage endures seems like a useful thing to do," Sawyer says. Because at present, this issue is one of the important categories, along with other issues, that are threatened by things like climate change. In the longer term, we as a species should probably be thinking, "How do we preserve and record what we have?" And it's not irrelevant to have more information about what kind of distribution pattern might help these things survive." and Dutch science, discussed the issue of literary damage, and Karsdorp has compared this question to the challenge of tracking biological species. When ecologists study the flora and fauna of an area, some things inevitably remain hidden from their view. But thanks to statistical models, they can use the samples they observe to estimate the diversity and size of unseen populations. And it seems that the same model can be applied to very different unknowns.

"Looking at these methods, we understand that they are not necessarily specific to ecology," Karsdorp says. You can use it in other fields as well; These models are very general and abstract." The researchers decided to use an ecological model originally developed by Ann Chao, an environmental statistician at the National Tsinghua University in Taiwan, to study the Middle Ages. Kestmont and Karsdorp worked with Chao and a group of medieval European historians on a paper about the project, which was published last month in Science.

Researchers had access to 3,648 documents from the Middle Ages. According to the ecological model, it represents only nine percent of an original collection that must have numbered more than forty thousand manuscripts. But this only indicates the lack of physical documents, not the stories that were preserved in them. These stories, which we call "artifacts", are not truly lost until all existing copies of them are destroyed. Continuing the analogy of ecology, we should say that a document is like a specific animal, while a work is like a species; And a species does not become extinct until all its living representatives die. When the researchers applied this model to the works, they found that sixty-eight percent of the medieval writers were likely to have survived to the present day, which was comforting. Historians knew that many stories were lost thanks to hints left in surviving documents or catalogs. According to Katarzyna Kapitan, a junior researcher at the University of Oxford who studies Scandinavian Icelandic literature, the new studies are consistent with previous estimates of what literature survived; But it also expands current knowledge. "The interesting thing about our study is that it measures more data and allows us to compare data from different regions," he says. And in this way, expand the existing knowledge."

One of the things that researchers learned from comparing different European regions based on the language specific to that region (documentary studies in Dutch, English, French, German) , Icelandic and Irish) was that the survival rate of medieval literature varied significantly in these languages. For English, less than forty percent of works were preserved. Dutch and French stories fared slightly better, and about fifty percent of medieval works in these languages have survived to this day. In contrast, more than three-quarters of German, Icelandic, and Irish stories have survived.

They suggest that higher survival rates may be due to It is what is called "graph uniformity". "We're borrowing this term from ecology," says Kapitan, "and it means that the manuscripts were more evenly distributed." In ecology, a more even distribution means that each species in a community has about the same number of animals. (This concept is used to examine species that share the same habitat or similar related taxonomy, so it may be used, for example, to compare populations of deer and wolves, but not to compare deer and ants.) Such a distribution can prevent A species with a high number of representatives will dominate the ecosystem and drive its neighbors to extinction. In the literature, a uniform graph means that each work (similar to species) is cited in the same number of documents (similar to individual species). Kapitan explains: "We don't have blockbusters here that beat conventional works by hundreds of copies. In our data set, we have several... copies of each 'species'." If only a few popular stories were copied over and over again in multiple documents, other stories in the cycle would receive less attention and be removed from the historical record. But when each story has only a small number of copies, it is likely that all the works will survive.

The uniformity of distribution in the literature of a region is influenced by many factors; including geography. Researchers point out that two of the best-preserved linguistic traditions occurred on isolated islands: Ireland and Iceland. (Technically, English was also spoken on one of these islands. But researchers don't consider this part of "island culture" because Great Britain had strong ties to continental Europe in the Middle Ages, among other details that (It would have been complicated by its insularity.) "This is very interesting for our studies," notes the captain, "because island ecosystems (referring to biology) seem to do better at maintaining their species diversity, don't they? "It's an interesting hypothesis whether the same patterns could facilitate better survival of cultural heritage in those island societies," said Carey Munro, a mathematical modeling researcher at Los Alamos National Laboratory who was not involved in the new studies. "It's a very interesting idea," he says. He points out that many islands retain greater biodiversity compared to mainland ecosystems, where only a few adapted species such as coyotes and beetles can dominate a site. "I think we can use metaphors here," Munro says. Given that these metaphors can go a long way in linking ecology and this idea, there is much work to be done." For example, mainland Germany also managed to preserve most of its medieval literature, which means that the island hypothesis is a limited hypothesis.

Nevertheless, this concept can provide new research areas for researchers. slow Like a closer look at why lost literature has disappeared. Accidents such as library fires justify some of these disappearances. Recycling also plays a role: many medieval writings were recorded on parchment, a durable material made from animal skin, and people in later historical periods recycled it and made boxes out of it. They strengthened and even strengthened the crown of the bishops with it. (Castemont says that in one instance in early modern Europe, a Parisian butcher used the parchments of old books to package meat for his customers.) But this does not explain why Germany was able to preserve so many more works than France. "It's really hard to think about astrology," Karsdorp says. "What's more challenging is to isolate them and see exactly what causes what." Other areas of investigation include comparing the extant literature by genre, calculating whether illustrations made people more likely to retain the story, and examining how access to print media may have affected survival rates.

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