Dr. Garrick Allen, from Dublin City University’s School of Theology, Philosophy, & Music, has begun new research into the paratexts and annotations of a 12th Century Gospel manuscript in the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin. The project, Paratextual Understanding, is funded by a grant from the Templeton Religion Trust.
This project seeks to understand the way that manuscript paratexts influence the way readers perceive its message.
What are paratexts?
Paratexts are the features that mediate the text to readers. Things like marginal notes, comments, artwork, doodles or notes in different languages all feed into our understanding of the manuscripts and help us interpret them, leading us to read the text in a certain way.
About the research
The Gospel manuscript that Dr. Allen is examining is Chester Beatty, Western Collection 139, a 12th Century Bezantine Codex of all four Gospels.
This manuscript was intentionally selected to explore the dynamics of multiple paratextual features and how they might reflect the ideas about the Gospels, the people who produced it, and how it may have influenced people who had read this particular manuscript.
It is rich with paratexts, including lexicon of Hebrew words, titles, ornamental titles, initial letters, segmentation systems, icons, visual art, and a variety of prefatory texts.
One of the goals of this project is to explore the paratexts of other manuscripts, not just of the New Testament, but manuscripts in general from all religious traditions.
Dr. Garrick Allen said
“Just like the architectural features of a building mediate a person’s experience and they influence what you do there, it’s the same thing for the paratext. They are doorways into understanding the text, contextualising it in a particular way. With this manuscript, it has almost every possible paratext that you could find. There’s a chain of commentary around the edge of almost every folio, telling you what particular words mean, or helping you interpret a particular passage.
All of these paratexts reflect human engagement with the gospels in a concrete way.”
You can also read the details of the Templeton grant here.
About Dr. Garrick Allen
Dr. Allen is a lecturer in New Testament and teaches a number of courses in Biblical Studies at the School of Theology, Philosophy, & Music in DCU. He is the author of The Book of Revelation and Early Jewish Textual Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and Manuscripts of the Book of Revelation: New Philology, Paratexts, Reception (Oxford University Press, 2020).
In 2019 he received a €1.5 million, 5 year grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for his study, Titles of the New Testament: A New Approach to Manuscripts and the History of Interpretation (TiNT).