“Comprehensive Odyssey”, a digital critical repository of the Odyssey and its sources: perspectives and consequences.

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation includes a digital proof of concept called the “Comprehensive Odyssey”, which provides the text of the first 105 lines of the Odyssey, the secondary sources for each line and the scholia. This digital project was the focus of an analysis of the possibilities of the digital medium to produce a digital critical edition or rather a digital critical repository of the Homeric poems and their indirect tradition. The dissertation presents all the stages in this analysis. As this edition deals with Homer’s Odyssey, one chapter here takes into consideration the present situation in Homeric scholarship. The analysis also embraces an overview of the theory of oral composition, traditional referentiality, notional fixity and the process from oral to print to digital, bearing in mind that the project deals with a poem whose origin is not in the form of a written composition, but of an oral composition in performance. To assess the possibilities of creating a digital project concerning Homer, a review has been carried out of digital projects in Classics, some of which are centred on Homer. We also discuss the theories both of digital editing and of textual editing. Assessing digital theories helps when deciding about which framework to use for a digital project, and it was what assisted us in understanding the difficulties that would have to be overcome in order to make this project feasible. Moreover, this dissertation includes a detailed overview of all the technical challenges encountered while producing it, by this meaning the encoding process with XML and TEI and the visualisation process with XSLT. One chapter aims to provide examples of research that can stem from the collection of secondary sources and their understanding as fragmentary authors, together with an awareness of the problems arising from the creation of an edition from printed critical editions. The purpose of this dissertation is to assess the chances that this proof of concept may become a fully functional project and help in understanding the Homeric tradition. Most importantly, this proof of concept would be a never-ending repository which, with the help of encoding in XML and TEI, would always remain open to changes and improvements. The hindrances that the digital medium faces, such as copyright and ‘comprehensiveness’, are also pointed out. The concept of crowdsourcing is discussed, as it seems that it might serve to complete the encoding of all the sources of the “Comprehensive Odyssey”. Finally, the outcomes that might result from the above-mentioned ‘voyage’ are examined, leading to the conclusion that a project such as the one we envisaged is too ambitious, since it contains several different aspects within one project, yet is not a failure. It is a worthwhile journey that helps us understand the importance of studying orality in connection with collaboration in the digital medium and the value of studies on quotations and fragmentary authors for the secondary sources.
Date of Award2017
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorGiambattista D'Alessio (Supervisor) & John Lavagnino (Supervisor)

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