M. J. Driscoll

M. J. Driscoll

Den Arnamagnæanske Samling
Nordisk Forskningsinstitut
Københavns Universitet
Njalsgade 136
DK-2300 København S

mjd@hum.ku.dk

KU staff profile

I am senior lecturer in Old Norse philology (norrøn filologi) at the Arnamagnæan Institute (Den Arnamagnæanske Samling), a section of Nordisk Forskningsinstitut, a research institute within the Faculty of Humanities at the University of Copenhagen; since September 2004 I am also head of section and curator of the Arnamagnæan manuscript collection, and from April 2013 a member of the Arnamagnæan Commission. From October 2011 to April 2012 I was Professeur invité at Université de Caen Basse-Normandie and in the autumn semester of 2006 Gastdozent at the Abteilung für Nordische Philologie, Deutsches Seminar, Universität Zürich.

Research interests:

Title page of Lbs 896 4to, Ein nitsa[mle]g Sögu og Rímna Bók, til fródleiks og skémtunar af ímsum samanteknnar af fornum frædibókum og framandi Ritgjördum, hefur að Giöf Lögrettumannsins Monseiur Thorkéls Jóns sonar Anno 1791 þann 15. Janúari med rettu eignast Sigrijdur sál. Sigurdardóttur Hansen; written 1756-75 by Þorkell Jónsson á Hrauni.

My research interests include manuscript and textual studies, particularly in the area of Old and Early-Modern Icelandic. But where traditional textual criticism sought to establish on the basis of the surviving manuscripts of a given work the text closest to the original — even in cases where the question of there ever having been an original could be said to be doubtful, or irrelevant — I prefer to see each manuscript not as a flawed representation of a putative Urtext but rather as a text in its own right, just as worthy of study as any other. I believe furthermore that no text can be dissociated from its physical embodiment, and that one must therefore always look at the whole book — including features such as format, layout, script, decoration and binding, as well as the surrounding texts — and the material processes through which it was produced and consumed, processes involving potentially large numbers of people over long periods of time. By shifting focus from the origins of literary works to their materiality — their existence as artefacts, shaped and reshaped by human hands — I believe we can achieve a better understanding of the structure and mechanisms of the production, dissemination and reception of not just of the chirographically transmitted Icelandic material with which I have chiefly worked, but of texts of any kind, from any place or period.

My current research projects include a book-length study of Magnús Jónsson í Tjaldanesi (1835-1922), an ordinary farmer with no formal education in whose hand are preserved copies, generally more than one, of nearly two hundred sagas, some dozen of which are not found elsewhere.

Stories for all time, Silvia Hifhagel and M. J. Driscoll

Another major project is Stories for all time: The Icelandic Fornaldarsagas, a four-year research project funded by the Velux Foundation the aim of which is to survey the entire transmission history of the Fornaldarsögur Norðurlanda and produce new digital editions of some of the principal manuscripts in which they are preserved. The project's chief deliverable is an electronic catalogue of all the manuscripts in which Fornaldarsaga texts are found, containing information on their format and layout, the other texts they contain and, where known, when, where and for and/or by whom they were written. Ancillary to this is a fully searchable bibliography of editions, translations and secondary material, initiated by me but compiled principally by the ever assiduous Silvia Hufnagel.

Other research projects and networks in which I am currently involved are:

I also participated in the EU-funded projects MASTER (Manuscript Access through Standards for Electronic Records, 1999-2001), CHLT (Cultural Heritage Language Technologies, 2002-2005), ENRICH (European Networking Resources and Information concerning Cultural Heritage, 2007-2009) and DARIAH (Digital Research Infrastructure for the Arts and Humanities, 2008-2011).

I have, in addition, a long-standing involvement in the work of the Text Encoding Initiative. I served on the TEI Council from 2001 until 2010, during which time I acted as chair of the Task Force on Manuscript Description (2003-5), whose job was the definition of a module for the description of text-bearing artefacts, and of the Personography working group (2006-7), which was charged with defining special purpose elements for the markup of biographical and prosopographical data. The work of both these groups has been integrated into the latest version of the TEI Guidelines, TEI P5.

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Academic qualifications:

I hold degrees from the University of Stirling (BA (Hons.) 1979), Háskóli Íslands (Cand.mag. 1988) and Oxford University (D.Phil. 1994). I also have a certificate in Practical Bulgarian (level A1) from the Cyril and Methodius University of Veliko Turnovo (2004) of which I am particularly proud (not least as it included eight hours instruction in Bulgarian folk dancing).

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Publications:

My publications include articles on various aspects of pre-modern Icelandic literature, editions and translations of a number of medieval and post-medieval Icelandic works, as well as the monograph The unwashed children of Eve: The production, dissemination and reception of popular literature in post-Reformation Iceland (London, 1997).

Some recent and forthcoming publications:

For a complete list, including links to those available on-line, click here.

Since 2003 I have been joint general editor (with Margaret Clunies Ross and Mats Malm) of The Viking Collection: Studies in Northern Civilization, published by the University Press of Southern Denmark. I am a member of the advisory boards of several journals, including Gripla, published by Stofnun Árna Magnússonar in Reykjavík, and the Journal of the Text Encoding Initiative.

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Conferences and workshops:

I get around a fair bit, and have given lectures and organised or participated in workshops and summer schools in some 25 countries, principally in Europe, but also places further afield, such as North America, Australia, Russia, Japan and Turkey. The lectures and conference papers have generally been on topics relating to Icelandic manuscripts, while the workshops have mostly dealt with various aspects of text encoding.

Some recent and forthcoming appearances:

For a complete list of invited papers click here.

I am co-organiser, with Ragnheiður Mósesdóttir, of the conference The care and conservation of manuscripts, held every 18 months here in Copenhagen. In 2004 Anne Mette Hansen and I inaugurated the Arnamagnæan summer school in manuscript studies, held alternately in Copenhagen and Reykjavík.

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Other interests:

M. J. Driscoll

Since the late 70s I have dabbled in photography, mostly land- and cityscapes, as well as things of the peeling paint school; it has always seemed to me that, in the right light, there are few things more beautiful than corrugated iron (the image shown here, of a roof in Fjólugata, Reykjavík, was taken in the summer of 1981).

Apart from that, and drinking wine, I have no hobbies worthy of mention. I do, however, have enthusiasms; these currently include, but are not limited to, music by contemporary composers such as Arvo Pärt, Pēteris Vasks, Valentin Silvestrov, Sofia Gubaidulina and Giya Kancheli. I'm quite fond of Bach, too.

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Last update: 2014-04-02