Quid facit cum psalterio Horatius? A study of literary performance of cultural change in Jerome’s work using digital approaches to intertextuality

conducted by: Marie Revellio

„How can Horace go with the psalter?” (Jer. ep. 22,29,7) This question exemplifies a dichotomy between classical pagan and Christian literature and culture, which engaged the church father Jerome (around 347-420) in his work. Jerome can be regarded as a liminal mediator between different cultural environments: on the one hand the Greek and increasingly Christian influenced east of the Roman Empire and on the other hand the Latin West influenced by the more pagan and polytheistic senatorial aristocracy.
The strong focus on literature itself – treated by Jerome as a foundation constituting Christian identity in the late antiquity – suggests a closer look at the phenomenon of intertextuality in his work. Therefore, intertextuality can be regarded as the literary place to deal with questions of the own cultural positioning. Which classical authors and texts does Jerome quote, which books of the bible does he prefer? Does he handle Christian allusions in a different manner than pagan ones?
Starting point of the study at hand are the intertextual references in Jerome’s letters. Intertextual relations are considered as markers for literary processing of cultural transformation and hybridization through Christianization. The study examines the references’ configuration and their narrative embeddedness. Can the intertextual relations be regarded as instruments of authorization and legitimation of Jerome’s own writing or as strategies of cultural distinction? Are they entangled to Jerome’s conception of Christian authorship?
Comparing the texts and thereby identifying exactly or nearly identical phrases digital text analysis methods, which are in particular designed for the Latin language and especially considering their morphological richness, are used. Automatic morphological, semantical, syntactical and phonological analyses can provide results examining a large body of text material in this case Jerome’s letters, other classical authors and Christian texts. Another aim of the analysis is to compare the results obtained by both, digital approaches and traditional methods of commentators, in order to identify the potentials of each method as well as the combination of both. The in-depth stylistic examination of the references is also flanked by digital text analysis techniques.