4437Re: tc-list Article in Nature
- Sep 1, 1998re missive of 31/08/98 09:26 PM signed -Steven Carr- :
>Apparently there is an article in Nature (vol 394, p 839) giving detailsfrom the BBC:
>of a new text critical program which was applied to Canterbury Tales.
>It seems this new program is based on methods used to find common
>ancestors of DNA strings.
>Thursday, August 27, 1998 Published at 07:54 GMT 08:54 UK-------------------------
>Computer judges Wife of Bath to be chaste
>Chaucer's Canterbury Tales may not be as racy as scholars
>Students of Chaucer may have to rethink their theories about
>one of the most notorious woman in early English literature,
>the Wife of Bath.
>Using evolutionary biology, scientists have been able to
>debunk the long-held theory that the sexually voracious Wife
>of Bath was actually so outrageous.
>Biologists at Cambridge University have used a system
>developed for tracing the origin of the species through
>their DNA to work out which of the 58 surviving versions of
>The Canterbury Tales are closest to the original, which no
>DNA tests show the Wife of Bath to be more demureSome depict
>the wife as coarse and with an indiscriminate sexual
>appetite, but researchers say they can now restore her to
>the personality they believe Chaucer intended.
>The most authentic manuscripts still paint her as
>outrageous, but with hankerings after respectability.
>The infamous passage about her appetite for all men "were he
>short or long or black or white", no matter "how poore" or
>of "what degree", was probably excised by Chaucer and
>replaced by scholars later, the scientists have discovered.
>The results of the research - published in the scientific
>journal Nature - found evidence for believing that Chaucer's
>own copy was not a completed single text but a working
>The researchers, led by Dr Christopher Howe, wrote: "In
>time, this may lead editors to produce a radically different
>text of The Canterbury Tales."
>Dr Christopher Howe and DR Peter Robinson explain how they
>made the breakthroughSpeaking on Radio 4's Today programme,
>one of the literary experts who worked on the project, Dr
>Peter Robinson, said the research made the Wife of Bath a
>"It stresses her desire for social and economic dominance
>rather than her sexual aggression," he said.
>Dr Howe's team worked with manuscript experts from De
>Montfort University in Leicester who are investigating the
>origins of Chaucer's works.
>They used the latest computerised techniques normally used
>by biologists to reconstruct the evolutionary trees of
>different species from their DNA.
>Early hand-copied manuscripts often contain duplicated
>mistakes and variations.
>By comparing the similarities and differences of a number of
>texts, scientists are able to reach conclusions about what
>an original copy was like, even if it has been lost.
>Until now, the technique, known as 'stemmatics', has been a
>laborious manual process only feasible for a few short
>But Dr Howe realised it had much in common with the
>techniques used by evolutionary biologists to track
>different species' family trees.
>He and his team concentrated on The Wife of Bath's Prologue
>to produce a computer-generated family tree showing the
>relationships between the 58 different 15th century versions
>of the story.
>A number of manuscripts formed groups which could be traced
>back to distinct common ancestors.
>One particular group appeared to go back further than the
>others to a point probably close to the missing original.
>Yet these manuscripts had mostly been ignored by scholars.
>Dr Robinson added that the work had given the team a
>"radically more efficient" way of discovering the early
>history of the Tales.
>"It has already suggested vital new approaches to
>long-unsolved problems, which will bring us much closer to
>understanding what Chaucer left behind him at his death."
James R. Covey
WWW Systems Developer
Cochran Interactive Inc.
direct ph. # 902.422.8915
office fax # 902.425.8659
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