This past week, Johns Hopkins University hosted an international colloquium “Philology, History, Theory: Rethinking the New Medievalism” in honor of Stephen G. Nichols. The French Embassy, The Fritz Thyssen Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation also provided support for the colloquium. Over the course of three days, I had the stimulating opportunity to interact with several scholars, some of whom are experts on the Roman de la Rose. During a rare opportunity to view a few of the treasures from the Walters Art Museum’s manuscript collection, I overhead Will Noel and Howard Bloch discussing digital manuscripts. They mentioned that digital images allow us to examine details that are not otherwise discernible. Bloch mentioned that there are details in facial expressions that “must have been painted with a brush of a single hair”. Noel noted that these artistic expressions must have been personal in nature, rather than intended for viewers of the manuscript. Bloch cited artwork on the top of cathedrals as another example.
I find it thoroughly exciting that now we might view these personal artistics expressions that have been hidden for so long. Through the Roman de la Rose Digital Library, we have an unprecedented opportunity to figuratively climb to the top of the cathedral.