Perspectives for the Interpretation of Medieval Legal Texts
In the initial phase, the project “Perspectives for the Interpretation of Medieval Legal Texts” focuses on the exploration of the written sources from the first millennium AD. This era in some ways exhibits distinctive features as far as the sources are concerned: The overwhelming majority are not only written in one language–Latin in the West, Greek in the East–but the overall volume of texts is quite manageable and is even accessible via databases. However, the normative sources found in these databases play a relatively significant role, such as texts of the Church Fathers. The same applies to legal texts. When considering the problems of content comprehension, the depth of investigation undertaken thus far, and the complicated relational dependencies with respect to one another, it should come as no surprise that these works pose a challenge for every analytical examination.
The analysis of words or sentences, which can be taken out of different contexts or genera, mark the centre of the investigation of these texts. Three key focuses are central to this endeavour: the sources, their quality and the quantity of the references. These three are tied together and intertwined by the formulation of the guiding question itself, which not only determines the selection of texts but also establishes the initial parameters regarding quality (e.g. “normative sources of the Latin West during the first millennium”).
The process begins with the formulation of the central question guiding the research, where both the approach and the end result remain open and uncertain. The hypothesis defines the criteria for the selection of sources and, therefore, plays a role in the assignment or categorization of the texts: normative texts, legal sources, writings of the Church Fathers, etc. And even though historiographical texts from the first millennium AD could prove relevant with regards to certain aspects of adoption and dissemination, they will only be given limited consideration. The same applies to special type of sources, such as liturgy, hagiography etc.