Rediscovering French Polemical Pamphlets: New Methods and New Perspectives
From a historical and sociological perspective, few texts offer greater insight into the Protestant Reformation and Wars of Religion in France than the vast body of polemical pamphlets produced throughout the sixteenth century. Engaged authors on both sides of the theological divide effectively leveraged new technologies and increased literacy rates to wage a public war of words that engulfed francophone Europe. In spite of their current historical value, however, these important texts have, in some regard, been lost to modern researchers. The overwhelming volume of these hastily written, inexpensively produced pamphlets creates an unwieldy corpus, even though the lack of literary quality and craftsmanship made them unlikely to have earned a place in permanent collections. Those examples that have survived are scattered throughout special collections, rendered non sequitur by detachment from the larger, deliberately specific conversation that formed them. Our project represents an effort to reconstruct that conversation and make it accessible to researchers throughout the world.
Comprised of a French literature specialist, a digital humanities specialist, and select undergraduates, our team is locating and transcribing sixteenth-century French polemical pamphlets with the goal of creating a searchable online collection. In addition to greater accessibility, these digital transcriptions will be analyzable using modern digital humanities methods.
Christopher M. Flood, PhD – Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian, Brigham Young University (profile)
Jeremy Browne, PhD – Associate Research Professor, Office of Digital Humanities, Brigham Young University (profile)
Primary Student Researchers & Transcription Editors
With the financial support of a Mentoring Environment Grant (MEG) awarded by the university and College of Humanities, these students are paid employees of the project. Dr. Flood trains them to work on the project through ongoing directed studies in: the political, cultural, and religious history of the period; Old and Middle French; and archival research. Their responsibilities include working with Dr. Flood to find and photograph pamphlets in European libraries (with student travel covered by the MEG); transcribing from the photographs using an OCR and a bespoke editing application written by Dr. Browne; and, for the more experienced students, verifying the others’ work.
These students participated in the project through a course taught by Dr. Flood on the literature of the Protestant Reformation in France, which focused in part on pamphlets. Students received assignment credit for the pages they transcribed.