Qualitative Comparison Based on Medieval Source Material
The critical identification, assessment and interpretation of medieval source material is a primary methodological prerequisite for VISCOM. These issues of source criticism will be further fine-tuned and elaborated for specific time-periods, languages, and regions within a cross-cutting working group of VISCOM addressing various dimensions of “narratives” and “historiographies”. Qualitative comparison will be a second methodological focus for critical analysis. Both the temporal and regional forms of comparison are standard procedures in historical and anthropological research. VISCOM sets out to address more daunting issues of comparison across continental, cultural, and broad temporal spans through the ‘transversal’ themes. These integrating theoretical impulses have to be translated into sound methodological practices for cross-cultural and trans-continental forms of comparison. This process will be monitored, pooled, and stimulated through the activities of this Transversal Work Group. At least one member from each of the five project teams will regularly participate, reflecting the plurality of methodologies used in them and giving particular attention to the varied ways of dealing with different kinds of primary sources, as already begun in the first VISCOM phase. This TWG will experiment with 'distant' comparison by evidence-based elaborations of main empirical features of comparison (i.e., “what in the sources may we choose as main textual features or indicators that we compare against each other in this topical realm?”), and by identifying specific criteria of comparison for that (“what in our overarching research questions informs us to ask specific, cross-cutting questions about those features?”). The corresponding comparative activities thus engender a dialogue not only among group members who are experts in their respective source materials, but also in the sense that procedures as such are oscillating between theoretical and conceptual input and heterogeneous medieval evidence. The TWG will also further reflect problems of concepts and terminology.