Media history of the Psalms

Text of Psalm 136/7 with framing commentary,
Strasbourg before 1481, Herzog August Bibliothek,
Wolfenbüttel, A 45c.2° Helmst.

Project in the cluster “Text and frame. Modes of Presenting Canonical Works” in the research network Marbach – Weimar – Wolfenbüttel

Psalms belong to the oldest poems in existence. From antiquity onwards, this mostly sung literature has been handed down to us in many forms. In the collections of the three institutions involved in this project there are psalms as part of entire Bibles, in commentaries to the Bible, in missals, in richly illustrated books of hours, in music editions with many different settings as well as in countless literary adaptations from the Middle Ages up to the present. This variety within the psalm tradition will allow the project to determine which forms of Latin, Middle Low German, and Early New High German poetry were highly esteemed and elaborately cultivated, and by doing so to explore their historical aesthetics and poetics.

The other two parts of the project “Text and Frame” are “The Faust Theme in Text and Image”, which will be dealt with in a project at the Klassik Stiftung Weimar, and “The Classics in the Insel Publishing House ca. 1900–1930”, which will be the contribution of the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach. On a more general level, the cluster addresses the question: What is it that makes these works canonical? The project works on the hypothesis that an appeal to the senses plays a decisive part. This lies, for example, in the tangible and visible materiality of books, but also in presentations in words, gestures, and song. The research group will analyse how canons are subject to trends and examine the conditions and limitations of the media employed, thus providing a critique of collections in the Enlightenment sense of the term.


Project information:


Funding: Bundesministerium für Bildung und Forschung im Rahmen des MWW-Verbundes
Duration: February 2014 – January 2017
Researcher: PD Dr. Ursula Kundert
Digital Humanities Support: Timo Steyer
Manuscript Database: Torsten Schaßan
Phone: +49(0)5331 808-233, Fax -277