Early Text Cultures

Early Text Cultures is a multi-disciplinary project created for discussion of common and similar text types—defined by formal, thematic, or sociocultural features—across ancient and pre-modern text cultures. The project is intended to help students of different regions of the pre-modern world to meet and exchange ideas without being confined to the conventional discourses of particular disciplines.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that similar patterns of text use and development can be traced across different cultures. These patterns define the role of texts in societies, the composition of their audience, the repertoire of text types, and the paths towards the development of creative literature. While there are numerous striking similarities between individual early and pre-modern text cultures, many of these have been understudied. Existing cross-cultural scholarship has furthermore neglected important geographic regions, such as Southeast Asia, which can enrich understanding.

During each of the project meetings, a particular text type will be presented by at least two speakers from different disciplines. We will attempt to select text samples that can contribute to cross-cultural comparison and modelling of cultural forms; the expertise and insights from specialists in particular disciplines are oriented towards this broader objective.

The project is run by graduate students and early-career researchers at the University of Oxford, and is open to anyone interested in cross-cultural and inter-disciplinary discussion of early text types. We maintain a regularly updated list of past events, and anyone is welcome to suggest a new text type for discussion.