The Early Text Cultures project seeks to contribute to developing terminology and frameworks for investigating features shared between texts of different cultures, as well as traits that are specific to individual cultures.
The production of written texts in ancient and premodern societies was mediated by sociocultural factors that stimulated and constrained expression in various ways. Certain factors, as well as the resultant texts, occur in neighbouring and contemporary as well as in geographically and chronologically disparate cultures. These parallels can be helpful to modern researchers in several ways. They can help trace historical or diachronic connections; they can also serve as heuristic tools better to understand individual contexts in more depth; and they can lead to unexpected discoveries about texts one thought to be entirely familiar.
This is all because, whether neighbouring or distant, text cultures often pose similar problems. ETC is interested in historical as well as hermeneutic questions. Why did these texts emerge and what was their meaning in their original context? Can we speak of universal text types? If so, to what extent are typological similarities the products of similar sociocultural forces and material conditions? How do the functions of texts and scribal institutions in various societies relate to specific processes of textual formation, transmission, and application?