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Nele Diekmann

E-Mail: diekmann[at]schriftbildlichkeit.de


Ph.D. Project

Talbot's Tools: Scientific Notebooks as a Laboratory of Victorian Scholarship



The PhD project aims to analyze processes of operationalization in the scientific production and usage of manuscripts, namely handwritten notebooks in the context of philological research.

Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877), who today is mainly remembered as pioneer of photo-mechanical processes, was a British polymath and stood in the tradition of other „gentlemen of science“, thus being involved in a plethora of different areas of scientific interest, including mathematics, physics, chemistry as well as the etymology of English words or Greek mythology and Egyptology. Ever since the rediscovery of the ancient near eastern cultures, which started in the 1840s, Fox Talbot was interested in decipherment of the complex writing system that is Akkadian cuneiform, which he pursued for the remaining 25 years of his life.

This intense work on assyriological matters led to an extensive scientific legacy in the form of about 120 notebooks pertaining to cuneiform research, ranging from decipherment efforts to philological and etymological analyses of Akkadian, as well as essays concerning Babylonian literature and religion.

Henry Fox Talbot's role in Assyriology has so far been mostly marginalized in publications on decipherment, which is why the PhD thesis will venture to show his cuneiform research in the light of its historical embeddedness in Victorian scholarship.

Furthermore, Fox Talbot's written legacy will be treated as a showcase for the operationalization of script throughout the epistemic process of writing. Thus, it will analyze how Talbot used his notebooks as a „laboratory“ of scholarship in order to approach the completely alien system of writing that is cuneiform and how he employed the „meta-lingual“ tools of correction, addition and commentary in order to enhance his epistemic processes.



Curriculum Vitae


Doctoral candidate in the Graduate Programme „Notational Iconicity“ at Freie Universität Berlin

08/2010 - 09/2011

Reasearch Assistant at the Department of Assyriology, Freie Universität Berlin

10/2007 – 12/2009

Student Assistant within SRF 644 „Transformations of Antiquity“

10/2006 – 02/ 2010

Study of Assyriology and Religious Studies  at Freie Universität Berlin

10/2005 – 06/2006

Study of Assyriology at the University of Cambridge

10/2003 – 06/2005

Study of Assyriology and Religious Studies at Ruprecht-Karls-University Heidelberg



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