The Annotated Star

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“The Annotated Star” is a collaborative international project initiated by researchers seeking to use the digital humanities to preserve and help generate scholarship on the work of the German-Jewish philosopher, translator, and theologian, Franz Rosenzweig. The project engages a number of aspects of Rosenzweig’s oeuvre with the methods of the digital humanities: the intertextuality of his magnum opus, The Star of Redemption (1921), his archival holdings, and his vast network of correspondence as a central figure of the Jewish renaissance in Weimar-era Germany. Indeed, Rosenzweig’s literary estate offers an ideal subject for such digital analyses since it is largely in the public domain and crosses a number of disciplinary boundaries.

  • To build a digital annotation platform for The Star of Redemption. This platform will enable users to annotate passages where Rosenzweig’s text refers, alludes to, or directly cites other texts. The Star of Redemption provides a challenging test scenario for crowd-sourced, interactive scholarship as it draws on a range of disciplines: from philosophy to theology, cultural studies and music, science and literature. The goal is to create an online interface that allows users to share intertextual references, create hyperlinks to navigate between these references, and display such references (and users’ commentary) parallel to Rosenzweig’s original text.
  • To digitize Rosenzweig’s archival holdings. The geography of Rosenzweig’s literary estate reflects the German-Jewish diaspora of the twentieth century. His manuscripts, letters, and library are housed in the United States, Germany, Israel, and Tunisia. In order to overcome national (and institutional) barriers, the aim is to create a centralized online collection of Rosenzweig’s archive.
  • To explore Rosenzweig’s work using digital tools. This aspect involves using various digital tools to analyze Rosenzweig’s work. An example can be found in my article on data visualization and his theory of translation, “Digital Humanities as Translation: Visualizing Franz Rosenzweig’s Archive’.

The significance of combining Rosenzweig’s philosophy with the digital humanities lies in the case he makes for humanistic modes of thought in times of rapid technological development. As Viktor Mayer-Schönberg and Kenneth Cukier contend, the accuracy of information matters little in the world of Big Data, where the ability to recognize large-scale patterns offsets the faults of messy data. In contrast, Rosenzweig’s philosophy reveals the refusal of critique to give up on even the most infinitesimal elements of life and experience. For Rosenzweig, knowledge was a question neither of scientific proof, nor the scale of Big Data, but rather of the accumulation of tradition and the contributions, however minuscule, made by individuals in the service of an unreachable Absolute. Rosenzweig sought to put this theory of knowledge into practice through his work in the Jewish renewal movement and at the Freies Jüdisches Lehrhaus. The different aspects that make up our “The Annotated Star” project follow this lead, taking the open-access tools and iterative processes of the digital humanities as a means of preserving and promoting the legacy of Rosenzweig’s thought in the twenty-first century.

Presentations of this project:

  • “Digital Humanities and German Jewish Studies: Visualizing Franz Rosenzweig’s Archive.” 2017 German-Jewish Studies Workshop at Notre Dame. February 2017.
  • “Digital Humanities and the Problem of Historical Readership.” Modern Language Association. Austin, TX. January 2016.
  • “Digital Humanities as Translation: Visualizing Franz Rosenzweig’s Archive.” Lecture and workshop at “Mapping, Mining — Redefining? The Digital Turn in the Humanities.” University of Pennsylvania. April 2015.
  • “Towards a Messianic Theory of (Digital) Knowledge: Rosenzweig, Digital Humanities, and ‘Bewährung.’” German Studies Association. Kansas City, MO. September 2014.
  • “The Annotated Star: A Collaborative Digital Edition of Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption.” Digital Humanities 2014. Lausanne, Switzerland. July 2014.