Literary Traditions

A literary tradition (instance of syriaca:LiteraryTradition) is a type of work record which groups together multiple works so closely associated that they are often not distinguished from one another. (See also Composite URIs.)

Conceptually, the term "literary tradition" refers to works that have a single broad identity (such as the Bible or Aristotle's Prior Analytics) but encompass a wide variety of actual texts, which might be, for example, multiple translations or diverging recensions of a work, or different tellings of a narrative. While it is the case that all work records in represent abstract or conceptual works and thus group together manuscript witnesses and editions containing somewhat different texts, literary traditions are too broad in scope to define as a single work without further disambiguation. At the same time, the texts exemplifying them share certain core features, such as title and authorship attribution or a narrative outline, and thus should not be treated as entirely independent of each other. One can envision this difference by thinking of a literary tradition as a work that is not sufficiently homogeneous to edit in a critical edition with a traditional apparatus; rather, one would need to employ parallel columns or other mechanisms to adequately represent it.

On a practical level, listing entries for specific texts under broader literary traditions allows for convenient identification. Users searching for translations of Aristotle's Prior Analytics into Syriac may not know which versions exist and will find them more easily under the literary tradition entry. Archivists may not be able to identify which particular text they are cataloguing, but can still identify it using the URI for the more generic literary tradition. Conversely, researchers who wish to precisely identify a particular text may do so using the more specific work record for that text (such as the Syriac translation of Aristotle's Prior Analytics by George, bishop of the Arabs).



Requirements for Creating a Literary Tradition Record

Typically, a record should be created for a literary tradition only when there are already two or more work records that will be related to it. (See Relating Literary Traditions to Other Works below.) Editions, translations, manuscript witnesses, and so on should always be placed in the more specific record for the text when possible. An exception may be made when the literary tradition cannot yet be adequately disambiguated, in which case the record and its URI serve to provide preliminary identification until specific texts can be related to the literary tradition. For example, the creator of a record for "Matthew in Arabic translation according to the Peshitta Version" may not have sufficient information to distinguish the different versions appearing in manuscripts and should therefore create this as a literary tradition that directly contains the manuscript citations and does not point to more specific work records.

Designating a Literary Tradition

Work records of the literary tradition type should be designated in the record in both a human-readable and machine-readable way:

Human-Readable: Add " (literary tradition)" to the end of the record title (/TEI/teiHeader/fileDesc/titleStmt/title) and the English headword work title (/TEI/text/body/bibl/title[@xml:lang='en' and contains(@syriaca-tags,'#syriaca-headword')]). For example,

<title level="a" xml:lang="en">Alexandra (literary tradition) — <foreign xml:lang="syr">ܐܠܟܣܢܕܪܐ</foreign></title>


<title xml:id="name2057-2" xml:lang="en" source="#bib2057-1" syriaca-tags="#syriaca-headword">Alexandra (literary tradition)</title>

Machine-Readable: The main bibl node (/TEI/text/body/bibl) should have @type='syriaca:LiteraryTradition'. This allows it to be visualized correctly and to be serialized into RDF with the correct class. For example,

<bibl xml:id="work-2057" type="syriaca:LiteraryTradition">

Relating Literary Traditions to Other Works

Conceptual Issues

Works may be related to literary traditions in one of two ways: as a specific text exemplifying the literary tradition (skos:broadMatch) or as another literary tradition contained within the literary tradition (dct:isPartOf). This is well illustrated in the complex case of the Bible (see diagram below). A literary tradition should be shown to exemplify another literary tradition (i.e., belong to a broader literary tradition) only when this is really necessary, as in the case of Ezra (

Literary Traditions and Works

TEI Encoding

Record the relationship between a literary tradition and other works using a <relation> element in the record defining the smaller, more specific, or narrower work -- thus, the work that is an example of the literary tradition or the literary tradition that is part of a larger literary tradition.

As with all relation elements, the @ref attribute should have an RDF property for which the entity in @active is the subject and the entity in @passive is the object. In this case the RDF property is either skos:broadMatch or dct:isPartOf, depending on the type of relation (see above).

For example,

<relation active="" ref="skos:broadMatch" passive="" source="#bib410-1"/>

Expected Search and Browse Behavior

We anticipate that in most cases users looking for works will search for broad literary traditions (such as "Prior Analytics") rather than granular level texts. For this reason, search and browse results should default to showing top-level literary traditions with exemplified works as a sub-item. (Contained works should not be shown in search and browse.) Works that do not have a relation/@ref='dct:isPartOf' or relation/@ref='skos:broadMatch' pointing to a literary tradition should still be displayed by default in search results.