Larger than Life? A Stylometric Analysis of the Multi-Authored 'Vita' of Hildegard of Bingen


Hildegard of Bingen
collaborative authorship

How to Cite

De Gussem, J. (2021). Larger than Life? A Stylometric Analysis of the Multi-Authored ’Vita’ of Hildegard of Bingen. Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, (8), 125–159.


This article explores by aid of stylometric methods the collaborative authorship of the Vita Hildegardis, Hildegard of Bingen's (auto-?)biography. Both Hildegard and her biographers gradually contributed to the text in the course of the last years of Hildegard's life, and it was posthumously completed in the mid-1180s by end redactor Theoderic of Echternach. In between these termini a quo and ante quem the work was allegedly taken up but left unfinished by secretaries Godfrey of Disibodenberg and Guibert of Gembloux. In light of the fact that the Vita is an indispensable source in gaining historical knowledge on Hildegard's life, the question has often been raised whether the Life of Hildegard is – by dint of contributions by multiple stakeholders – a larger-than-life depiction of the visionary's life course. Specifically the 'autobiographical' passages included in the Vita, in which Hildegard is allegedly cited directly and is taken to recount biographical information in the first-person singular, have been approached with suspicion. By applying state-of-the-art computional methods for the automatic detection of writing style (stylometry), the delicate questions of authenticity and collaborative authorship of this (auto?)hagiographical text are addressed.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Jeroen De Gussem


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