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Michael Philip Penn F'16, F'11

Michael Philip Penn

Professor
Religious Studies
Stanford University
last updated: 05/02/17

ACLS Digital Extension Grants 2016
Principal Investigator
Mount Holyoke College
The Automated Scribal Identification Project

Project Team: Catherine Chin, University of California, Davis; Nick Howe, Smith College; Ayda Kaplan, Independent Scholar; Adam McCollum, University of Vienna; Claire Woods, Duke University. As a collaboration between a historian of religion and a computer scientist, the Automated Scribal Identification Project applies recent advances in the digital analysis of handwriting to ancient manuscripts. The current version of the program accurately matches pages written by the same scribe and has assembled a database of over 70,000 letter images from the majority of the earliest dated Aramaic manuscripts. The ACLS Digital Extension Grant supports the creation of a software package that identifies the scribe of a given manuscript and approximates the date of composition. By allowing scholars to identify multiple documents written by the same scribe, this system will help establish a work’s provenance, discern manuscripts that have been divided between modern libraries, trace the development of scribal schools, and approximate the content of monastic collections.

Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars 2011
Associate Professor
Religion
Mount Holyoke College
Syriac Christian Reactions to the Rise of Islam

Syriac Christians were the first Christians to encounter Muslims and they wrote the earliest and most extensive references to Islam. Nevertheless, because few scholars read the Aramaic dialect of Syriac, these witnesses to the initial strata of Christian-Muslim relations remain virtually unexamined. This project provides the first comprehensive investigation of these neglected works. Because these texts pre-date most extant Arabic writings, making these texts accessible to scholars and to the broader public will substantially enhance knowledge of Islamic origins and of the earliest encounter of the modern world’s two largest religions.

Publications

Envisioning Islam.
Envisioning Islam. University of Pennsylvania, 2015.

When Christians First Met Muslims.
When Christians First Met Muslims. University of California Press, 2015.