Comparing the intertextuality of multiple authors using Tesserae: A new technique for normalization

AbstractThe influences which shaped Roman literature can be traced through the classical practice of imitatio, wherein ancient writers established their literary credibility by reusing the language of their predecessors. Scholars of imitatio use digital tools like the application provided by the open-source Tesserae project to rapidly identify these moments of intertextual engagement between texts. Recent scholarship leverages the scale of Tesserae search results as a measurement of authorial influence. However, to date there is no established methodology for comparing the scale of search results that involve multiple source and target authors. With a theoretically sound technique for normalizing the number of connections discovered by intertextual software, we can meaningfully compare the results of various searches. Such a comparison represents a first step toward measuring the impact of multiple authors upon entire eras of literature. This article proposes a method of normalization of search results which makes it possible to compare the rate of intertextuality across any pair of source and target texts. We illustrate our technique with an investigation of the relative intertextuality of Julius Caesar and Marcus Tullius Cicero with two sets of authors from distinct periods of Roman literature. The results of our quantification are in line with the assertions of philologists on the literary influence of these figures, and support the efficacy of our approach for comparing the relative rates of intertextuality for multiple authors.