Professor Sarah DeMaris has been teaching German at Valparaiso University for almost 20 years now, and some of her most exciting work has just begun. A recipient of the Philip and Miriam Kapfer Endowed Faculty Research Award, Professor DeMaris spent her Spring Break of March 2016 in Konstanz, Germany, documenting her discovery of a 500-year-old manuscript.
“I was working many years ago in a library in a town near Konstanz, and the librarian asked me if I had ever been to this convent in Konstanz, because she knew that I had interest in these Dominican convents. When I said no, she immediately telephoned them and asked if this American scholar could come visit,” Professor DeMaris explains. The next day, she toured the archives of that convent, which has been in operation since the 13th century.
“I had no agenda,” Professor DeMaris says with a laugh. “I had a lovely time with the sister who was the archivist. Before I left, she said, ‘Let me show you one more thing,’ and she handed me this big book, it was more than 600 pages, bound in heavy pigskin boards, and I knew immediately what it was.”
Now, several years later, Professor DeMaris has just published an article, “Anna Muntprat’s Legacy for the Zoffingen Sisters: A Second Copy of the Unterlinden Schwesternbuch,” announcing her discovery. “This is a text written earlier in the Middle Ages in Latin in the city of Colmar, now in France,” she explains. “In the city of Colmar was a Dominican convent, and the sisters there wrote mini-biographies of earlier nuns and the miraculous things that they each experienced. This Latin text was translated into Middle-High German, and as far as anyone knew, there was just one manuscript that survived, this was pre-printing press. I was able to discover a second manuscript, a second copy of this German translation.”
Professor DeMaris’ article explores how this manuscript is different from the other and how they both differ from the Latin text. Now, her ongoing project is to continue comparing the two manuscripts and analyze the differences in translations. This is the same kind of manuscript comparison work she did in her recent book, Johannes Meyer: Das Amptbuch(2015). She is currently teaching a seminar on disease, healing, and death in Medieval Germany.