A Multidisciplinary Team of Experts

A single discipline can take a project team only so far. This project is designed to significantly extend paratextual understanding through a network of philologists, cognitive scientists, philosophers, and cultural institutions.

  • Dr. Garrick V. Allen

    After completing my Ph.D. at the University of St Andrews (2015), I worked as a postdoctoral researcher on the ECM-Apk project at the Kirchliche Hochschule Wuppertal/Bethel, where I contributed to the production of a new Greek critical edition of the book of Revelation. From 2016 to 2020 I was Associate Professor in New Testament Studies at Dublin City University. I was appointed to the University of Glasgow in 2020 where I am now the Professor of Divinity and Biblical Criticism. My first book, “The Book of Revelation and Early Jewish Textual Culture” (Cambridge 2017), was awarded the Manfred Lautenschlaeger Award for Theological Promise 2019 and my essay “Monks, Manuscripts, Muhammad, and Digital Editions of the New Testament,” published also in a chapter in my book “Manuscripts of the Book of Revelation” (Oxford 2020), was awarded the Paul J. Achtemeier Award for New Testament Scholarship by the Society of Biblical Literature (2018). My most recent book is “Words are Not Enough: Manuscripts, Paratexts, and the Real New Testament“ (Eerdmans, 2024).

  • Dr. Christoph Scheepers

    I obtained my psychology degree at the University of Bochum in 1991 and my Ph.D. at the University of Freiburg in 1997. I held a two-year post-doc position at the University of Glasgow (1998-2000) before starting a C1 assistant professorship in computational linguistics at the University of Saarbruecken (2000-2003). I then held a lectureship in psychology at the University of Dundee (2003-2005) before moving to Glasgow in October 2005 where I currently hold a senior lecturer position. My main research areas are psycholinguistics and the psychology of language. I employ various brain-imaging and behavioural methods, including the recording of eye movements during reading and linguistically aided scene perception (visual-world paradigm). I’m an editorial board member for JEP:General, Cognition, Frontiers in Language Sciences and Collabra.

  • Dr. Kelsie Rodenbiker

    I completed my Ph.D. at Durham University in 2021. I argued in my doctoral thesis that authorial attribution to significant apostolic figures and the use of exemplary figures from the Jewish scriptural past are both aspects of the ancient literary-rhetorical strategy of exemplarity, the use of a prestigious figure from the past as a model for the present and future. The use of the authorial apostolic pseudonyms of James, Peter, John, and Jude as well as the illustrative scriptural exempla shape the canonical reception of the Catholic Epistle collection. 

    My current streams of research focus on questions of canon and literary reuse, especially concerning pseudepigraphy, the use of scriptural figures, and manuscripts and scribal cultures. I lecture and present regularly on the Catholic Epistles, canon and the canonical process, apocrypha and the ancient perception of pseudepigraphy, and the relationship between Jewish tradition and early Christian literature. 

    I am currently a Fellow of the Centre for Advanced Studies, “Beyond Canon,” at the University of Regensburg; I am a chair of the Later Epistles seminar of the British New Testament Society; and I co-convene the University of Glasgow Biblical Interpretation and Theology seminar.


  • Jill Unkel

    My project unites museum and academic experts in the fields of philology and experimental sciences. Each of the subprojects explores the paratextuality of a particular manuscript culture represented in the Chester Beatty collections (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist). Within these traditions, philological researchers conduct empirical experiments to explore the links between paratexts and understanding. The project will culminate in the transformation of the museum’s special exhibition gallery into a curated experimental space, Words are Not Enough. The series of quantitative experiments in a public context addresses the questions and hypotheses posed by each sub-grantee working with their chosen manuscript culture(s).

  • Elvira Martín-Contreras

    My project studies the role and impact of paratextual elements in reading, understanding, interpreting, and learning the Hebrew Bible. The project has two main objectives: to examine the relationship between the biblical text and the Masora annotations and to investigate the interaction between the Masora and other paratextual elements when they coexist in the margins of the manuscript. Overall, this project aims to uncover the intricate relationship between the biblical text and paratextual elements in Hebrew Bible manuscripts.

  • Francis Watson

    My project sets out from the fact that the same text can be formatted in very different ways and it addresses the question of how these formatting differences affect the reader’s experience. This question is addressed to the text we know as “the Bible,” which originally circulated not as a complete volume but as separate manuscripts of individual books or sub-collections. The project explores the effects of the transition from individual books to “the Bible” by exploring papyrus manuscripts of the New Testament at the Chester Beatty and the 8th-century Codex Amiatinus – the oldest intact single-volume Bible in any language, preserved in Italy but created in the monastery of Wearmouth and Jarrow, made famous by the Venerable Bede.

  • Stefan Schorch

    My project analyzes the impact of paratexts on the perception of Pentateuch manuscripts and their reading within the Samaritan culture. The Samaritan manuscript culture is ancient but still alive and has been preserved within the Samaritan community until today. Literary and visual artwork is an extremely common feature in these manuscripts, but its function and impact have not been determined. The fact that these paratexts generally diminish the readability of the manuscript rather than improving it demonstrates that they do not serve to make the written record more accessible. Preliminary studies suggest that, instead, the paratexts are crucial for creating the experience of a holy text, linking the reader to the historical depth and the actual meaning of its transmission within the community and increasing its appreciation.

  • Dorji Wangchuk

    His project investigates the phenomena of Tibetan Buddhist paratexts from historical, philological, and empirical perspectives, focusing on the Tibetan texts in the Chester Beatty collection. Some of the key research questions are what the nature and function of paratexts in the Tibetan Buddhist textual tradition are; how the phenomena of paratexts evolved and developed in the Tibetan Buddhist cultural sphere; and whether some of the functions ascribed to Tibetan Buddhist paratexts can be corroborated empirically.

  • Asma Helali

    Her project examines the forms, functions, and cognitive values of the paratexts in the Islamic manuscript tradition, focusing on Arabic manuscripts the Chester Beatty library and Arabic texts on variant readings of the Qur’an, like The Book of Beauty. Dr Helali suggests that the paratext is a multi-layered, mobile fragments whose display and flow on the page plays a crucial role in its reception by the reader. In other words, paratexts are central to understanding the Qur’an and its transmission.

  • Matthew Keegan

    His project explores how Muslim scholars in the 12th and 13th centuries added paratextual elements to the texts that they read. These included notes attesting to students reading the text with a teacher, transforming a manuscript into a social document. Dr. Keegan is examining a 12th-century copy of a 10th-century work entitled The Exegesis of Rare Words in the Quran, in which one of the attested students was Saladin’s nephew, who was both a prince and a scholar. The size, spacing, and placement of paratexts attesting to who read and interacted with this manuscript will help shed light on the aesthetic dimension of philological practices.

  • Stephen Carlson & JONATHAN ZECHER

    Our project investigates the marginal notes and commentary (“scholia”) that surround the main text in Byzantine Greek manuscripts. Rather like modern footnotes, scholia are meant to clarify difficulties, expand meanings, and invite reflection on texts. But the aesthetics do not always seem to help. Sometimes the frame commentary script is so tiny, abbreviated, and unfamiliar that it seems to frustrate the unaided reader. To assess the cognitive effects of relatively inaccessible paratexts upon readers of different competencies, this subproject investigates miniature scholia in manuscripts of the Gospels and Pseudo-Dionysius in Paris and Dublin. Through empirical study in collaboration with the scientific team, we seek to determine the cognitive and philological functions of the aesthetics of Byzantine frame scholia and hope to contribute to a better understanding of the cognitive effects of scholia, improve scholarly editions, enhance museum exhibitions, and enrich readers’ experiences of both ancient and modern books today.

Advisory Board

  • Prof. Dr Martin Fischer

    After my undergraduate Psychology degree from RWTH Aachen/Germany, I worked in Massachusetts from 1991-1996, where I investigated eye and body movements and their effects on spatial attention to obtain a Ph.D. After three years as a postdoc at Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, I moved to the University of Dundee. There, I worked for 12 years on various interdisciplinary topics, such as poetry reception, humanoid robots, and numerical cognition, before becoming a full Professor of Cognitive Sciences at the University of Potsdam in 2011. My current research focus is on embodied cognition.

  • Dr. Bo Yao

    I am a cognitive neuroscientist at Lancaster University, UK. My research interests include language, embodied cognition, and consciousness. My current work focuses on neurocognitive mechanisms of inner speech and verbal hallucinations, abstract conceptual processing, discourse reading, and bilingual processing. My research incorporates diverse methods such as behavioural analysis, EEG, fMRI, eye tracking, neurostimulation, and computational modelling.

  • Sinead McCartan

    Prior to joining the Chester Beatty, I was Director of the Northern Ireland Museums Council, supporting 40 local museums across Northern Ireland and working closely with the Historic Environment Division (Department of Communities) to encourage positive and creative use of the historic environment. Between 2008 and 2017, as Head of Collections Research and Interpretation at National Museums Northern Ireland, I had responsibility for six curatorial divisions and exhibition planning across four museum sites. Before moving into museum management, I was curator of Prehistoric Antiquities at the Ulster Museum in Belfast.

  • Dr. Dominic Thompson

    I’m interested in how language and emotion affect each other, as well as the ways we enhance meaning in digital communication such as with emojis and other creative features. To investigate these, I use methodologies from psychology and psycholinguistics including EDA, EMG, EEG, and eye-tracking.

    My current projects include the impact of voicing and dialogue in video games on emotion and engagement; emotional responses to emoticons versus emoji; and processing and understanding of different passive forms in English.

  • Jennifer Knust

    I am a scholar of religion who specializes in early Christian history and the religions of the ancient Mediterranean. Author of “To Cast the First Stone: The Transmission of a Gospel Story” (with Tommy Wasserman, Princeton 2018), “Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire” (HarperONE 2011), and “Abandoned to Lust: Sexual Slander and Ancient Christianity” (Columbia 2005), I study early Christian texts, their contexts, and their receptions from multiple angles, with a particular focus on rhetoric and gendered discourse. My numerous articles, book chapters, and edited books address the materiality of texts, the intersection of Christian practices with other ancient religions, and the ethics of interpretation in ancient as well as contemporary contexts.

Artist in Residence

  • Jennifer Sturrock

    Joining the PSU project as the ‘artist in residence’, Jennifer is a multidisciplinary artist who integrates textiles, fashion and poetry. Currently doing a PhD in ‘Theology Through Creative Practice’ at Glasgow University, she previously studied at Chelsea College of Art and London College of Fashion, before gaining a Masters in Theology & the Arts from Kings College London, majoring in the ‘Idea of Beauty in Western Theology’.

    Formerly Senior Producer of Residencies at the V&A Museum and more recently textile designer for a London-based couture house, she has presented at and worked with a range of organisations (including the RSA, Courtauld Institute, St Paul’s Cathedral and University of the Arts London). Her poetry publication, ‘Pulling Threads’ (April, 2020) has been acquired by the National Poetry Library’s permanent collection in London, as well as the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.