The Greco-Roman and Early Byzantine tale (2nd – 7thc. AD) is the subject of a research programme of the University of Cyprus entitled: “Storyworlds in Collections: Toward a Theory of the Ancient and Byzantine Tale”. The Programme is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the Republic of Cyprus. The research team consists of researchers from the University of Cyprus and other European universities (University of Southern Denmark and University of Uppsala).
TaleTheory will pursue groundbreaking research in Classics, Byzantine Studies and Literary Criticism by writing a critical history of the ancient and early Byzantine tale and by positing the first relevant theory based on a corpus of representative, yet understudied texts, which have come down to us in the form of collections. Moreover, TaleTheory seeks to disseminate the project findings and outcomes to the wider community, and it works with therapists, educators, sociologists, and the general public to exchange information in an effort to cultivate awareness concerning the importance of storytelling and story writing to self-understanding and emotional development and stability.
University of Cyprus
AnonymClassic is the first-ever comprehensive study of Kalila and Dimna (a book of wisdom in fable form), a text of premodern world literature. Its spread is comparable to that of the Bible, except that it passed from Hinduism and Buddhism via Islam to Christianity. Its Arabic version, produced in the 8th century, when this was the lingua franca of the Near East, became the source of all further translations up to the 19th century. The work’s multilingual history involving circa forty languages has never been systematically studied. The absence of available research has made world literature ignore it, while scholars of Arabic avoided it because of its widely diverging manuscripts so that the actual shape of the Arabic key version is still in need of investigation.
Free University, Berlin
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In the medieval Eurasian geopolitical space, Byzantium and China stand out as two centralised imperial orders that drew on seemingly unbroken, in fact purposely constructed, traditions of classicising learning. With generous support from the European Research Council (ERC), the PAIXUE project examines in tandem, with equal focus on structural parallels and divergences, the conscious revival and subsequent dialectics of classicising learning in middle and later Byzantium (c.800–1350) and Tang/Song China (618–1279). Initially tied into aristocratic culture, it became a tool by which the imperial state sought to monopolise prestige and access to power so as to effectively channel the activities of newly emerging burgeoning ‘middling’ strata into the service of empire. As time progressed, it was also the basis upon which these new elites constructed novel forms of subjectivity that claimed authority and agency increasingly independent of the imperial state.
PAIXUE traces this evolution of classicising learning in Byzantine and Tang/Song literati culture from two angles. The ﬁrst examines the galvanising function of social performances that involved classicising learning in the imperial systems. The second places the individual literatus centre-stage and explores the transformations of self-awareness, ethos, and self-cultivation. Given PAIXUE’s concern with examining phenomena cross-culturally in the longue-durée, rather than merely juxtaposing ‘spotlight’ impressions, a comparison of these two imperial systems does not only allow for deeper insights into the historical development of both China and Byzantium: it opens the possibility of studying cultural mechanisms behind the formation of institutions, practices and values. The project explores novel forms of collaboration in the humanities, including the co-authoring of research output between Byzantinists and Sinologists. Byzantium, frequently perceived as the ‘Other’ within western culture to the present day, serves here to build meaningful bridges to (pre-modern) China.
University of Edinburgh
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Mount Athos in Medieval Eastern Mediterranean Society, an ERC Grant in the Humanities, constitutes the first comprehensive examination of the monastic communities of Mount Athos as independent actors in medieval Eastern Mediterranean Society. This “monastic republic” was intimately connected with the Byzantine Empire, the various Orthodox principalities of the Balkans and Caucasus, South Italy, as well with the Ottoman Empire. By taking advantage of considerable advances in subfields like prosopography, analyzing and making available a set of sources (lists of commemoration) that are either poorly studied or unedited, and by bringing together an interdisciplinary team (a Byzantinist, Slavicist and Kartvelologist) under the direction of Dr Zachary Chitwood, MAMEMS will transform the way the Holy Mountain is viewed within scholarship and the general public via a triad of leitmotifs: wealth, ethnicity and gender (WEG). The exploration of these topics will be undergirded by the creation of a prosopographical database, Prosopographika Athonika, containing entries for every monk to have resided on the Holy Mountain, every Athonite benefactor and every person to have visited there from ca. 850 to 1550, that is from the time of the first surviving documents in the Athonite archives until the founding of the last of the major Athonite houses, Stavronikita. This database will finally allow a concrete analysis of how medieval Mount Athos was embedded within wider networks of economic interests, church leadership, intellectual exchange and patronage.
Johannes Gutenberg University, Mainz
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The aim of this project is to investigate new possibilities for reading the fourteen Sagas of Icelanders commonly referred to, often in a derogatory manner, as ‘post-classical’. These sagas have not received the kind of scholarly attention that has been devoted to other texts, and negative attitudes towards them, their plots, characters, and apparent fictionality, have prevailed for a long time. The intention behind this project is therefore not only to reappraise and respond to these prejudices, but to offer a new approach to these texts that ultimately aims to reignite interest in them as both a group of texts and individual texts, as well as to integrate them in the larger context of saga literature. This approach is, on the one hand, based on a reading of the sagas that takes into account a triangulation of individual, paranormal, and social dimensions, which together form the main structure from which saga plots are derived. On the other hand, and to account for their problematic fictionality, the project offers a new approach to the narrative world of these sagas that is based on narratological theories of storyworlds. As expansions of what one might term the ‘sagaverse’, these late Íslendingasögur can then be read in the socio-cultural context in which their world is anchored.
Dr Rebecca Merkelbach is currently developing this idea of a ‘sagaverse’, a common narrative world that underlies much, if not all, of medieval Icelandic prose literature, into a bigger project. Taking the findings of the previous study as a starting point, the intention is to take a broader view of the sagas that also takes narratives from other genres, such as the fornaldarsögur (legendary sagas) and riddarasögur (chivalric sagas), into account. The aim will be to not only develop a theoretical approach to the narrative world(s) of saga literature, but also to offer alternatives to ideas of fictionality and historicity, genre and chronotope that are current in saga scholarship.
University of Tübingen
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This project deals with a collection of medieval texts known as the Miracles of the Virgin Mary, composed and preserved in various cultural environments of Europe and the Christian Orient. Biannual international workshops bring together scholars working on this material, including the visual realisations of the stories. A database giving access to textual and pictorial material is under construction [ID: guest/ password: guest].
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The project concerns research on, and preparation of an edition and translation of, Greek narratives of the lives of Saint Barbara and Saint Katherine. The project is a collaboration of David Konstan and Daria Resh. It is funded by a three-year grant by the National Endowment for the Humanities (USA) and is housed at New York University.
Barbara and Katherine, two early Christian martyrs, were among the most popular saints of the Middle Ages. Celebrated in most European languages, from refined literature to folk songs and magic spells, stories about them became archetypal narratives that conditioned the perception of women in Europe and beyond from the 4th c. to today. From the earliest Greek versions till the year 1000, the narratives underwent significant changes in plot and literary form. But the early history of this intricate tradition has never been reconstructed and the ancient texts pertaining to the legends remain unpublished or poorly edited. This project will produce critical editions, with extensive historical and philological introductions and annotation, of nineteen late antique and medieval Greek versions of Barbara’s and Katherine’s stories. The recovery and cultural preservation of these narratives will contribute to the histories of gender, ritual, religious subjectivity, and premodern European literatures.
New York University
The Narrative Hierarchies project explores medieval history, gender, and power relations by examining the narrative organisation of history writing (ca. 1200–1460). Its guiding research questions include:
The core project team consists of Matthew Kinloch (PI), working on 13th–15th century Byzantine historiography, and Thomas Morcom (postdoctoral fellow), working on Icelandic saga literature.
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A three-year project (2023-25), funded by the Czech Science Foundation and affiliated to the Institute of Slavonic Studies, Czech Academy of Sciences, offers a fresh analysis of female characters in late Byzantine literature, achieved through the trans-generic examination of literary texts, combining corpus analysis with narratology. By studying both ‘factual’ and ‘fictional’ genres, the project moves beyond traditional modes of analysis, which have focused on extracting historical facts from these texts. It aims instead to understand how Byzantine literature represented women, through the critical analysis of individual female characters, the narrative structures in which they are embedded, and the gendered textual dynamics which determine their presentation. The analysis of a corpus of key texts will be enriched by comparison with relevant material culture. As well as enriching the study of Byzantium, this project also contributes to the rapidly developing field of historical narratology, by adding to the narrative theory on characters and characterization in pre-modern literatures.
Czech Academy of Sciences, Prague
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The Centre for Medieval Literature (CML) is a Centre of Excellence founded in 2012 and funded for ten years by the Danish National Research Foundation. It is based at the History Department of the University of Southern Denmark (Odense) and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York.
The CML works to establish theoretical models for the study of medieval literature on a European scale, set within wider Eurasian and Mediterranean contexts, from c. 500 CE to c. 1500 CE. Our research is interdisciplinary and multilingual, combining literary study with history, history of art, history of science, and other disciplines. We cover a broad range of topics, looking across and beyond the established medieval literary canons, in order to open up the movement of texts across both space and time. We look at medieval literatures within a wide geographical area, considering, for example, the multilingualism of Constantinople, Iberia and Anglo-Saxon England, Byzantine literature’s place along the Silk Road and the literary consequences of the geographical and linguistic extent of the German Empire. Equally, we are engaged with how texts create links back and forth between the past and the present, whether that past is ancient or medieval and whether that present is medieval or modern.
University of Southern Denmark / University of York
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Novel Saints: Ancient Fiction and Hagiography Research Centre serves as a platform for multiple projects at the Ghent University. The novel is currently the most popular literary genre worldwide. Yet its early history has hardly been written. The research team of Novel Saints aims to enhance our understanding of this history (both conceptually and cross-culturally) by studying the novel in antiquity (both Latin and Greek) as well as its persistences in late antique and early medieval narrative traditions. This period has so far constituted a blind spot on the radar of scholars working on the history of the novel, much to the detriment of the study of narrative in subsequent periods, as the medieval era has been regarded as an ‘empty’ interim period between the late antique representatives of the genre (ca. 3rd-4th cent.) and the re-emergence of the novel in 11th-12th-century Byzantium and 11th-century Persia. Methodologically, the team combines insights from both ancient and modern rhetorical and literary theories.
University of Ghent
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Literatures without Borders. A Historical-Comparative Study of Premodern Literary Transnationality is a scinetific reserach unit, financed by a royal grant for the establishment of a Scientific Research Unit by the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO). Under the auspice of RELICS research group, this SRU will coordinate international collaboration for a period of 5 years (with possible extensions). The aim of the network is to strengthen the links between 16 research units (Flemish and international) through the funding of workshops (or seminars / webinars), conferences and publications.
The international research group RELICS (Researchers of European Literary Identities, Cosmopolitanism and the Schools) brings together researchers interested in the dynamic role of Latin as a European literary and cultural language. Its aim is to cross traditional periodic demarcations and the borders between different regional or national languages and literatures.
University of Ghent
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Monastica was created in 2013 within the research program “Early Monasticism and Classical Paideia” on the basis of an earlier database and is housed by the Faculty of Humanities and Theology at Lund University. It is currently run by the research project “Formative Wisdom – The Reception of Monastic Sayings in European Culture: Scholarly Collaboration on a Digital Platform” directed by Professor Samuel Rubenson with Dr. Britt Dahlman, Dr. Elisabet Göransson and Dr. Karine Åkerman Sarkisian as researchers and Johan Åhlfeldt as research engineer.
The goal of Monastica is to register all sources that contain dossiers of apophthegmata as well as early monastic texts that either quote from the apophthegmata or are used in dossiers of apophthegmata. The material is systematized and presented grouped by editions, manuscripts and modern translations and within each by language, as well as by reference series and catalogue numbers, and by indices of Biblical reference, Persons and Places. For each source, or part of source, selected the user can obtain a general overview, a concordance according to its structure, the text itself with (if published), transcript of selected manuscripts, variants in or relations to other sources. Relations can also be visualized, and geographical references seen in scalable interactive maps.
University of Lund
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