York launch of Centre for Medieval Literature

Posted on 19 April 2012

A new centre for the study of medieval European literature will be officially launched in York on Tuesday 8th May

Members of the Centre for Medieval Literature with the international 'Interfaces' group

The Centre for Medieval Literature, a centre of excellence funded by an award of nearly £4 million from the Danish National  Research Foundation, will be jointly based at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of York.  The centre will radically change the way in which medieval European literature is studied, allowing researchers to look at literature from a pan-European and interdisciplinary perspective, rather than one based on traditional national boundaries and modern disciplines.

The project is led by Professor Lars Boje Mortensen and Dr Christian Høgel from the University of Southern Denmark and Dr Elizabeth Tyler from the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies and Department of English and Related Literature. Their team comprises scholars from across Europe and the United States.

The centre's roots are in a Worldwide Universities Network (WUN) Medieval Multilingualism project. Funded initially for six years, extensions available for a further four years.

Dr Tyler said: “The award represents significant funding for the humanities. The Centre for Medieval Literature will help shape the study of medieval European literature for the 21st Century, providing co-ordination of activities and intellectual leadership, enabling European stories to be told about the medieval past.

“Established accounts framed within 19th and 20th century nationalism have been discredited and we require new European approaches. Plans are afoot for new literary histories, translation programmes and digital resources all aiming at European study of medieval literature. The new centre will seek new answers to fundamental questions which need to be asked before such work can be carried out, including: What was medieval? What was Europe? What was literature? It will involve scholars working with all literatures of Europe, with expertise from Iceland to the Middle East.”

The centre will host workshops, conferences, publications (including an open-access journal), PhD students and postdoctoral posts. It will also organise outreach activities, such as working with museums and media, impacting on the public understanding of the European past.

Professor Mortensen said: “There is a growing hunger for genuinely inter-lingual and inter-regional study of medieval European literatures. We do not aim to write a new comprehensive history of medieval literature; rather we seek to provide new frameworks for studying European medieval texts.

“These frameworks will not only impact on the stakeholder disciplines within medieval studies and the teaching of medieval literature, but also redefine the significance of the medieval literary heritage within a modern and a global cultural context. This will mainly be done through systematic comparison of literary phenomena between European medieval literatures, but also by breaking out of an ‘isolationist’ view of the Middle Ages and drawing on scholars specialised in Antiquity and in post-medieval Europe.”

The Danish National Research Foundation supports a number of groundbreaking Centres for Excellence. Development stages of the Centre for Medieval Literature were supported by the Nordic Centre for Medieval Studies (Bergen, Odense, Gothenburg, Helsinki), the Centre for Medieval Studies and the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York, the Fondation des Treilles in France and the World Universities Network. The University of York’s International Seedcorn Fund, which aims to stimulate innovative and sustainable international collaborations in research and teaching with one or more institutions abroad, has also provided support.

Go to the website of the Centre for Medieval Literature