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Multi-million funding for centre for medieval European literature

A proposed new centre for the study of medieval European literature based in York and Odense is set to become a reality thanks to an award of nearly £4.5 million funding from the Danish National Research Foundation.

The Centre of Excellence, which will be jointly based at the University of Southern Denmark and the University of York, will radically change the way in which medieval European literature is studied, allowing researchers to look at literature from a pan-European perspective, rather than one based on traditional national boundaries.

The Centre for Medieval Literature, whose roots are in a World Universities Network (WUN) Medieval Multilingualism project, will be officially launched in early 2012. Funding is for six years, with extensions available for a further four years.

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.

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 include workshops, conferences, publications, 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.”

Each year the Danish National Research Foundation awards money for research projects which are considered groundbreaking. Development stages of the Centre for Medieval Literature project team 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.

The University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies is one of the world’s leading centres for interdisciplinary graduate teaching and research into the Middle Ages, with teaching staff drawn from four parent departments – Archaeology, English and Related Literature, History and History of Art. The Department of English and Related Literature distinctively brings together the study of English with that of other European and Middle Eastern languages.

Source: University of York

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