What Is Medieval European Literature?
By Paolo Borsa, Christian Høgel, Lars Boje Mortensen and Elizabeth Tyler
Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, Issue 1 (2015)
Abstract: The editors of Interfaces explain the scope and purpose of the new journal by mapping out the significance and possible meanings of the three key terms of the subtitle: ‘literature,’ ‘medieval,’ ‘Europe.’ The specific theme of Issue 1 is introduced: ‘Histories of Medieval European Literatures: New Patterns of Representation and Explanation.’ With respect to this theme, theoretical problems concerning teleology and the present possibilities for literary historical narratives are raised. Finally the editors state the journal’s commitment to a scholarly forum which is non-profit and open-access. The bibliography refers to key critical reading which shapes the journal’s approach to medieval European literatures.
Introduction: It is a great pleasure for us to publish the first issue of Interfaces. A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, offering free availability for all. We believe that open access supports the scope of our journal which is international, multilingual and committed to global knowledge dissemination in order to engage in debates about broad comparisons, connections and long-term history.
Interfaces responds to the conviction that the reframing of the rich literature surviving from the Middle Ages within a Europe, whose boundaries are permeable and contested in the Middle Ages as now, will open up a new resource: for historical understandings of the period with emphases on books, voices, discourses and languages; for modern aesthetic and intellectual education concerned with long-term human experience and its verbal expression; and for much more nuanced dialogues between pre-modern subjectivities and twenty-first-century interests in the deep past and its preservation for the future – all across emerging technical, institutional, and linguistic platforms.
Such tenets and approaches are increasingly and productively being cultivated in specialized philological, literary and historical scholarship. Interfaces aims to become a channel for this new thinking by establishing a forum for wider scholarly conversations across European languages and beyond national canons. In equal measure, we also want to make an imprint on future scholarship by setting up signposts legitimizing research practices which play a less specialized game: rigorous, peer-reviewed textual, historical and cultural scholarship, but of an outward-looking and wide-ranging nature which fosters discussion across specialisms; research which seeks comparisons and connections, and is driven by questions that cross traditional geographical, chronological or disciplinary boundaries. In this way we hope that Interfaces can contribute to reshaping the study of medieval European literatures by disclosing patterns, connections and themes which have remained uncharted or unseen in existing frameworks and we thus encourage readers to engage across the full range of each published issue. The modern study of the immense medieval textual record oscillates between the extension of the impressive edifices of the canonical few and the more basic ground-level work on lesser known pieces, with much exciting material still neglected due to anonymity, marginal language, or rigid categories of genre. Interfaces will display, promote and put in dialogue the entire range of medieval texts in order to contribute to a wider move away from overspecialization in academic research. Such a move, we believe, will enable both fresh and larger research questions to be seen and addressed and more meaningful participation in public debate about the cultural legacy of Europe.
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