Panagiotis Agapitos, Paolo Borsa, Venetia Bridges, Michael Cooperson, Réka Forrai, Jane Gilbert, Christian Høgel, Karla Mallette, Lars Boje Mortensen (organisateur), Máire Ní Mhaonaigh, Gudrun Nordal, Thomas (Tom) O’Donnell, Michael Chaim Rand, Jeff Rider, Sacramento Rosello-Martinez, Susanna Torres Prieto, Elizabeth Tyler (organisateur), David Wacks, David Wallace
by Elizabeth Tyler and Lars Boje Mortensen
21 – 26 avril 2014
The seminar acted as a workshop for “Interfaces” – a network of historians of medieval literature which has met regularly since its foundation in 2009 and which is now supported by the Centre for Medieval Literature (CML), a Centre for Excellence based at University of Southern Denmark and the University of York and funded by the Danish National Research Foundation until 2022. At Les Treilles, we opened up the Interfaces agenda of cross-linguistic and trans-regional approaches the literary past of Europe extending them towards the Mediterranean and the Slavic to broaden from our previously more northern centre of gravity. Two roundtables, one on the “Mediterreanean” and the other on “French Outside of France”, opened up methodological insights and potential for paradigm transfer between disciplines and geographical areas. The workshop’s aim to foster deep collaboration across a wide range of areas of diverse expertise resulted in a number of ambitious future plans, including publications, workshops and conferences, all of which will bear the hallmark of the methods and paradigms explored in Les Treilles.
Mots clés : Littérature, Moyen-Âge, Europe, français ancien, latin, grec, Byzance, culture méditerranéenne, histoire, langues, canon littéraire, patrimoine culturel
The seminar acted as a workshop for “Interfaces” – a network of historians of medieval literature which has met regularly since its foundation in 2009. In 2011, “Interfaces” held a first seminar at Les Treilles which focused on consolidating the network and articulating its approach to European frameworks for the study of medieval literature. This methodological work then underpinned two major developments which were worked on at Les Treilles. First, a successful application by Høgel, Mortensen and Tyler for a Centre for Excellence was made to the Danish National Research Foundation: the Centre for Medieval Literature (CML), jointly based at universities of Southern Denmark and York, runs from 2012-2022. Second: a new journal was founded by Borsa, Høgel, Mortensen and Tyler: Interfaces: A Journal of Medieval European Literatures, an open access, online journal, will be the first to range across all of European medieval literature.
For this second Les Treilles meeting we opened up the “Interfaces” agenda of cross-linguistic and trans-regional approaches the literary past of Europe extending towards the Mediterranean and the Slavic areas to counterbalance the more Northern European trend of our previous workshops. A number of newcomers were therefore invited who could contribute with a pan-European approach as well as with specific expertise in Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Hebrew, Slavonic, and Greek medieval literatures. We worked to forge new connections across European scholarly traditions and to drive forward the European agenda of “Interfaces” and CML in dialogue with other scholars and projects.
Our stay at Les Treilles in 2014 gave us the opportunity to develop new types of interaction, and these innovations proved very positive. Les Treilles offers a scholarly environment that is close to ideal. Situated in peaceful surroundings, and furnished with library facilities and art works, scholars feel no hesitation to enter a work mode that is at once intense and relaxed. At our first stay at Les Treilles in 2011, participants experienced the benefits of this environment but we also regretted having planned the days of our seminar along traditional lines, with full papers being given and correspondingly less time for discussion and development of new ideas. For the 2014 programme we therefore downsized presentations. Only newcomers to “Interfaces” made formal presentations, introducing their fields to the group. Mortensen brought the new developments of the CML to bear on the week’s work by giving a presentation on the modern canons of medieval European literature.
Apart from these specific presentations, all time was dedicated to various types of group work. Two major round-table sessions on “French outside France” and on the “Mediterranean” were planned and headed by the researchers of these fields. Both roundtables opened up methodological insights and potential for paradigm transfer between disciplines and geographical areas.
At two points in the programme, the participants were paired in activities we labelled “walk and talk”. In the first of these sessions the pairs were asked to present their work plans to each other and then give a short report of the other person’s work at a plenary session. At the second “walk and talk” new pairs were asked to come up with ideas for collaborative work. These activities not only allowed fruitful new ideas to materialize and be shared, but also gave the participants time and opportunity to combine scholarship with exploring the domain of Les Treilles. In the final session, plans were laid for a 2016 comprehensive conference (bringing together both CML and the “Interfaces” network), ranging across Europe and the Middle Ages (to be organized by Høgel, Mortensen and Tyler). We agreed that the mode of this conference will draw heavily on the collaborative and methodological approaches which the environment of Les Treilles encourages.
During our time at Les Treilles, our own individual research was enhanced and stretched by being articulated within wider European frameworks. In addition, the various types of scholarly interaction gave rise to fresh takes on previous collaboration (e.g. Agapitos, Borsa, Gilbert, Høgel, Mortensen, NíMhaonaigh, O’Donnell, Rider, Tyler and Wallace) as well as to a number of new ideas, plans and cooperations, crossing disciplines in ways that rarely happen at traditional conferences. Some of these were:
• Wide collaborative project on mise en texte and mise en page of verse in the European tradition, from antiquity to the print era. No cross-linguistic study of the visual side of medieval poetry exists; there are huge differences of representation of poetry (later standardized with print). This could form the core of a European bid/network (Agapitos, Borsa, Cooperson, O’Donnell, Rand, Torres Prieto and Wacks).
• Plans were continued for a conference for 2015/2016 whose working title is ”From Lotharingia to Burgundy”. Organized by Gilbert, O’Donnell and Tyler, this will cover literary culture in the area where French and German met, from the ninth century through to the end of the Middle Ages. Thinking for this workshop will draw on both the ”French outside of France” and ”Mediterranean” roundtables.
• A workshop was planned for 2015 by the CML postdocs present (Bridges, Forrai and Rosellò-Martinez). They will interrogate what is meant by ”social networks” during the Middle Ages and how different kinds of networks (monastic, court, papal and urban) might be conceptualized in order to move towards a theory of medieval networks that could be applied across a wider geographical space (will include Wallace and others from CML and ”Interfaces”).
• A seminar on biblical epic (a widespread response to the biblical inheritance of Europe) will be held by NíMhaonaigh with Rand, Torres Prieto and Tyler on 17 November 2014 in Cambridge. It is intended that this forms the starting point for more comparative work on this topic.
• Høgel’s plans for a wokshop (Odense, November 2014) and further writing on ‘imperial’ languages got important input from the Mediterranean roundtable as well as individual discussions.
• Cooperson’s presentation on Jurji Zaydan’s adoption of von Kremer’s Kulturgeschichte, and on alternative, indigenous literary histories is the kernel of a book he is writing on Abbasid cultural history. The occasion of the seminar helped him develop these ideas.
• Wacks’ presentation on the state of medieval Iberian studies in North America was subsequently posted as a blog; it was picked up by CML and will in turn appear on Sephardic Horizons.
• Various plans were made for special issues of the Interfaces journal.
The marvellous surroundings and organization at Les Treilles proved extremely fruitful during our “Rethinking Medieval European Literature” seminar. All the participants went away with new ideas and opportunities for re-evaluating and resituating Europe’s medieval literatures. The setting enabled serious and deeply collaborative work to be done which was engaged with pressing questions about the nature of Europe, past and present.