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Multilingual Dynamics of Medieval Flanders

Project Description

This project puts forward a multilingual perspective on the literary culture of medieval Flanders. It seeks to advocate the innovative, European-wide reshaping of literary historiography by studying this region between ca 1200 (when the spoken vernaculars were becoming written languages) and ca 1500 (when the introduction of the printing press was beginning to change the production and reception of literature). Medieval Flanders, which corresponds nowadays with the provinces of West and East Flanders in Belgium and the French Flanders area in France, was in medieval times a highly influential principality of the Low Countries. Due to phenomena such as the strong presence of French culture and the exceptionally high degree of urbanization, this region is eminently suited for research that focuses on literary multilingualism.

This project assumes that medieval Flanders consisted of a variety of local, literary and cultural circuits which showed both lines of fracture and overlaps. The central research question of the project that follows from this assumption is: How did the three literatures that co-existed in medieval Flanders function and interact between ca 1200 and ca 1500? The exploratory answer to this question will be based on research that draws on a combination of five theoretical perspectives. These approaches address intertwined aspects of cultural reality in medieval Flanders. The research is carried out in three subprojects:

Subproject 1: The Multilingual Literary Dynamics of Medieval Flanders: The Production and Reception of Texts
The project’s central research question is tackled by first focusing on the production of Latin, French and Dutch texts in medieval Flanders. The reception of these texts will be included extensively from the moment onwards that the findings of the subprojects 1 and 2 will be combined.

Subproject 2: The Multilingual Literary Dynamics of Medieval Flanders: The Production and Reception of Manuscripts
The project’s central research question is tackled by focusing on the production and reception of manuscripts containing Dutch, French and Latin texts in medieval Flanders. The material evidence will consist of single-text manuscripts (mainly monolingual) and multi-text manuscripts (mono- or multilingual). The reception of the Flemish texts in medieval Flanders will be included from the moment onwards that the findings of the subprojects 1 and 2 will be combined.

Subproject 3: The Literary Dynamics of Medieval Flanders: Dutch Texts in Multilingual Contexts
The project’s central research question is tackled by studying the literary dynamics resulting from the interaction between Dutch and other languages in three multilingual contexts: (1) Flemish texts in which Dutch appears in combination with French and/or Latin; (2) Flemish multi-text manuscripts which include French and/or Latin next to Dutch; (3) Booklists from medieval Flanders in which Dutch titles figure amidst references to texts in other languages.