Renaissance Ideas and Early Germanic Literature: Interconnections of Germanic Studies and Humanist Scholarship and Ideology
08 / 2003 - 09 / 2007
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
The project treats Renaissance interest in medieval Germanic literature as a cultural phenomenon. It aims to produce an interpretation both of the ideas humanists developed in their study of ancient Germanic texts (in Gothic, Old English, Old Norse...), and of the role this medieval material played in early-modern scholarly, cultural and ideological thinking. The project assesses the interconnections between the networks of humanists, their attitudes to the Germanic texts, their learned discourse, and ethnic and cultural identities. Specifically, it evaluates what happened at the confrontation of the Germanic literary heritage with Renaissance ideas. Texts from the Germanic past had a distinct prestige in early-modern society. This is fascinating, and seems paradoxical, in view of their marked divergence from the norms of classical literature. But the medieval texts provided ethnic and cultural originary status when political, religious and ideological changes and an expanding world challenged North-West European countries and peoples to redefine their self-identities. The project first analyses the networks of participating humanists in the "greater Germanic-speaking world" in the "long seventeenth century." It then interprets the early-modern confrontation of medieval Germanic texts with humanist ideas on textual methodology, Renaissance poetics and rhetoric. Finally, it estimates the influence of early-modern ideological thinking on these studies, and the influence of medieval literature on such thinking. The topic is original in its interconnective and interdisciplinary perspective. The originality of its approach is its treatment of the topic as a cultural phenomenon. Theories on ethnic and cultural self-identity provide a challenging perspective for this. The project can advance future research into early-modern Germanic studies, classical philology, Renaissance poetics, intellectual circles, and cultural identities. It will also shed light on the cultural changes and cultural continuations between Middle Ages and Renaissance. Furthermore, it can contribute to the debates on cultural identities in present-day Europe.
De rol van middeleeuwse Germaanse literatuur in het wetenschappelijk en ideologisch gedachtegoed van de Renaissance staat centraal in dit onderzoek. Welke ideeën ontwikkelden humanistengeleerden over dit niet-klassieke erfgoed? Hoe bepaalde het hun etnische en culturele identiteiten?