“Research is opening up the boundaries in my thinking”
Appointment Professor of Middle Dutch Literature and Culture Veerle Fraeters
Veerle Fraeters will be appointed Professor of Middle Dutch Literature and Culture at Utrecht University on 1 January. She does so after a career of more than thirty years at the University of Antwerp. “Utrecht is the Mecca of medieval studies, with an unusually broad interdisciplinarity. I am really looking forward to collaborations that are not possible elsewhere.”
Researching Middle Dutch literature and culture
Fraeters specializes in Middle Dutch spiritual literature and cultural history, with a specific focus on mystical literature, the genre of vision and female authorship. Her research is at the intersection of philology, literary studies, cultural history and religious studies.
She investigates medieval texts, in particular the reuse of medieval mysticism in modern literature and culture. Her latest research project ‘Medieval mysticism and modern identities’ focusses on the appropriation of the work of the Middle Dutch mystic Hadewijch in the cultural field of Belgium.
A new approach to ancient texts on alchemy and mysticism
“I like to get to the bottom of things I do not understand at first sight. This explains why I have always sought out topics that challenge the modern view of humanity and the world.”
I like the effort of getting to the bottom of things I do not understand at first sight.
“I like the effort of getting to the bottom of things I do not understand at first sight. This explains why I have always sought out topics that challenge the modern view of humanity and the world.”
“My PhD was on alchemy, a field of knowledge that has disappeared in the course of history. The same goes for mysticism. I love the effort to fathom other ways of thinking through the study of historical texts. For me, researching is opening up the boundaries in my thinking.”
“Scriptures that have become a thing of the past, are often a blind spot for scholarship. There are still many unstudied manuscripts in libraries, especially spiritual literature and texts on what we now call pseudoscience. Unlocking those manuscripts, in order for their philosophy to inspire again, is a great motivation for my research.”
Approach historic manuscripts like an anthropologist
Veerle Fraeters enjoys teaching and has a clear view on this: “I think it is important to shape students not only professionally but also as human beings. The medieval master-student relationship is an inspiration in this respect.”
I encourage students to approach history as an anthropologist who is completely open to another culture.
In research patience and an open attitude is indispensable
“Keeping an open mind is important. I encourage students to approach history as an anthropologist who is completely open to another culture. It takes a certain mindset to focus and ignore assumptions and judgements. I always advice my students to be patient and take time to thoroughly read and comprehend texts. This skill has great social value today”, Freaters believes.
“A patient and respectful approach of dissimilarities is essential in the diverse society we live in today. For me as a professor, my main purpose is to shape people, students, PhD candidates and thus society, through education as well as through research.”