Current Projects

This page presents a selection of larger projects. For individual projects and other current research activities, please visit the personal pages of our staff.

Updating and downdating: the orthographic interference of late-medieval Irish scribes in early-medieval texts

In this project, Nike Stam examines the practice of some late-medieval Irish scribes to substantially alter the orthography of their texts in order to make them look older. She will do so from the perspective of sociolinguistic orthography, thus trying to shed a new light on the way in which Irish scholarly communities of the past studied and recreated their historical canon. Her most important case study is the manuscript kept at the University Library of Leiden, called VLQ 7, which contains a version of the story of Fled Bricrenn, or the Feast of Bricriu, and which is known for its odd spelling.

  • Researcher: Dr Nike Stam
  • Duration: 2021-2024
  • Funding: NWO Veni
Anonymous Knowledge

This project studies the reception, dissemination and status of anonymous texts from late Antiquity to the high Middle Ages, roughly between 300-1200. While focus lies on the Latin West, the texts and their reception history are being studied from a global perspective.

Anonymous texts from a variety of disciplines, including astrology, prognostics, medicine, liturgy and theology abound in medieval manuscripts, yet they have largely remained uncharted territory in scholarship. How would our understanding of the history of knowledge change if we incorporate these little-known texts in our research?

Carine van Rhijn's subproject ‘Prognostic thinking (750-1000): texts, manuscripts, global connections’ charts prognostic texts in continental manuscripts, exploring the implications for our understanding of early and high medieval culture.

  • Project leaders: Dr Carine van Rhijn (UU), Prof. Irene van Renswoude (Huygens ING)
  • Funding: NWO Aspasia, stichting Art, Books and Collections
  • Project website
The multilingual dynamics of literary culture in medieval Flanders

This is the first major project that focuses on the multilingual character of the literary culture of medieval Flanders. For the period 1200-1500 AD, it will be investigated how Dutch, French and Latin monolingual and multilingual texts were produced and read alongside each other, and whether interactions between them arose.

Digital forensics for historical documents. Cracking cold cases with new technology

This project uses techniques of digital image analysis to create new ways to analyse samples of historical script. The project has two subprojects. The subproject led by Mariken Teeuwen creates a new method to analyse the dating and location of medieval scripts (‘what was written when and where?’). 'Digital Forensics' is a collaboration between Huygens ING and IISH.

  • Project leader: Prof. Mariken Teeuwen
  • Duration: June 2018-June 2021
  • Funding: Research Fund of the Royal Dutch Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW)
  • Project website
Citizenship Discourses in the Early Middle Ages, 400-1100

The project studies the survival and transformation of citizenship discourse in early medieval Europe. In the period after the disintegration of the Roman Empire and preceding the rise of the cities in the high Middle Ages, citizenship terminology inherited from the classical and biblical past underwent radical semantic changes.

Terms denoting the citizen (civis) and its correlates (civitas; peregrinus, advena) acquired new meanings under the influence of Christianity as the new dominant religion. The project explores these shifts in meaning and their social implications through discourse analysis and a socio-philological approach to Latin sources of law, liturgy, historiography, hagiography and their audiences.

Uncovering Joyful Culture: Parodic Literature and Practices in and around the Low Countries (13th-17th centuries)

This project will demonstrate the importance of 'joyful culture' as a major cultural phenomenon in late medieval and early modern society. Joyful culture can be defined as a shared system of sociability for groups and individuals organising playful performances and activities in a ritualised way, in which parody has a central role. Building on the example of the Low Countries, the project will offer a comparative, transnational approach, in order to show how joyful culture helped to bind together various social groups in pre-seventeenth-century society, and how parody was used to reinforce group identity and the sense of belonging to a community, whether at the scale of a regional political entity, a city, or a professional group.

Rather than insisting on the potential of carnivalesque festivities to express tensions and social conflicts, as historians have often claimed, this project will demonstrate that joyful culture also had an important role in securing social stability and cohesion, thanks to the use of an inclusive form of parody, developed in themes such as friendship, the praise of drunkenness, sexuality and obscenity. This project will thereby refresh the broader field of cultural studies, by re-evaluating concepts of the festive.

Medieval Literacy Platform

The Medieval Literacy Platform is intended to provide a forum for research on the history of non-verbal, oral and written communication in the Middle Ages. The series Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, published by Brepols Publishers (Turnhout, Belgium), has developed into a general forum for publications on the history of medieval communication.

See also an overview of previous projects of the UCMS.