Section "Middle Ages and Early Modern Age"

Thematic Focus and Research Profile

The research area of the "Middle Ages and Early Modern Age" section is deliberately broad and encompasses both the 'classical' Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period as well as the corresponding transitional periods. In general, we pursue three guiding principles:

1. European cultural area: as established interdisciplinary fields of research within the humanities, medieval studies and early modern research bring together a variety of disciplines and areas in order to explore European culture in its diverse manifestations. The period is formative for the development of modern Europe and a decisive cornerstone of Western civilisation. Ideas, values and cultural impulses from Greco-Roman antiquity and neighbouring cultures were adopted, passed on and decisively developed here. Without wishing to idealise 'Europe', a comparatively coherent area of shared values and cultural communication developed, characterised by fruitful encounters between people and cultures and a curiosity for everything new. Its systematic exploration means analysing the diverse forms of communication and cultural interaction in the areas of philosophical and scientific discourse (at universities and schools), politics, social and economic life, religion and, last but not least, art.

2. Interdisciplinary and diachronic networking: medieval and early modern culture is not subject to the same boundaries or dichotomies that define modern nation states or academic disciplines. Texts transcend the supposed boundary between Latin and the vernacular, and blur the supposed difference between the clerical and secular spheres. A medieval codex such as the famous 'Codex Manesse', even if it does not contain a single note, transmits texts of medieval songs, information about the performance of music (through the depiction of performances and musical instruments) and records the bodies of the performers in the images. In the Middle Ages and early modern period, 'history' was also a story - probably the most frequently told at the time. Accordingly, narrativity, the study of art and forms of storytelling, is a unifying element for interdisciplinary medieval and early modern research - this also applies to less text-bound subjects such as musicology and art history. Our aim is to create a joint research platform for this broad interdisciplinary research. The combination of medievalist and early modern research questions is intended to enable a diachronic research perspective.

3. Material culture: Every scholar researching the Middle Ages or early modern period has to deal with the problem of material tradition. The period under investigation is characterised by two major paradigm shifts: The change from orality to writing, and the change from a manuscript culture to a print culture. For the vernacular languages in particular, the predominant form of transmission was probably oral for a long time and is therefore lost to us, but parallel to orality, textual transmission was always present. While this applies to all vernacular languages and to music, for example, Latin and ecclesiastical culture were mostly passed down through the written word. Even after the introduction of printing, the production of manuscripts did not cease completely in the Early Modern Age.

Today's scholars can often work with modern editions, and a lot of time and effort has been put into inventorying the existing written sources. Nevertheless, it is surprising (and regrettable) how much information is lost in the process and how much valuable information can still be gained through the autopsy of manuscript evidence and recourse to the sources.

The material carriers of the transmission of texts are a common theme for all disciplines involved - medieval studies and early modern research both work with the broadest possible concept of 'text' (and it is not surprising that Julia Kristeva first argued about intertextuality on the basis of a late medieval example). However, the same also applies to all other material forms of expression beyond writing, such as artefacts, architecture, decorative programmes, paintings and sculptures, the study of which, alongside book history and palaeography, is part of the tools of medieval and early modern research.

What we offer

The section "Middle Ages and Early Modern Age" offers its doctoral students a platform to pursue their research on questions of medieval and early modern Europe within an interdisciplinary framework. It is the ideal place to broaden the academic perspective by looking at other aspects of medieval culture and medieval studies. The conceptual focus on the basic techniques of European culture illustrates the common interests and emphasises the importance of material-historical and hermeneutical anchoring, but will also take into account the specific contributions of the individual disciplines and their respective needs and discourses. The section will become a place for discussing current research and issues: It will offer its participants the space to reflect on common methods and categorical presuppositions - such as a medieval and early modern 'Europe' - and to acquire further skills and techniques. Many young scholars (and not only these) today often have to painstakingly acquire knowledge that lies beyond the boundaries of their home discipline, but which is fundamental to researching their subject matter. The section will provide the environment and financial support to open up productive exchange with experts in the relevant fields.

Head of Section

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Matthias Meyer, M.A., Head

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Katja Weidner, M.A., Deputy Head


Univ.-Prof. Dr. Judith Frömmer

ao. Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Elisabeth Klecker

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Rabea Sarah Kohnen

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Birgit Lodes

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Matthias Meyer, M.A.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Stephan Müller

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Robert Nedoma

Univ.-Prof. Mag. Dr. Nikolaus Ritt

Ass.-Prof. Dr. Katja Weidner, M.A.

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Hartmut Wulfram