Medieval Europe and Beyond

Convenors: Marian Coman and Ionuț Epurescu-Pascovici

This research working group is intended as a venue for historians, social scientists, and philosophers interested in discussing recent developments in the study of medieval Europe. Comparisons between Latin Europe, Byzantium, and Islam, and between late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and the early modern period are encouraged. The research group is not limited to medievalists but open to colleagues in other fields.

Monthly meetings include roundtable discussions of recent scholarship, readings of primary sources, methodological seminars, and presentations of work in progress. Working languages are Romanian and English.

2018/2019 academic year, 2nd semester: Identities

Identity is a multifaceted subject, intersecting with several other areas of academic study: ethnicity, community, social class, religion, and individualism cannot be understood without reference to the concept of identity. Although frequently expressed through material culture, identity retains an almost ineffable quality (to quote Aaron Gurevich on the individual in medieval society). Identity is what makes me who I am, and as such remains difficult to pin down from the often lacunary medieval evidence. This notwithstanding, medievalists have produced a substantial body of knowledge on questions of identity, on which we will draw in the course of four roundtable discussions this semester, ranging from ethnic identity to the social self.

Unless otherwise announced, meetings take place Mondays from 5 pm at ICUB.

25 February – National and ethnic identity in the Middle Ages

  • Johnson and Smith in Concepts of National Identity in the Middle Ages (1995); Curta, Introduction and Conclusions from The Making of the Slavs (2001).

18 March – Ethnicity, community, and race

  • Heng, The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (2018), chapter 1; Pohl et al. (eds., 2018), pp. 3-40, 241-53; Barzaman (2017), pp. 224-54.

1 April – The social self

  • Bedos-Rezak, When Ego Was Imago (2010), chapter 6; Koziol, ‘Is Robert I in hell?’ (2006).

6 May – Hidden identities: Impostors, counterfeits, and dissimulators

  • Davis, ‘Remaking impostors: from Martin Guerre to Sommersby’ (1997); Introduction and Conclusions from Hug, Impostures in Early Modern England (2010).


2018/2019 academic year, 1st semester: Narratives

Chronicles and histories have been the privileged sources of research into the medieval past, only partly displaced in the last half century by medievalists’ growing appetite for charters and institutional records. More generally, a narrative element is inherent in most medieval written accounts; even charters and diplomas would sometimes relate a story in their prologue as backdrop for the dispositive clauses. The pitfalls of approaching narratives as transparent windows into the past are now clear, hence medievalists’ increased attention to the performative and culturally-constructed nature of our sources. In this spirit, the seminar will discuss the impact of genre conventions, auctorial agendas, and the expectations of the audience. Participants are invited to bring to the roundtable discussions their own experience and concerns with narrative sources. Lastly, we will consider the role of story-telling – in contrast with ‘analysis’ – in our own writing about the past.

Monthly meetings on Monday at 17.00 at ICUB (Str. Dimitrie Brândză nr. 1)

22 October – Introductory roundtable: from ancient to modern historical narratives

  • Ginzburg, Threads and Traces: True, False, Fictive: Intro and ch. 1, pp. 1-24;
  • Ricoeur, Time and Narrative: vol. 1, ch. 4 ‘Threefold mimesis’, pp. 52-76;
  • Davis, Fiction in the Archives: pp. 1-11, 15-25, 36-48.

26 November – Roundtable discussion of Gregory of Tours

  • Auerbach, Mimesis: ch. 4, pp. 77-95;
  • Goffart, Narrators of Barbarian History: ch. 3, pp. 112-19, 153-74, 183-97, 203-34.

Iulia Nițescu (IRH-ICUB), ‘Narratives of identity in late-fifteenth-century Muscovite dynastic marriages’

10 December – Chronicles in historical context: patronage, the audience’s expectations, and veracity

  • Spiegel, Romancing the Past, pp. 1-14, 20-23, 53-54, 214-68;
  • Madgearu, Romanians in Gesta Hungarorum, pp. 21-41, 86-105.

21 Januray – Narratives in historical writing

  • Currie, Sterelny, In defence of story-telling, pp. 14-21


Past events:

2017/2018 – Understanding Medieval Violence

2016/2017 – From Lordship to State