Dr. Cătălin Țăranu

Catalin Taranu1 October 2017 – 30 September 2018

Bio: Dr. Cătălin Țăranu is a medievalist working on alternative modes of history-writing in the early Middle Ages. His research focusses on the vernacular literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England and Carolingian Francia (especially texts such as Beowulf and the Waltharius), on premodern vernacular theories of truth and history, as well as on the modern and contemporary uses and abuses of the early Middle Ages. Cătălin earned his PhD from the University of Leeds in 2016. He has published articles in such journals as Viator and Florilegium, has presented at conferences in Finland, Denmark, and throughout Britain, and has taught medieval literature and Old English at the Universities of Leeds and Iași. Cătălin is preparing his first monograph, based on his doctoral research, and is editing a volume of collected papers on theories of truthfulness and historical representation in late antique and medieval history-writing. Cătălin’s PhD thesis argues that many of the sources commonly labelled ‘Germanic heroic poems’ are in fact embodiments of an alternative mode of history-writing, which he calls poetic history as testimony to their inhabiting a space beyond both modern and medieval Classically-inspired categorizations of history and fiction.

Project Title: The Many Battles of Maldon: Historical Truth and the Emergence of the Event in Early Medieval History-writing

Project Description: The research project I propose to undertake during my ICUB Fellowship for Young Researchers consists of an investigation of alternative modes of history-writing in Anglo-Saxon England by using the case study of the Battle of Maldon and the surprising variety of its depictions in medieval sources. More precisely, this project focuses on the variety of perspectives from which medieval sources narrate the same historical event – the 991 AD Battle of Maldon between Scandinavian raiders and Anglo-Saxon defenders. Each of the texts I explore (the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, the alliterative poem The Battle of Maldon, the hagiographical Vita Oswaldi, The Liber Eliensis, and the Ramsay Chronicle) presents significantly different depictions of the event and of its hero (the Anglo-Saxon leader Byrhtnoð, who died in the battle). All these sources are constructed as reliable narrations of the past, and most of them were available to literate audiences in the same time and space. Since in a very pragmatic sense, they cannot all be true, how did the creators and audiences of these texts mediate their purported historical truth and their obvious fictionality? This is the main question that my project aims to answer, and in doing so I will open up many other issues relating to the way conceptualisations of history and fiction change throughout time and how well our own dichotomic mental model of these notions is fit for a deeper understanding of how people in the early Middle Ages represented the past. Ultimately, these questions will hopefully throw new light on contemporary anxieties about being truthful in narratives about the past.