Networks of knowledge

I recently learned that my grant application for a project, whose name I have since changed into Networks of knowledge, has been successful. The funding comes from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as a Veni-grant under the Vernieuwingsimpuls scheme. It will keep me occupied for the coming 3,5 years and relieve me of a lot of my teaching duties. And it will take me to the archives of the abbey of Monte Cassino, the various libraries of Rome, as well as the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich.

An internet site is indispensable for any serious research project, so mine will have one as well, in time.

This is the (by necessity very short) abstract of my grant proposal.

The ninth-century revival of learning known as the so-called ‘Carolingian renaissance’ found its origin in Charlemagne’s deep, but modest, concern for the correct cult of God within his empire, but it quickly resulted in diverse, creative outbursts of textual culture independent of royal aims. It was in this creative process that the biblical, Christian and antique traditions were appropriated to form the melting-pot of post-Roman ‘European culture’. How this revival of learning could take such flight is still not well-understood. In this project I propose that to understand the relationship between royal ambitions and the intellectual blossoming of the eighth and ninth centuries it is essential to study the mechanics of early medieval transmission of tradition ‘on the ground’, at learned centres in the empire. In a novel approach, this project will focus on the networks linking intellectual centres and scholars. Its main hypothesis is that these scholarly networks, rather than royal decrees, shaped and directed the revival of scholarship on a local level.

In this project I will analyse the extant manuscripts of three important scholarly centres: the monasteries of St-Amand, St-Emmeram, and Montecassino. Reviewing all learned texts contained in the entire corpus of extant manuscripts of the selected centres, I will ask the essential question: how did these works get to this particular centre? And how did these copies play a role in the subsequent dissemination of these texts? The answers to these questions help to identify the scholarly networks these centres were a part of. Philological study of the manuscript material is then used to reveal scribal and scholarly choices, which shed light on the approach of scholars towards the advancing revival of learning. These local approaches will then be compared with the developing royal and imperial ambitions and directives.

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