A room of its own. Middle Low German between colonization, cultural transfer and bilingualism

A room of its own. Middle Low German between colonization, cultural transfer and bilingualism

Department of History/Centre for Medieval Studies, Stockholm University; Institut für Deutsche Philologie, Ernst Moritz Arndt-Universität Greifswald
From - Until
17.09.2012 - 19.09.2012
Prof. Dr. Monika Unzeitig

Interdisciplinary workshop

Scholarly work on Middle Low German texts very often contains phrases like ‘unfortunately’, ‘less attention’ and ‘needs further investigation’. However, the few scholars who share the interest in the Medieval Baltic region and its texts agree on the richness of the sources and its similarities with better researched areas, as for example the Mediterranean area.

The countries and regions around the late medieval Baltic Sea region shared many common features, making it a specific cultural area of its own: coastal towns profiting from maritime trade and the exchange of goods and people from other regions; trade organizations as bearers of language and customs; a law system adjusted to both citizens and welcomed foreigners; and most of all, a common language.

Middle Low German as a language and as a factor shaping a cultural area has received surprisingly little scholarly attention over the past decades. One of the reasons for this is the preponderance of national historical narratives which depict ‘the Germans’ and the historical phase when they had the most influence on urban life in terms of colonization, rather than in terms of mutual cultural and economic exchange.

In modern Poland, the Teutonic Order in Prussia and the German-speaking upper classes in Gdańsk, Riga and Reval have been treated with the same scholarly reserve as the Hanseatic merchants in Visby and Stockholm in modern Sweden.

In Germany, much research about the Hanseatic League still follows the paradigms of national history and pays little attention to the interaction of German merchants and the surrounding societies. Middle Low German – as a language shaping an entire cultural area – is almost forgotten in comparison to texts and facts from the Southern German centres, or in favour of a narrative about the Holy Roman Empire as an entity; this neglects the major differences between the North and the South and the importance of the language boundary.

The upcoming interdisciplinary workshop aims at overcoming the specifically national views on the late medieval Baltic Sea region – and the marginalization of the region in general – by gathering together junior and senior scholars who deal with different aspects of the Middle Low German region. All disciplines are welcome. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
– bilingualism and language contact
– the Hanseatic League
– cultural contact and conflict
– trade and economy
– transference of texts and textual traditions

If you are interested in taking part in this workshop with a presentation of your current project, please send a title and an abstract (ca 200 words) to Cordelia Heß, cordelia.hess@historia.su.se and Monika Unzeitig, unzeitig@uni-greifswald.de, no later than May 31, 2012.

The workshop will be held in cooperation between Stockholm University, Department of History/Centre for Medieval Studies, and Ernst Moritz Arndt Universität Greifswald, Institut für Deutsche Philologie.


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Cordelia Heß

Monika Unzeitig

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