Vernacularisation and the Transformation of Identities

The research area of the working group Vernacularisation and the Transformation of Identities includes the regions of the Central and Eastern central Europe from the 14th to 16th century. Texts originating in these regions on the verge between Latin and vernaculars (Czech, Polish, German, Hungarian) are scrutinized using trans-disciplinary approaches and combining the methods of historiography, individual vernacular philologies, linguistics and literary studies.

Late medieval vernacular literatures offer extraordinary evidence for a wide variety of questions of contemporary historical research; their study has recently become one of the hot topics in inter- and transdisciplinary medieval studies.

Vernacular languages and texts written in vernaculars played an important role in the late medieval European social transformation ca. from the middle of the 14th to the end of the 16th century. Vernacular literatures are therefore regarded as social categories which allow formulate questions on complex processes of identity formation and transformation in the case of individuals as well as social groups. The research on the vernaculars and their literatures in the given area from this point of view fills the major research gap of the contemporary medieval studies.

Individual project pursued by the working group focus on the basic scrutiny of the given material – text editions and codicological, paleographical description and the reconstruction of the transmission history of individual texts. This first step is necessary because the majority of the texts of interest belongs to the genre of Christian catechetic literature and vernacular theology and as such was for decades ignored by the respective research shaped by the needs of nationalistic defined polities. In the second step individual texts are contextualized in the frame of the vernacular production of catechetic and theological literature in the western Christian societies of the given time.

For this research numerous cooperation and contacts with Austrian as well as non-Austrian institutions and individual researchers were created. The research proceeds in a series of individual, collective and cooperative subprojects. The work of the team is based on the achievements of the ERC Grant Origins of the Vernacular Mode (OVERMODE, ERC grant agreement No. 263672) hosted by the Institute for Medieval Research from 2011 till 2017. During the work on this project an international research network was build up (COST Action IS 1301 New Communities of Interpretation) focusing on the catechetic and theological literatures in the late medieval Europe with the purpose to formulate a new, transdisciplinary methodological and theoretical basis of an European approach to the given material. The cornerstones of this new approach are the theory and practice of the Translation in the Middle Ages (discussed in the frame of the Cardiff Conferences on the Theory and Practice of Translation in the Middle Ages), cultures of Reading and the formation and transformation of the communities of interpretation.