Heroes of the Past in the Present
Formations of European Identities through Literature in the Post-Medieval World

Alte Helden – Neue Zeiten
Die Formierung europäischer Identitäten im Spiegel der Rezeption des Mittelalters

 Bamberg, 9-11 April 2015

Organiser: Prof. Dr. Andrea Schindler (Bamberg)
in cooperation with Axel Müller (Leeds) and Dr. Siegrid Schmidt (Salzburg)

European identity and its foundations have been of increasing interest in academic discourse over the last few decades. Scholars from all periods have entered the debate contributing their own analysis of the origins of national identity and associated historical myths.

The emergence of interest in national identity and origin myths in the 18th and 19th century (and beyond) relied on the Middle Ages for a seemingly inexhaustible stock of motifs and characters. Core figures of national identification such as Charlemagne and Frederick I. Barbarossa but also mythical or literary figures such as Beowulf, King Arthur or Siegfried have become internationally recognised European heroes that have gone far beyond national boundaries. They have often become tied to local causes and interests but still retain international features. This urge for medieval-type heroic figureheads can be seen in contemporary popular culture and has made substantial contributions to the world of fiction – most recently in Game of Thrones in print and on screen (David Benioff, D. B. Weiss; 2011f., George R. R. Martin [A Song of Ice and Fire]).

The aim of this project is to investigate the use (and abuse) of these ‘super’heroes from the Middle Ages to the present day internationally, interdisciplinarily and comparatively with the final goal of developing an international network collaboration. This network is intended to explore commonalities of these approaches and to contribute substantially towards discourses about national identity. The Europe wide (or even local like Heinrich II. and Kunigunde) medieval ‘super’heroes, their individual histories and their usage as model figures on which to base ideals of national identity will be explored through study of literary, visual, historical and historiographical sources. Their contribution towards foundation myths, but also their transition into specific figures according to national or regional needs, shall be the main focus for research. The different national and regional collective memories lead to differing retellings of the heroes’ stories, as does differing national historiographies and methodologies.

We were able to attract nationally and internationally recognized colleagues to present at our conference, among them Prof. Dr. Richard Utz (Atlanta) who has accepted our invitation as a keynote speaker.​

Guests are welcome! Registration: Christiane Schönhammer.

Programme(269.5 KB, 2 pages)

contact: Prof. Dr. Andrea Schindler