Fiction and Figuration
Studies in high and late medieval literature
An international research project sponsored by
The Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation


In the course of three years, a research team will study the tension between fictive, figurative and didactic production through a number of key genres in medieval literature: fables, epic and lyric poetry and letters. The project, led by Professor Anders Cullhed, involves four researchers in the field of literature and classical languages from Sweden and Denmark.

This project will investigate the reappearance on a broad scale of fiction and fiction theory in high and late medieval literature. After being banned from serious literature for centuries, fiction makes a spectacular comeback in the poetry and prose of the 11th and 12th centuries. Our project tries to understand why, how and where this re-emergence of fiction was implemented. In its endeavours to investigate great fictional works, such as troubadour poetry, from these centuries, earlier investigation has for the most part traced stylistic characteristics, themes, motifs and literary influences, mainly in the classic writers. We should prefer to subject these works to theoretical questions, mainly drawn from high and late medieval rhetorical theory. Among the project members, Anders Cullhed has outlined the (mainly negative) background to this field of studies in Kreousas skugga. Fiktionsteoretiska nedslag i senantikens latinska litteratur, Stockholm-Stehag 2006, and in more recent essays on Dante. Anders Hallengren and Marianne Pade have both looked into the relationship between the biographical and the so-to-speak fictional or ingeniously invented life of Petrarch in their works. Brian Møller Jensen has made various contributions to the study of rhetorical stratagems in classic and medieval literature, for example in Cicero's speeches.

The project is oriented towards genre history and genre theory, rhetoric, and fiction theory. Its attention focuses on Latin fables (Vincent de Beauvais et alii), the tension between allegory and fiction in Dante's Divine Comedy, and, finally, the autobiographical fictional constructs of Petrarch. Our point of departure is the exemplary function of rhetoric during this period. In an attempt to ignore conventional boundaries between national literatures and languages, we should like to emphasize the significance of rhetorical theory for the break-through of fiction in high and late medieval literature.

Consequently, we hope to be able to present a new version of the problem and possibilities of fictional representation across a number of genres and national literatures from the 12th to the 14th century, thus establishing fiction theory at the heart of medieval literary culture. All the participants will prepare a monograph on the subject in close co-operation and finally present a common volume as a result of an international symposium. The research findings will be published in 2016-2017.


Works in progress (provisional titles):
Fiction and Authority in Dante's Comedy
 anders cullhed

Fables as Figures and Fiction in the Late Middle Ages
 brian møller jensen

Cultus and Amor—Figurae of Fiction in a Late Medieval Devotional Context: Petrarch
 anders hallengren

Fiction in Letters and the Letter as Fiction—The Epistolographic Genre in the Renaissance
 marianne pade

Forthcoming:
Fiction And Figuration In High And Late Medieval Literature (Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, Supplementum XLVII)
 Edizioni Quasar, Rome 2016


» Downloadable PDF (in Swedish)








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