From East to West, and Back Again: Student Travel and Transcultural Knowledge Production in Renaissance Europe (c. 1470-c. 1620)

Project manager: Prof. Valentina Lepri
Start date: November 2020
End date: December 2025
Financing: European Research Council
Project number: 864542

Project description:

The aim of the ERC Consolidator Grant Project “From East to West, and Back Again: Student Travel and Transcultural Knowledge Production in Renaissance Europe (c. 1470-c. 1620)” (acronym: KnowStudents, no. 864542), based at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences (IFiS PAN), and running for 5 years from November 2020 to October 2025, is to provide the first global study of transcultural knowledge production in the early modern age, by examining the development of academic disciplines within the international and multicultural environments in which they were taught and studied.

The guiding idea of the project is that the richest and most varied evidence of transcultural knowledge produced during the early modern age was provided by central-eastern European students migrating westwards. The study perspective that traditionally focuses on university academics is reversed, concentrating on traveling students seen as knowledge agents. The manuscript anthologies produced by central-eastern European students traveling westwards are unique documentary evidence of the production of transcultural knowledge in the Renaissance period. The students who produced them were of Slavic, Hungarian and Baltic linguistic backgrounds and their countries bordered the Latin world on one side and the Russian and Ottoman Empires on the other. Through study trips they received education in a certain disciplinary field, but during their sojourns they also discovered classical Greek and Latin culture, vernacular literature and the artistic expressions of the host country, also experiencing their customs and lifestyles. Their learning was not restricted to a neutral recording of the subjects of study; on the contrary, it was an act of re-elaboration of the new knowledge influenced both by the individuals’ intellectual baggage and the place where they were studying.

The project involves the interpenetration of intellectual history and the history of central- eastern European student migrations, with a meticulous analysis of their notebooks. Exploring the students’ contribution to the history of intellectual thought will shed light on a significant historic phase in the formation of European identity, and, especially, it will offer research a new resource for understanding the systems of organization and re-elaboration of knowledge in early modernity, as well as it will also foster a widespread rethinking of the old historical cliché that divides Europe into sites of high intellectual dynamism and others considered geographically and culturally peripheral.

Other team members:
Prof. Farkas Gábor Kiss (Senior Scholar)
Prof. Danilo Facca (Senior Scholar)
Dr. Alicja Bielak (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Dr. Gábor Förköli (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Dr. Dennj Solera (Postdoctoral Researcher)
Dr. Olga M. Hajduk (Research Coordinator)
Dr. Katarzyna Rusinek-Abarca (Research Promoter)
Gniewomir Hawrasz (PhD Student)

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