Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Medieval Literature, University of Southern Denmark
Julian Yolles received his doctorate in Medieval Latin from Harvard University, and is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Centre for Medieval Literature at the University of Southern Denmark. His work focuses on the mediating role of medieval Latin literature: not just between ancient and (early) modern Latinity, but also between different cultures, languages, and intellectual traditions. His forthcoming book examines the Latin literary culture of the Levant in the wake of the First Crusade, and shows how settlers from a range of different language groups across western Europe produced a hybrid Levantine Latinity distinct from that in Europe that both drew on and resisted Levantine Muslim, Christian, and Jewish cultures in the newly occupied territories.
As Wittgenstein famously put it, Die Grenzen meiner Sprache sind die Grenzen meiner Welt (“The boundaries of my language are the boundaries of my world”). As a scholar of Latin, the question for me has always been: What world did (and in some ways still does) Latin create?
Along with the other members of RELICS, I am committed to examining Latin as a cosmopolitan language that united diverse speakers, writers, and readers across vast temporal, cultural, and spatial distances. The usage of this ancient idiom implies a profound continuity maintained by schooling, even if the literary canons changed (albeit slowly) over time.
I am particularly fascinated, however, by the edges of Latinity, in geographical and linguistic terms. What happens when Latin is brought into contact with other language cultures? What new insights can we gain from these encounters, and what new light do they shed on the way that Latin was valorized? One crucial such “contact zone” (as scholars of translation studies put it) that I have elected to focus on is the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Levant, where western European settlers brought a Latin culture into contact (and confrontation) with Arabic, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, and Hebrew cultures (among others), even as French became established as the principal spoken language of the settlers. Did these encounters drastically affect the settlers’ attitudes toward their own spoken language and encourage the development also of a French written culture? This is one of the key questions I hope to shed new light on by examining conjointly the translations produced by the settlers in the Levant from Arabic into Latin and from Latin into French. At the same time, I look forward to grappling with a broader set of questions on Latin as both a local and global language that inspired both diversity and continuity.