Wim Verbaal is Associate Professor in Latin language and literature at Ghent University. He works on literature written in Latin as a non-mother tongue and with a focus on medieval poetics and the manifold dialogues between literatures in Latin and in the European mother tongues.
“Having gone through a less conventional curriculum to become a classical philologist, I have tried since my nomination in 2005 to open up the perspectives for Latin studies in Ghent University and abroad. While I always have been captivated by those writers that make up the European canon, my attention was at the same time drawn toward the unknown, the peripheries, the unexplored domains that still prevail within Latin literature. Medieval Latin literature offered all I could desire. As a starting point I took the long twelfth century, with in its centre the confrontation of two worlds, successively represented by Bernard of Clairvaux and Peter Abelard. I tried to understand them in their historical, intellectual, spiritual, aesthetic and literary positions and workings, which always opened up new and unforeseen perspectives that continued to feed the unattainable ambition to become an all-round Latinist. On the background remained the question after the implications of writing in a language that has been nobody’s mother tongue for a thousand years or more and how literatures or writers could develop alongside this incumbent literary tradition. A central topic in my research, therefore, has become the literary emancipation: of Latin from its classical tradition, of literatures in the mother tongue from the Latin tradition. But to understand this phenomenon, Latin literature has to be understood itself as something of a cosmopolitan literature, comparable to classical Arabic, classical Chinese, Sanskrit, Greek and similar literatures.”
“The importance of RELICS is the will to study European literatures from this broadened perspective as a field of continuous interactions and dialogues. The breeding ground remains classical Antiquity, not as a natural or self-evident continuation but as the model that was passed on in the schools. The impact of school and the unique situation of the Western-European school-tradition on writing and literary writing has been yet too little studied. RELICS might open new ways of looking at the European literary past and at what came out of it. It might also take the lead as regards other literary traditions based on similar grounds. School has been important to create the necessary frames for writing in languages that were or are not used in daily practice. Each of these literatures had to cope with this background of the school, either by continuation or by emancipation. Latin literature offers by its long-standing central position in scholarly research an ideal starting point to initiate a similar approach.”