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Scientific Network: Imitation - Mechanisms of a Cultural Principle in the Middle Ages

Speakers: Dr. Jörg Sonntag (FOVOG) and Dr. Gerald Schwedler (Zurich, Switzerland)

Connecting fifteen international scholars, this network is financed by the German Research Foundation and is directed by Dr. Jörg Sonntag (FOVOG) and Dr. Gerald Schwedler (Zurich). It addresses imitation in the sense of an act of conscious emulation of people and subjects, actions and conceptions, as an omnipresent model of orientation, behavior, and education for the Christian Middle Ages. On this basis, imitation is understood as a principal of European society foundational to cultural transmission.

Across the common analysis of this principle’s forms, both in appearance and effect, the network unites current research projects to programmatic imitations in architecture, text, and ritual. Out of this arises a dynamic, multidisciplinary research collective, whose method enables empirical analysis of the quality of imitations – viewed both from their own, and from external, perspectives – in their moral, social, legal, political, theological, and artistically creative dimensions. Additionally, the individual results of this evaluation, both in and between the varying dimensions of medieval life, are brought together for historical evaluation of their conception and content.

Through the prism of the key phenomenon of imitation, something that has still not been (fully) approached from an interdisciplinary perspective, the network wishes to offer a fascinating, alternative view of medieval culture. Balancing its results with the positions being taken in contemporary debates over the tensions between tradition and innovation, authenticity and plagiarism, the issues addressed by the network are not only extremely current, but also well-connected to modern socio-political discussions.

Out of the three-year, internationally conceived work of the network, shaped by six conferences, should come an anthology of primary sources, two thematic journal volumes, and further, individual studies published by the participants in the relevant specialist journals.

Homepage of the project

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gert Melville

Academic Manager and Research Coordinator:
Priv.-Doz. Dr. Cristina Andenna

Technische Universität
D - 01062 Dresden
Email: fovog-dresden(at)

Tel: +49 (0) 351 4793 4180
Fax: +49 (0) 351 4793 4189

The FOVOG is a centrally incorporated institute of the Technical University of Dresden
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