Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellowship for Research Project on the ’Seven Sages of Rome’ at Freie Universität Berlin

Project will be complemented by a graduate exchange program in interdisciplinary medieval studies between the University of Oxford and Freie Universität Berlin

The Seven Sages of Rome, in German also known as the Sieben Weise Meister, represents one of the most important narratives of the medieval and early modern period. It recounts a medieval #metoo story of a fake rape accusation between a prince and his stepmother, and the ensuing life and death conflict. Thanks to funding provided as part of an Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellowship, literary historian Ida Toth (University of Oxford) and German medieval literature specialist Jutta Eming (Freie Universität Berlin) will be carrying out the research project "The Seven Sages of Rome Revisited: Striving for an Alternative Literary History." The project is conceptualized as a collaborative and comparative philological, literary, and cultural endeavor aimed at reassessing and redefining the traditional approach to one of the most popular and least studied works of early modern world literature. The fellowship will be supported by a graduate exchange program between the University of Oxford and Freie Universität Berlin.

Toth will begin work on the project in September 2024, with funding from the Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellowship provided for an initial period of three years. As part of the project, she will supervise a postdoctoral editing project on the traditional Byzantine version of the text (Syntipas), with both researchers supervising a doctoral project on topics such as wisdom, power, and gender. In addition to the research project, Eming and Toth are utilizing the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership, a strategic research partnership formed between the University of Oxford and the four universities that comprise the Berlin University Alliance, to establish a graduate exchange in interdisciplinary medieval studies between the University of Oxford and Freie Universität Berlin. The exchange program will enable three master’s or doctoral students from each institution to spend up to three months at the corresponding partner institution. This will provide them with the opportunity to attend lectures, courses, seminars, and workshops relevant to their research interests, present their own findings, and make important connections in the academic world.

The Seven Sages of Rome represents one of the most important textual traditions of the early modern period. However, since the nineteenth century, it has largely faded from cultural memory. Due to its division into framing narratives and stories within stories, the text is frequently referred to as a story cycle. It was so popular that it was told in at least thirty languages from Central Asia to Iceland for more than five centuries.

As a result of the BUA/Oxford Einstein Visiting Fellowship, Toth will be able to build upon the existing research project, "The Seven Sages of Rome: Editing and Reappraising a Forgotten Premodern Classic from Global and Gendered Perspectives," launched in 2023 by Jutta Eming (Freie Universität Berlin) and Bettina Bildhauer (University of St. Andrews). The latter project receives funding from the German Research Foundation and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) until 2026. Both research projects are aimed at breaking down the barriers established in earlier research on the texts. In the past, the Seven Sages of Rome has often been viewed in juxtaposition of an "eastern" and a "western" text tradition. Now, the researchers hope to reconceptualize all versions of the story cycle as a common transnational narrative of the premodern era. With its focus on global literatures, Freie Universität Berlin offers particularly favorable conditions for these research projects.

Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellow

The Einstein BUA/Oxford Visiting Fellow program aims to involve leading scientists and outstanding early career researchers from the University of Oxford in Berlin-based collaborative research platforms, further promoting academic collaboration between Oxford and Berlin. The program is a joint initiative from the Berlin University Alliance (BUA) and the Einstein Foundation Berlin.

The Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership

Formed in 2017, the Oxford-Berlin Research Partnership is a strategic research partnership between the University of Oxford and the four universities that comprise the Berlin University Alliance: Freie Universität Berlin, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, and Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin. Coordinated by the Berlin University Alliance, the research partnership enables scholars from Berlin and Oxford to establish international contacts, carry out important research, and to preserve the values on which academic work is based, namely, the freedom to speak, research, collaborate, and travel in the pursuit of knowledge.

The Latin words veritas, justitia, and libertas, which frame the seal of Freie Universität Berlin, stand for the values that have defined the academic ethos of Freie Universität since its founding in December 1948.