Universiteit Leiden

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Rolf Bremmer

Professor emeritus Old and Middle English Language, Literature and Culture

Prof.dr. R.H. Bremmer
+31 71 527 2727

Rolf Bremmer is emeritus Professor of English Philology at the Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society. Rolf Bremmer is also emeritus Professor of Frisian Language and Literature by special appointment of the Fryske Akademy at the Leiden Centre for the Arts in Society.

More information about Rolf Bremmer

Fields of interest

  • Old and Middle English Language, Literature and Culture
  • History of the English Language
  • History of English Studies, esp. 16th and 17th centuries
  • Old Frisian Language, Literature and Culture


Within the field of English studies, my research has moved between Anglo-Saxon heroic literature, sources of Anglo-Saxon literary culture, Anglo-Saxon manuscript studies, medieval English devotional and hagiographical literature, on the one hand, and the work of founding fathers of the discipline of medieval English studies, such as the Dutch philologists Franciscus Junius (1591–1677) and Johannes de Laet (1581–1649), on the other. I am particularly proud of the very productive NWO-funded project “Storehouses of Wholesome Learning – The Transfer of Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages”, which I directed together with Kees Dekker (Groningen) and Patrizia Lendinara (Palermo). It taught me and many others how early and intricate our common European quest for learning began.

Whenever I mention that I am also a professor of Frisian (albeit part-time), I usually hear: ‘I didn’t know you were a Frisian!’. It is a frequently heard misconception in the Netherlands that one needs to be Frisian in order to study the language. Friesland has a fascinating cultural history of its own that we can follow from the early Middle Ages onwards. The language itself first emerges in runic inscriptions, dating from betwen ca. 400 and 700 A.D. and in manuscripts from the twelfth century onwards. A good deal of the Frisian literature from that time onwards is characterized by a struggle of the Frisians for cultural self-preservation against external forces.  

I am intrigued by the will of a small nation to cherish its language and culture throughout the centuries. I have tried, and will continue to do so in retirement, to convey this fascination in my lectures. I wish to show that the study of Frisian, whether medieval or later, provides a range of welcome perspectives, including of the various disciplines from which my students come. The Leiden Summer School of Language and Linguistics enables me to go on teaching Old Frisian for many years to come.

Curriculum vitae

  • Leiden University, 1986 - 2015
  • Radboud University Nijmegen, 1979 - 1986
  • Gomarus College, Groningen, 1977 - 1979
  • In 1994 I held the Erasmus Chair in Dutch History and Culture at Harvard University
  • Ph.D. Radboud University Nijmegen, 1987 (supervisor Prof. F.N.M. Diekstra)
  • M.A. Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, 1970-1977 (supervisor Prof. J. Gerritisen)
  • Gymnasium Alpha, Ichthus College, Enschede

Key publications

  • (2016) Fruits of Learning. The Transfer of Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Rolf H. Bremmer Jr and Kees Dekker. Paris, Leuven and Dudley, MA: Peeters.
  • (2016) Tracing Paradigms: One Hundred Years of Neophilologus, ed. Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Thijs Porck, Frans Ruiter and Usha Wilbers. Dordrecht: Springer.
  • (2014) Directions for Old Frisian Philology, ed. Rolf H. Bremmer Jr, Stephen Laker and Oebele Vries. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi.
  • (2010)  Practice in Learning. The Transfer of Encyclopaedic Knowledge in the Early Middle Ages, ed. Rolf H. Bremmer Jr and Kees Dekker. Paris, Leuven and Dudley, MA: Peeters.
  • (2009)  An Introduction to Old Frisian. History, Grammar, Reader, Glossary. Amsterdam and Philadelphia: John Benjamins; repr. 2011. 

PhD (co-)supervision

  • Kees Dekker, The Light under the Bushel: Old Germanic Studies in the Low Countries and the Motivation and Methods of Jan van Vliet (1622–1666) [with C. J. Ewen] (Leiden, 1999; cum laude).
  • Sophie van Romburgh, “For My Worthy Freind Mr Franciscus Junius.” An Edition of the Correspondence of Francis Junius F.F. (1591-1677) [with C. L. Heesakkers] (Leiden, 2002; cum laude).
  • L. Sándor Chardonnens, Anglo-Saxon Prognostics: a Study of the Genre with a Text Edition [with B. Westerweel] (Leiden, 2006; cum laude).
  • Louis J. Ph. Verheij, “Where of is mad al mankynde”. An Edition of and Introduction to the Twenty-Four Poems in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Digby 102 (Leiden, 2009).
  • Sophie Oosterwijk, 'Fro Paris to Inglond'? The danse macabre in Text and Image in Late-Medieval England [with R. K. Todd] (Leiden, 2009).
  • Stephen Laker, British Celtic Influence on English Phonology [with P. C. H. Schrijver, Utrecht] (Leiden, 2010)
  • Alan Griffiths, A Family of Names: Rune-names and Ogam-names and Their Relation to Alphabet Letter-names [with P. C. H. Schrijver, Utrecht] (Leiden, 2013).
  • Bart (N. H. G. E.) Veldhoen, Shaping Idealisms: Studies in Middle English Romances and the Literature of the Medieval Revival [with W. van Anrooij] (Leiden, 2014).
  • Thijs (M. H.) Porck, Growing Old among the Anglo-Saxons: the Cultural Conceptualisation of Old Age in Early Medieval England [with W. van Anrooij] (Leiden, 2016; cum laude)
  • Julie Anne Somers, Women and the Written Word: Textual Culture in Court and Convent during the Twelfth-century Renaissance [with E. Kwakkel] (Leiden, 218)
  • Jenneka P. C. Janzen, Written Culture at Ten Duinen: Cistercian Monks and Their Books, c. 1125–c. 1250 [with E. Kwakkel] (Leiden, 2019)

Ancillary Positions

Professor emeritus Old and Middle English Language, Literature and Culture

  • Faculty of Humanities
  • Centre for the Arts in Society
  • Moderne Engelstalige letterkunde



  • Geen Geen
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