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PhD position for "Claiming Beowulf as a European Epic"

Vacancy number
Job type
PhD positions
Hours (in fte)
External/ internal
Placed on
12 December 2023
Closing date
1 March 2024 Vacancy closed

Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) invites applications for a

PhD position for “Claiming Beowulf as a European Epic”, subproject of the ERC Starting Grant project “Early Medieval English in Nineteenth-Century Europe [EMERGENCE]” (1.0 fte, 4 years)

The PhD candidate will be working on a subproject within the ERC Starting Grant research project “Early Medieval English in Nineteenth-Century Europe [EMERGENCE]”, funded for 2024-2028 by the European Research Council (ERC), and directed by Dr. Thijs Porck (Senior University Lecturer in Medieval English at Leiden University).

In the 19th century, German scholars dominated the study of the language and literature of early medieval England; the first editors and scholars of the Old English epic Beowulf were Danes; Old English texts were claimed as part of the Dutch literary canon in the Low Countries; some of the first ‘popular’ adaptations of Old English material appeared in French, Dutch, Danish and German; and non-Anglophone scholars discovered important Old English documents in archives all across the European continent. This multi-faceted European, transnational reception of Old English is the focus of the EMERGENCE project, which seeks to identify and analyze engagements with early medieval English across 19th-century Europe. The project, situated on the intersection of history of humanities and medievalism studies, is powered by a bibliographical and relational database and a multi-disciplinary, multilingual approach. It will reveal new, insightful materials, uncover intellectual networks and put forgotten protagonists in the limelight. A full description of the project and all its subprojects can be found here: https://thijsporck.com/emergence/.

PhD-project: Claiming Beowulf as a European Epic: Non-Anglophone Appropriations of an Old English Poem
This subproject explores the influence of Romantic Nationalism on both scholarly and non-scholarly engagements with a single, but important text, Beowulf. The Old English epic Beowulf has invited critical and creative responses ever since it was first brought to attention in 1805. In the 19th century, the poem was claimed by various European nations: first the Danes, followed by the English, the Germans and the Dutch. While European scholarly interactions with Beowulf, esp. by Danish and German scholars, have received some attention, the more creative engagements with the epic by non-Anglophone poets, novelists and translators have gone largely unnoticed (even though some predate the earliest English-language adaptations). The PhD candidate in this subproject will catalogue both scholarly and non-scholarly engagements with Beowulf and incorporate relevant metadata in the project’s database. Next, a representative selection of creative Beowulfiana (poems; historical novels and plays/operas; children’s literature; and/or translations) will be analysed through the lenses of Adaptation Theory and/or Translation Theory. The PhD candidate in this subproject will also explore the interactions between artistic production, nationalism and scholarly investigation.

Key responsibilities

  • You will complete a PhD thesis (in English) within four years;
  • You will contribute to the project’s bibliographical and relational database by collecting and entering relevant metadata about 19th-century publications and scholars;
  • You will conduct research on the 19th-century reception of Old English;
  • You will publish a (co-authored and/or single-authored) article in a peer-reviewed journal and contributing to an edited volume on the 19th-century reception of Old English;
  • You will participate in (bi)weekly meetings of the project research group;
  • You will present at least 3 papers at conferences, both in the Netherlands and internationally;
  • You will participate in the training programme of the LUCAS Institute, the Leiden Graduate School of Humanities, the Dutch National Research School for Medieval Studies, and other relevant masterclasses, summer schools, seminars, workshops, and events;
  • You will participate in the PhD community and the intellectual life of the Institute;
  • You will contribute to the organization of the events and outreach activities within the project.
  • Subject to progress and demand, you will do some teaching in the English department in the second and third years of the appointment.

Your profile

  • You hold a ResMA/MRes or MA with a specialisation in Old English language and literature, awarded by time of appointment, and an average grade of at least 8.0 on a ten-point scale (or equivalent);
  • You have well-developed research skills, including the ability to formulate creative research questions, descriptive and analytical skills, and a clear and persuasive style of writing;
  • You have a personal affinity for Old English philology and Beowulf;
  • You have an additional affinity for literary analysis, adaptation/translation theory and/or the reception of medieval literature (medievalism).
  • You have experience with or are willing to learn about relational databases and Linked Data;
  • You have full professional working proficiency in English (speaking, writing, reading) and professional reading skills in German; working knowledge of Latin or other European languages are an added value;
  • You have proven time-management skills;
  • You are a team player and independent thinker;
  • You have the ability to finish the proposed PhD research in 4 years.
  • International candidates are encouraged to apply but must be willing to relocate to the Netherlands for the duration of the project.

The organisation
The Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University is a unique international centre for the advanced study of languages, cultures, arts, and societies worldwide, in their historical contexts from prehistory to the present. Our faculty is home to more than 6,000 students and 800 staff members. For more information see: https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en/humanities.

The Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS) is one of the seven Academic Institutes of the Faculty of Humanities. The institute hosts a range of academic disciplines, clustered around a key research theme: the relationships between the arts and society. Our members study cultural production over the course of two millennia, from classical antiquity to our contemporary world, and teach in programmes ranging from Classics and Book History to Modern Literature, International Studies and Art History. Strengthened by our diversity, LUCAS members are uniquely placed to study the broad concept of the arts, with its rapidly changing ideas, aesthetics, and theories of cultural production. Through research, teaching and outreach, the Institute aims to deepen our understanding, both inside and outside academia, of the cognitive, historical, cultural, creative, and social aspects of human life.
As an academic community, we strive to create an open and welcoming atmosphere, stimulating everyone to get involved and contribute, and connecting scholars from different fields and backgrounds.

Terms and conditions
PhD project, 4 years (1.0 FTE, 38 hrs per week), starting date 1 August 2024. Initially the employee will receive a 14-month contract, with extension for the following 34 months on condition of a positive evaluation. The appointment must lead to the completion of a PhD thesis. Salary range from € 2,770 to € 3,539 gross per month for a fulltime appointment (pay scale for PhDs, in accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities).
Leiden University offers an attractive benefits package with additional holiday (8%) and end-of-year bonuses (8.3%), training and career development. Our individual choices model gives you some freedom to assemble your own set of terms and conditions. Candidates from outside the Netherlands may be eligible for a substantial tax break. For more information, see https://www.workingat.leiden.edu/.

Diversity & inclusion
Fostering an inclusive community is a central element of the values and vision of Leiden University. Leiden University is committed to becoming an inclusive community which enables all students and staff to feel valued and respected and to develop their full potential. Diversity in experiences and perspectives enriches our teaching and strengthens our research. High quality teaching and research is inclusive.

Enquiries can be made to the PI of the project, Dr. Thijs Porck. Questions about the procedure can be directed at Marjolijn Goos (im-lucas@hum.leidenuniv.nl). Information about LUCAS can be found at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/geesteswetenschappen/centre-for-the-arts-in-society and about Leiden University at https://www.universiteitleiden.nl/en.

Please submit your application via the online recruitment system, via the blue button at the top of this page, latest March 1 2024. Applications received via e-mail will not be taken into consideration. Your application should include:

Letter of application with a motivation statement of 1000 words max., in which you formulate your special interest in the PhD project and some first ideas about how you would frame/approach it;

  • Your CV, listing education and possibly employment history, and any other academic achievements (conference presentations, publications, organization of events, etc.);
  • Names, positions and contact information for two referees (no reference letters); please list these on your CV rather than filling them out separately in the system;
  • A copy of your MA-thesis or a writing sample (in case the MA-thesis is not yet finished);
  • Copies of relevant course assessments (list of grades; certificates demonstrating language proficiency);
  • A copy of your MA degree certificate or, in case the MA-thesis is not yet finished, a letter by thesis supervisor in which they assess your thesis process.
  • (Online) interviews will take place in the beginning of April. An assessment assignment may be part of the procedure.

Enquiries from agencies are not appreciated.

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