(Un)-Equal Pairs?
Comparative Literature, Time and Place
From the Middle Ages to the Present Time

A doctoral school at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland
Organized by Profs Paolo Borsa, Elisabeth Dutton, Ralph Müller
7th September, 2021


In Animal Farm, George Orwell satirized the corruption of revolutionary ideals of equality with the slogan: ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ 

The Latin root of ‘comparison’ implies a bringing together of equals, but when we read literature ‘comparatively’, how ‘equally’ do we experience texts from different times and places?  Do we read differently when we read in a second language? If we read in translation, do we implicitly assume a superiority in the original text?  And when a text is ‘translated’ (literally, ‘carried across’) not between languages but from one time period to another, does comparison imply some transcendent quality of an ancient author that continues to inspire writers through the centuries, or does the contemporary version seem to exhibit a superiority, an increased sophistication?

Medieval authors who wrote in the various European vernaculars worked in the shadow of Latin, the language of Vergil and Ovid, the language of learning, and the language of the authoritative Vulgate Bible. How did they position themselves in relation to established authorities, and in comparison to each other – as pale imitations, vibrant competitors, or equal creators? Just as medieval writers often drew on classical texts, so many more modern writers have drawn on medieval works, whether though translation, adaptation, or allusion: how should ‘the medieval’ be read in the works of writers from Cervantes and Shakespeare to Goethe, Hugo, Eco?    

This doctoral school, hosted by the University of Fribourg, is associated with the Colloquium Paradigms and Perspectives of a Comparative Mediaeval Literature’ hosted by Fribourg’s Medieval Institute (8-10 September 2021), and is sponsored by Fribourg’s Institute for Comparative Literature. The doctoral school aims to promote intellectually stimulating links between scholars of different languages, and young scholars of medieval literature and those studying early-modern and modern literature, as well as between early career researchers and more established scholars. 

Professors Christian Høgel, Lars Boje Mortensen and Elizabeth Tyler of the Centre for Medieval Literature (York & Southern Denmark) will give a keynote speech, and will participate in further activities of the day. Young scholars will give short presentations (15 mins) on their specific field of research during the morning, and in the afternoon will be paired with scholars from different fields of study for informal ‘walk-and-talk’ sessions in which to explore possible connections, whether great or small, between their work.  Small group discussions, supported by the established scholars present, will then consider the evidence yielded by the presentations and discussions about literary comparisons across time and place.  A final session will give young scholars the opportunity to consider the transmission of their research, in particular how to ‘sell’ their field of interest to research funding bodies, scholars of other disciplines, and to an audience outside the academy.

Students may present in French, German, Italian, Spanish, or English, and must be prepared to discuss their papers in either French, German or English.

Doctoral Students and Early Career Researchers from any field of literary studies are invited to offer a presentation.

Doctoral Students at a Swiss University may also apply for funded places which will cover accommodation and meals, and will contribute to travel costs.



Please submit your application, by April 12th 2021

to elisabeth.dutton@unifr.ch and ralph.mueller@unifr.ch and paolo.borsa@unifr.ch

Please include:

  • A short CV
  • A short abstract for your 15-minute presentation
  • A brief statement (two or three sentences) explaining how you think your research might relate to the theme of ‘(Un)-Equal Pairs? Comparative Literature, Time and Place – From the Middle Ages to the Present Time’
  • A sentence about the languages in which you are happy to present and discuss

Call for Papers (Un)-Equal Pairs_FR

Call for papers (Un)-Equal Pairs_DE

Call for papers (Un)-Equal Pairs_IT

Call for papers (Un)-Equal Pairs_SP