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Richard Calis joins the Vossius Center for three months in June 2020 as a Research Fellow with the project 'The Making of Medieval Italy: Evidence and Proof in the Age of Ludovico Antonio Muratori (1672-1750)'.

About the project

In the 18th century, scholars all over the Italian peninsula embarked on a radically new kind of scholarly project: to construct an account of Italy’s medieval past that was based on the critical assessment of archival and material evidence from Modena to Milan. Earlier scholars had followed the opinion of the Italian poet and humanist Francesco Petrarca (1304-1374) who had dismissed the Middle Ages as a musty period of intellectual, cultural, and economic darkness. The 18th-century medievalists turned to the Italian Middle Ages —known for its many competing city-states and their troublesome relationship with the Church— with newfound curiosity: they studied medieval Italy to find the origins of their own politically fragmented world and to reconstruct the social-cultural environment in which Italian as a literary language had first flourished.

My project traces precisely how in the Italian Enlightenment a complex combination of political and religious motivations made the Middle Ages a matter of utmost urgency. It is organized around Ludovico Antonio Muratori —bishop, lawyer, and arguably Italy’s foremost forgotten intellectual of the 18th century— whose surviving archive and correspondences afford a rare opportunity to extend conversations in a number of overlapping disciplines and fields, including the history of religion and politics, the burgeoning history of archives, and the history of early modern law and scholarship.

The project has three general objectives:

  1. to offer a critical analysis and contextualization of the motives and methods of these 18th-century scholars.
  2. to offer new empirical evidence and novel conceptual tools to examine age-old questions about the relationship between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment.
  3. to undertake a systematic survey of the early modern origins of medieval studies.

As a Junior Fellow at the Vossius Center I will begin research on this project and prepare an application for NWO’s VENI Scheme, to be submitted in the 2020/21 round.

About the researcher

Richard Calis is a Ph.D. candidate at Princeton University  and is expected to defend his dissertation, entitled The Apostle of the Orient: Martin Crusius and the Discovery of Ottoman Greece, in the spring of 2020. He is interested in the early modern world, working primarily on books and their readers, antiquarianism, the history of science, and the history of scholarship in the broadest sense.

His dissertation is about understanding cultural and religious difference in the early modern world. His laboratory is sixteenth-century Tübingen, where a deeply pious Lutheran professor named Martin Crusius developed an extremely precise and highly informed representation of the Greek Orthodox Mediterranean. Through a well-preserved set of sources —hundreds of his books and manuscripts have survived— he follows Crusius’s long journey of discovery. Tracing the ways in which Crusius studied a culture that was not his own allows him to engage in debates about global Lutheranism, the history of ethnography, cross-cultural encounters, ways of establishing trust and credibility, the history of Orientalism, and the complex and variegated ways in which early modern scholars made knowledge.

He has been a visiting researcher at the universities of Oxford, Tübingen, and Venice. Richard studied Classics and History at the University of Amsterdam and spent a year hunting down manuscripts in Rome, Florence, and Venice. After completing his masters, he worked as a research and teaching assistant in the Department of Languages, Literature and Communication at Utrecht University.