AccueilPre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships in comparative medieval encyclopaedism

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Publié le mercredi 15 mai 2013 par Elsa Zotian


As part of our current research project "Speculum Arabicum - Objectifying the contribution of tha Arab-Muslim world to the history of sciences and ideas: the sources and resources of medieval encyclopaedism" (ARC 2012-2017), we are pleased to announce the availability of 2 fellowships (1 doctoral and 1 post-doctoral) to highly qualified scholars.



As part of our current research project in the field of comparative medieval encyclopaedism, we are pleased to announce the availability of 2 fellowships (1 doctoral and 1 post-doctoral) to highly qualified scholars.

Promoters: Godefroid de Callataÿ, Baudouin Van den Abeele, Mattia Cavagna, Françoise Van Haeperen.

The research project

"Speculum  rabicum: Objectifying the contribution of the Arab-Muslim world to the history of sciences and ideas: the sources and resources of medieval  encyclopaedism" ( is a project which seeks to explore medieval encyclopaedism in the East and the West in order to provide unbiased information and quantifiable  benchmarks that can help us better understand the extent of what Europe owes to the scholars of Islam.  The comparative study of encyclopaedias in Islam, Byzantium, the Latin and the Romance-speaking West has been at the core of our investigations ever since our group ‘Cyclopes’ was founded in 2003. The current project will run until at least 2017. In addition to five topics of inquiry that have been specifically defined for PhD students and post-doctoral fellows (3 of them already appointed), the project includes, among other activities, a yearly seminar and the  participation in at least one international conference  on issues at the heart of the present investigation.

In attachment to the present message, please find a detailed presentation of the two topics for which the present announcement is made, namely:                                        

1) Between the East and the West: the sources and scopes of the Byzantine Suda (10th C.) (PhD; supervisor: F. Van Haeperen)

  • What about

The work of a single compiler or of a team, the Suda (10th C.) forms the most elaborate encyclopaedic dictionary of the Byzantine period, with more than 30,000 entries. Relying for the most part on a collection of ancient and Byzantine sources, it provides an excellent tool to appraise which forms of knowledge were held to be of interest in the Byzantine East, saturated as it was with classical culture and apparently much less receptive to the Arab-Muslim world, although it was in permanent contact with it.

  • Why

Studies devoted to the Suda are mainly focused on issues such as the identity of its author(s) and its literary genre – lexicon of rare words or genuine encyclopaedia – or else on just a few entries relating to a specific topic or source. As a result of its impressive and discouraging size, the Suda has rarely been the subject of comprehensive studies. The digitization of the work, its translation into English (in progress) and the creation of a search engine will now allow more rapid and easier access, which will greatly facilitate large-scale investigations. One of these is, undoubtedly, the systematic search and analysis of the sources and issues covered by the Suda.

  • How

The work will start with the compilation of a database that lists, for each relevant entry in the Suda, the sources (Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and the like) explicitly or supposedly used, as well as the fields covered by them (definition of rare words, history, topography, biographies, institutions, philosophy, theology, natural sciences, and so on).

  • For which objective

The objective will be to assess, in a scientific way, the importance of the different sources of the work, and, consequently, to better evaluate the importance of the cultural areas from which these sources come. To what extent can we observe cultural transfers from the past to the present and from other areas of power and knowledge to the Byzantine East? Conversely, what are the omissions in this process – the composition of the Suda is slightly later than Ibn al-Nadīm’s Fihrist, which seems to have been completely overlooked – and how are we to interpret these omissions? In fine, the study should also enable us to clarify how neighbouring cultures – Persian, Jewish, Arab – were perceived.

  • By whom

This investigation is appropriate for a 45-month doctorate. It requires a deep familiarity with Greek philology and history of the Byzantine World

2) A comparison of the Oriental and Occidental traditions with respect to the Wonders of the Word (Post-doc; supervisor: G. de Callataÿ)

  • What about

Popularized by a canonical list of seven masterpieces, the traditions about the Wonders of the Ancient World have been the subject of a multitude of studies and a wide variety of hypotheses over the centuries. In addition to the relatively well-known (if not always well-interpreted) literary and iconographical sources from Antiquity, the Wonders of the World topos also contains a broad variety of medieval texts, in Latin or vernacular languages but also in Arabic, and these texts are often crucial. Moreover, Arabic literature provides of its own a wide collection of texts about other human accomplishments of the past that have been similarly regarded as masterpieces. Descriptions have circulated, from the 9th C. onwards, among travelers, historians and litterateurs (al-Jāḥiẓ, al-Masūdī, Ibn al-Faqīh) to be taken up later, with sometimes considerable deformation, by the great encyclopaedists of the 13th and 14th C. (al-Maqrīzī, al-Qalqashandī, al-Nuwayrī, al-Waṭwāṭ, al-‛Umarī). Among other groupings, a list of four ‘Wonders of the World’ (‛ajā’ib al-‛ālam), could even be regarded as the Oriental equivalent to the Seven Wonders of the Occidental tradition.

  • Why

With the exception of one now-dated article restricted to the Latin area, medieval evidence about the Wonders of the World, although crucial at times, has not received the attention it deserves. In particular – and notwithstanding a brief overall inquiry made more than 20 years ago – no synthesis of any kind has been attempted so far about Arab traditions in the same field, let alone a work in which these traditions would be compared with those having circulated in the Latin and Byzantine worlds. A comparative, cross-cultural study would not only fill important gaps in our information about the subject, but would also contribute to the study of cultures by questioning the way each identifies itself with its own ‘roots’.

  • How

As opposed to the study of traditions available in Greek or Latin, which have been already investigated several times, an inventory of Arabic sources will be the first requisite of this inquiry. It need not be exhaustive – exhaustiveness in this field is neither a realistic nor a desirable objective, as a very large number of reports of the Wonders are mere repetitions of former statements – but should focus on those reports that are either innovative or especially relevant in the transmission process of tradition. Subsequently, this inventory will be compared to those already available for Latin and Greek sources.

  • For which objective

It is the purpose of such a study to give us a panoramic view of the issue. The objectives are three: 1) to complete and refine the scientific information that we have about great artefacts of the past; 2) to help us better understand the ways of transmission of the traditions about them, and more specifically the role played by encyclopaedias in this transmission; 3) to identify habits, trends, folklore, mental representations and images that could be viewed as culturally representative in a field which by nature mixes sciences, techniques, arts, folklore and popular literatures.

  • By whom

The panoramic scope of this project requires the skills of a post-doctoral researcher with an excellent command of classical Arabic and a thorough familiarity with the medieval Arabic literature. A further background in the Classics would be welcome.

The fellowships

  • The fellowship for doctoral research ("Suda") is for a 45-month tenure, to start in October 2013.
  • The net monthly allowance for PhD students amounts to c. 1,500-1,700 euros.       
  • The fellowship for post-doctoral research ("Wonders") is for a 24-month tenure, to start in October 2013.
  • The net monthly allowance for post-doc fellows amounts to 2,000-2,300 euros

Applicants for these fellowships should not have stayed or worked in Belgium for more than 24 months during the three years that precede the appointment.

They should not have obtained their PhDs more than 6 years prior to this appointment. 

The deadline for applications is 15 June 2013.

As full-time employments, it is implied that the recipients will reside in Belgium during the entire tenure of the respective fellowships (both doctoral and post-doctoral).

Application guidelines

Applications should be made electronically at the following address:  

They should include:

  • An up-to-date CV, including a full list of publications (no published or ready-to-be-published material should be sent).
  • The name and address, with email address, of 2 (for the doctoral fellowship) or 3 (for the post-doctoral fellowship) scholars of international reputation that we may address to obtain a reference.
  • A letter of motivation (in English or French, maximum 5 pages in all) in relation with one of the above-defined topics of inquiry, containing the following elements:

1) an outline of the proposed research, expounding as clearly as possible the plan, method and aim of the research project;

2) an exposition of the reasons why the applicant believes he/she has the appropriate qualifications for conducting this particular research and for completing it in due time;

3) the applicant’s view on how he/she conceives of his/her own interaction with the other fields of inquiry and with the project as a whole. 

Applications not related to the above-defined topics will not be considered.


Receipt of each fully completed application will be acknowledged as soon as possible. Final decision and notification of results are expected for 15 July 2013.

ARC: speculum Arabicum    

institut INCAL, Collège Erasme, Faculté de Philosophie, Arts et Lettres, Place Blaise Pascal, 1, B-1348 Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

  • Godefroid de Callataÿ (FIAL/INCAL)
  • Baudouin Van den Abeele (FIAL/INCAL)
  • Mattia Cavagna (FIAL/INCAL)
  • Françoise Van Haeperen (FIAL/ INCAL)


  • Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgique


  • samedi 15 juin 2013


  • Encyclopaedism, Middle Ages, Islam, Latin, Greek, Vernacular, History of science, History of Thought, European Construction


  • de Callataÿ Godefroid
    courriel : godefroid [dot] decallatay [at] uclouvain [dot] be

URLS de référence

Source de l'information

  • de Callataÿ Godefroid
    courriel : godefroid [dot] decallatay [at] uclouvain [dot] be

Pour citer cette annonce

« Pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships in comparative medieval encyclopaedism », Bourse, prix et emploi, Calenda, Publié le mercredi 15 mai 2013,