Monday, September 28, 2009

Globalization of the Middle Ages project receives funding

Susan Noakes, University of Minnesota professor in the department of French and Italian, will have $70,000 over the next two years to initiate a research project on “Globalization of the Middle Ages.”

The $70,000 grant which will help initiate this project comes from the University’s Imagine Fund. The fund began as the McKnight Arts in Humanities Endowment in 1991 and now gives about $1.3 million to arts, design and humanities scholars each year.

Funds for arts and humanities are often the first to be cut during tough economic times, Jon Binks, who works in the university's academic affairs office, said. The Imagine Fund awards scholars pursuing innovative ideas related to global problem-solving, Binks said.

Noakes’ long-range initiative includes collaborating with international scholars to “globalize approaches to the Middle Ages,” Noakes said.

“The Middle Ages have traditionally been seen as occurring only in Europe,” Noakes said.

However, other civilizations existed at that time. Noakes, alongside other international scholars across academic disciplines, formed the Scholarly Community for the Globalization of the Middle Ages . The scholars aspire to make the events of those civilizations more accessible, she said.

“It’s hard in humanities to get this sort of start-up money,” Noakes said, adding she is “overwhelmed with gratitude” and hopes this will lead to more grants for the project.

Beginning in the Twin Cities area, Noakes also plans to put together a public presentation of medieval works to stimulate conversation and learning, she said.

During the Middle Ages, Noakes explained, Christians, Muslims and Jews were in conflict with each other and each group recorded the disputes. Noakes said she wants to bring the works together for the first time, translate them into English and create a performance.

Ultimately, Noakes said the scholarly community wants to make new research on the Middle Ages available via the Internet. The Web site would include interactive maps and in-depth details of different civilizations at that time, she said.

“The Imagine Fund is happy to seed these kinds of ideas,” Binks said.

Noakes said the grant will be used to hire workers and provide airfare for international scholars to come to the University. The funds provide the first steps the community needs to establish itself. Members will apply for more grants over the next few years.