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The reception of ancient Greece in pre-modern French literature and illustrations of manuscripts and printed books (1320-1550): how invented memories shaped the identity of European communities

Project description

The role of Greece in pre-modern Western Europe

It wasn’t until the 14th century that Greek language literary works (historical, fictional, poetic didactic) were translated into French. The revival of interest in ancient Greek in pre-modern Western Europe is believed to be associated with the first direct contact with Greek texts. The EU-funded AGRELITA project will analyse the representations of ancient Greece under the unexplored perspective of the elaboration of a new memory, revealing its structure, meanings and uses by authors according to their national, regional or European community belonging. The project will study a large corpus of French literary works from 1320 to 1550 produced in France and Europe. It will also study the images of the manuscripts and printed books. The results will provide novel insight into our perception of identity building.


Until now the reception history of ancient Greece in pre-modern Western Europe has focussed almost exclusively on the transmission of Greek texts. Yet well before the revival of Greek’s teaching, numerous vernacular works, often illustrated, contained elaborate representations of ancient Greece. AGRELITA will study a large corpus of French-language literary works (historical, fictional, poetic, didactic) produced from 1320 to the 1550s in France and Europe, before the first direct translations from Greek to French, as well as the images of their manuscripts and printed books. It thus aims to challenge one of the great narratives that still prevails in European history: that the revival of interest in ancient Greece only took place through the first direct contacts with Greek works. It will change our perception of the Renaissance. The study of these works and their illustrations (text and image’s dialogue and powers of each) will analyze the representations of ancient Greece from the unexplored perspective of the elaboration of a new memory. It will reveal its structure, its meanings, and the various uses that authors made of it with respect to national, regional or European communities they depicted in their works. It will allow to better understand how, at a time which inherited negative preconceptions about the Greeks, Europe nevertheless began to claim ancient Greece as one of its legacies; and lead to a reassessment of the role played by Greece in Western European identities shaping processes. This promises considerable advances in our understanding of the new representations of these communities in this period. AGRELITA also aims to contribute to a general reflexion on the formation of heritages and identities. Its results will provide new insights on our perception on the issue of identity building, at different levels, local, national and European. They will be able to irrigate the research on modern times in history, sociology, memory and European studies.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 627 261,92
14032 Caen Cedex 5

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Normandie Basse-Normandie Calvados
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 627 261,92

Beneficiaries (2)