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Research Projects of the University of Cologne‘s Faculty of Arts and Humanities

Ldr II, 68. University Library Heidelberg, Cod. Pal. germ. 164, 11v, CC-BY-SA 3.0

Dynamics of Conventionality (400 - 1550)

Principal Investigators: Prof. Dr. Udo Friedrich, Prof. Dr. Karl Ubl | Medieval Studies

Funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)

The research training group “Dynamics of Conventionality (400 - 1550)” emerged from an interdisciplinary cooperation among medievalists from the University of Cologne, covering the following subject areas: Medieval History, German Medieval Literature, History of Art and Architecture, Philosophy, Medieval Latin studies, and Musicology. Over the course of four and a half years, twelve Ph.D students and one postdoctoral scholar will conduct research on the relationship between preservation and change from a historical perspective.
The research training group aims to establish the term ‘conventionality’ as a new key concept for medieval studies from an interdisciplinary perspective. Conventionality derives from the word ‘convenire’, meaning to come together, to come to an agreement, or to acquiesce, and describes collective claims of validity, as well as practices used by societies, communities, or groups to gain temporal orientation by means of agreement or habitualisation. In all fields of social communication, these practices form approaches of medium or long-term continuity, thus overcoming contingency and guaranteeing relative stability. In so doing, the “Dynamics of Conventionality” research training group distances itself, on the one hand, from a modern progress paradigm, and, on the other, from a pathos of artistic originality. The significance of conventions is studied on several levels from antiquity to the Middle Ages to modern times, and takes the form of a discourse of high constancy across several fields: namely religion, law, politics, didactics, dietetics, philosophy, craftsmanship, and art, thereby requiring an interdisciplinary approach. Until early modern times, conventionality was usually associated with custom, a term whose inner tension between stabilisation and dynamics is neatly encapsulated by Michel de Montaigne: “These are the effects of custom; she can mould us, not only into what form she pleases […], but also to change and variation, which is the most noble and most useful instruction of all she teaches us.” (Essays, III,13).

Text: Udo Friedrich


Medieval Studies
Prof. Dr. Udo Friedrich, Prof. Dr. Karl Ubl

Researchers: Dr. Anica Schumann

E-mail ufriedri(at)