One of the nicer things about the Marie Curie fellowship programme is the fact that there is a story behind it. It resonates in ways that can be quite surprising. One such is the picture that came round on twitter recently of a letter in which Marie Curie, a native of Poland, in France, wrote in English about her work. This convergence of different regions, indeed different languages, in a single text reminded me of some of the European phenomena that I’m working on in my research.
In particular, I thought of a beautiful manuscript that I first encountered when I was teaching a course on cultural encounters back in Oxford. It’s a bit of a stretch perhaps, but still a happy coinicidence that it includes both the German that I’ve brought to my project by way of disciplinary background, and the Polish that was Marie Curie’s own native tongue.
This is the ‘St. Florian Psalter’. The manuscript is named after the Austrian monastery in which it had arrived by the Baroque period, if not before. However, it seems to have originated in the Cracow area around 1400, where it was probably produced for Queen Jadwiga of Poland. It interests me because it is a visually spectacular example of how different languages could coexist in the Middle Ages: the texts are presented first in Latin (Dominus…), then in Polish (Gospodzin…), and then in German (Got…). In particular – to return to the European dimension of Marie Curie and ‘her’ fellowships – it underlines not only the necessity of thinking about European literary spaces across and beyond national borders, but also the importance of including German when we do so.
Background reading: Hanamann, Rudolf, and Heinrich Tiefenbach. ‘Zum Wiedererscheinen der Ausgabe des lateinisch-polnisch-deutschen Psalters von Sankt Florian nebst Beobachtungen zum deutschsprachigen Teil des Denkmals’ Sprachwissenschaft, 27 (2002): 295-319.—Hanamann, Rudolf. Der deutsche Teil des Florianer Psalters: Sprachanalyse und kulturgeschichtliche Einordnung (Frankfurt a. M., 2010).—Manuscript: Warsaw, Biblioteka Narodowa, 8002 III; public domain image.