Der Sonderforschungsbereich 231

Special Research Unit 231 (1986-1999)

Representatives, fields, and forms of pragmatic written record
in the Middle Ages
at the Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

(finished in 1999)



International Colloquium May 1999
  1. The Special Research Unit 231
  2. Literature about the SFB 231
  3. The projects of the SFB 231
  4. Address
Deutsch Fran#231;ais
Abb.: Le Biccherne. Tavole dipinte delle magistrature senesi (secoli XIII-XVIII) a cura di Luigi Borgia, Enzo Carli e. a., Roma, Le Monier 1984, S. 125.

I. The Special Research Unit 231
The Special Research Unit [SFB] was established on a trial basis at the Westfaelische Wilhelms-Universitaet of Muenster by the "German Society for the Advancement of Research in the Arts and Sciences" (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft) [DFG] in 1986 and was confirmed in 1988. After its last phase of allowance it ended up in 31.12.1999. In accordance with the research interests of the "SFB" a Postgraduate Seminar Group [Graduiertenkolleg] "Literary Culture and Society in the Middle Ages (Interdisciplinary Medieval Studies)" was founded at the University of Muenster in 1990, was financed by the "DFG" until September 1999.

The "SFB" examines how literacy develops new, life dominating functions for society as well as individuals in the Latin West. While in the Early Middle Ages literary culture only covers the areas connected with religion and government and was accessible to only a few, the usage of writing becomes an ever growing instrument of pragmatic human life experience in the High and Later Middle Ages. At the same time the vernaculars' participation in literary culture increases, and in legal life and administration writing becomes a descriptive. This development of pragmatic literacy proved to be the dynamic nucleus of literisation and alphabetising, the basic processes for the European cultural development. Which circles participated in the expansion of the usage of writing, which areas were covered by it and what new forms came into existence in its wake, will be examined for the period from the 11th to the 15th centuries, meaning from the awakening of occidental literacy until the first era of printing.

The mentioned period can be seen as historically decisive period in which the use of the written word for the first time reached into all areas of human social life, occupying traditional spheres of oral procedure and moving into new fields of usage. The "SFB" undertakes to investigate the process of literisation focusing on the function of writing as a whole in all ist dimensions and complex structures. The following points are decisive for the research:

  1. concentration on pragmatic literacy - serving all kinds of pragmatic acting, requirements of every-day life praxis, information and communication, representation and tradition - as the dynamic nucleus of literisation and the required basis of permanent and general literary culture.
  2. observation of the process of expanding literacy in the respective connection of its representatives, fields and forms.

The emphasis on pragmatic written records does not mean the limitation on selected types of texts of everyday life thereby excluding the scientific and literary sphere. The production of scientific and literary texts were still in the hands of the same persons, their forms overlap, having the same representatives and fields of usage. Starting with pragmatic literacy can thus lead up to the connections, interrelations and interferences of all sections of the use of writing and thus to the developing literary culture in its whole appearance.

The teamwork of the participating research projects and the scholarly contact with outsiders have confirmed - in a surprising clearness and extent - that the changes of the 11th and 12th centuries were fundamental, touching every aspect of human life until the end of the medieval period. In spite of the growing interest in the exploration of the medieval literary culture and the questions aiming at the life functions of writing there is still much to discover about the requirements and effects of this expansion of pragmatic writing in the High and Late Medieval Society. Every participating project of the "SFB" 231 reveals the development of pragmatic literacy seen from the perspective of the respective subject and ist individual approach as well as from the interdisciplinary dialogue with the neighbour projects through the integration of different approaches and the compilation of the results.

It is the intent of the "SFB" to describe and analyse the process of the expanding literacy in its whole, and thereby to realise another characteristical change for West-European culture that went on in the medieval society. Nevertheless, the concern of the "SFB" is not only the recording and explaining of this immense quantitative growth but rather the understanding of a qualitative change in the use of writing, that gave the written word a new position in human life, and the clarification of the historical conditions of the cultural-social background of this change.

II. Literature about the SFB 231:

Träger, Felder, Formen pragmatischer Schriftlichkeit im Mittelalter. Der neue Sonderforschungsbereich 231 an der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster, in: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 22, 1988, S. 388-409.

Hagen Keller, Die Entwicklung europäischer Schriftkultur im Spiegel der mittelalterlichen Überlieferung. Beobachtungen und Überlegungen, in: Geschichte und Geschichtsbewußtsein. Festschrift für Karl-Ernst Jeismann zum 65. Geburtstag, hg. v. Paul Leidinger - Dieter Metzler, Münster 1990, S. 171-204.

Hagen Keller, Vom 'heiligen Buch' zur 'Buchführung'. Lebensfunktionen der Schrift im Mittelalter, in: Frühmittelalterliche Studien 26, 1992, S. 1-31.

Hagen Keller - Klaus Grubmüller - Nikolaus Staubach (Hgg.): Pragmatische Schriftlichkeit im Mittelalter. Erscheinungsformen und Entwicklungsstufen (Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 65) München 1992.

Christel Meier - Dagmar Hüpper - Hagen Keller (Hgg.): Der Codex im Gebrauch (Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 70) München 1996.

Hagen Keller - Christel Meier - Thomas Scharff (Hgg.): Schriftlichkeit und Lebenspraxis. Erfassen, Bewahren, Verändern (Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 76) München [in print].

III. The Projects of the SFB 231 (including retired projects)

Projekt A: [Versione italiana]
Der Verschriftlichungsprozeß und seine Träger in Oberitalien (11.-13.Jahrhundert.)
"The Process of Literisation and its Representative in Upper Italy (11.-13. Century)"
Director: Professor Dr. Hagen Keller (since 1986)

Project B:
Die mittelalterliche Ars dictandi als Lehre pragmatischer und literarischer Schriftlichkeit
"The Medieval Ars dictandi as Teaching of Pragmatic and Literary Literacy"
Director: Prof. Dr. Franz Josef Worstbrock (1986-1990)

Project C:
Schriftlichkeit und Volkssprache im Bereich von Schule und Trivialunterricht
"Literacy and Vernacular in the Area of Schools and Teaching of the Trivium"
Director: Prof. Dr. Klaus Grubmüller (1986-1993)

Project D:
Die Rolle der Enzyklopädie im Prozeß der Ausweitung pragmatischer Schriftlichkeit
"The Role of the Encyclopaedia in the Process of Expanding Pragmatic Literacy"
Director: Prof. Dr. Christel Meier-Staubach (since 1986)

Project E:
Rechtsbücher als Ausdruck pragmatischer Schriftlichkeit
"Books of Law as Expression of Pragmatic Literacy"
Director: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Ruth Schmidt-Wiegand (since 1986)

Project F1:
Schriftkultur und Geschichtsüberlieferung im späten Mittelalter
"Literary Culture and the Historical Tradition in the Later Middle Ages"
Director: Prof. Dr. Peter Johanek (since 1986)

Project F2:
Pragmatische Schriftlichkeit im Umkreis des Hofes
"Pragmatic Literacy in the Vicinity of the Court"
Director: Prof. Dr. Jan-Dirk Müller (1986-1992)

Project G:
Schriftlichkeit und adliges Selbstverständnis. Neue Felder und Formen der Geschichtsschreibung vom 10. bis 13. Jahrhundert
"Literacy and Aristocracy. New Fields and Forms of Historiography from the 10th to the 13. Centuries"
Director: Prof. Dr. Gerd Althoff (1988-1991)

Project H:
Der Dialog im lateinischen Mittelalter als pragmatische Verschriftlichung
mündlicher Interaktion
"The Dialogue as Pragmatic Literisation of Oral Interaction in the Middle Ages"
Director: Prof. Dr. Peter von Moos (1991-1993)

Project I:
Pragmatische Schriftlichkeit im Bereich der Devotio moderna
"Pragmatic Literacy and Devotio moderna"
Director: Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Staubach (since 1991)

Project K:
Gezählte Frömmigkeit. Schriftlichkeit als Instrument der Absicherung und Beförderung des Zählens von Frömmigkeitsakten
"The Counting of Piety. Literacy as Instrument of Securing and Transporting of the Counting of Records of Piety"
Director: Prof. Dr. Arnold Angenendt (since 1992)

Project L1:
Schriftlichkeit und Ordensorganisation vom 12. bis zum beginnenden 14. Jahrhundert
"Literacy and Organisation of Religious Orders from the 12th to the beginning 14th centuries"
Director: Prof. Dr. Gert Melville (1992-1996)

Project L2:
Das Schriftlichkwerden klösterlicher Lebensgewohnheiten im Mittelalter
"The Literization of Monastic Rules in the Middle Ages"
Director: Prof. Dr. Joachim Wollasch (1992-1995)

Project M:
Schriftlichkeit und Verhaltensnormierung: Anstands- und Ratgeberbücher im englischen Spätmittelalter
"Literacy and Norms of Behaviour: Books of Manners and Advice in Late Medieval England"
Director: Prof. Dr. Gabriele Müller-Oberhäuser (1992-1994)

Project N:
Textierte Einblattdrucke im deutschen Reich bis 1500 als Ausdruck pragmatischer Schriftlichkeit
"Single Leaf Broad Sheets in the German Empire until 1500 as Expression of Pragmatic Literacy"
Director: Prof. Dr. Volker Honemann (since 1994)

IV. Address

SFB 231
Salzstr. 41
48143 Münster

Phone: 0049 251 - 8327913 new
Telefax: 0049 251 - 8327911 new

Maintainer: Frank Schweppenstette

Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität