Gepubliceerd op 21-07-2015

Vacancy: PhD researcher “Medieval Studies” Ghent University

The Henri Pirenne Institute for Medival Studies at Ghent University (Belgium) has a position available for:


Project description:
Collaborative Authorship in Twelfth-Century Latin Literature: A Stylometric Approach to Gender, Synergy and Authority

Stylometry, a subfield of Digital Humanities, offers new methods for segregating different writing styles. So far, stylometry has been especially popular in authorship attribution studies. This project will approach issues of collaborative authorship in twelfth-century Latin literature with stylometric methods.

In the Middle Ages, authors seldom worked alone when conceiving their treatises, letters or narratives. A new text could be the result of drafts on wax tablets copied by professional scribes, of processes of dictation and subsequent correction, etc. An authority like Bernard of Clairvaux, one of the most prolific and influential medieval authors, is known to have been surrounded by a team of secretaries. For his sermons and letters in particular, a number of his collaborators were even trained in imitating his writing style, thus facilitating Bernard’s work of final editing or correcting. In the case of the remarkably few medieval female authors known to us, the role of secretaries is even more intricate. Women writers such as the German nun Hildegard of Bingen were considered unlearned and incapable of independently writing down their visionary experiences, even if their visions were accepted as being divinely inspired. These women therefore had to be assisted by male collaborators, often also serving as their spiritual directors. The precise nature and implications of such (cross-gender) collaborations remain a topic of scholarly debate.

With a number of selected, experimental case studies, concentrating on Bernard of Clairvaux and his secretaries, Hildegard of Bingen and her collaborators, Suger of Saint-Denis and his chancery, and Abelard and Heloise, this project aims to contribute to the debate about individual and collective creativity in the Middle Ages, and to extend the usual application of stylometric methods to new cultural-historical questions that go beyond mere authorship attribution.

This research project is funded by the Special Research Fund (BOF) of Ghent University.
Directors: Prof. Jeroen Deploige (Ghent University), Dr. Mike Kestemont (University of Antwerp), Prof. Wim Verbaal (Ghent University)

Professional environment:
Medieval studies at Ghent University cover a wide range of subjects and methodological approaches. Intensive exchanges within the Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies and with the international academic community create a stimulating environment for innovative research. For more information, see http://www.ugent.be/pirenne The collaborator will also be associated with the CLiPS Research Centre (Computational Linguistics & Psycholinguistics) at the University of Antwerp, in order to be immersed in the stylometric research carried out at this institute. For more information, see: http://www.clips.ua.ac.be.

Qualifications of the candidate:

  • A Master’s degree in History, Literature, (Computational) Linguistics or Medieval Studies. Students who are currently preparing a master’s thesis and will graduate as a Master before 1 October 2015 are also welcome to apply.
  • Excellent study results.
  • Experience with reading and analyzing Latin texts, preferably of the medieval period.
  • Strong interest in the expanding field of Digital Humanities, and computational text analysis in particular. Willing to be trained intensively in stylometric research during the course of the PhD project.
  • Active knowledge of English and/or French and ability to read scholarly literature in the major academic languages. Willing to learn basic Dutch during the employment at Ghent University (introductory courses are available).
  • Commitment to prepare, and finish, a doctoral dissertation as outlined in the project text within four years.
  • An intellectually curious, analytical, responsible, and proactive personality, able to work autonomously as well as in a team.


  • A four-year contract as a full time academic staff member, attached to the History Department at Ghent University (scholarship starting from around 1800 euro net/month; 1 year + 3 additional years after positive evaluation).
  • Opportunity to gain a PhD in four years, supervised by the three project directors. Given the multidisciplinary nature of the research to be conducted, the PhD can be in Literature, Linguistics or History, depending on the preference of the candidate and the emphases developed in the research.
  • Extensive opportunities for engaging with national and international research groups.
  • Opportunity to follow an individualized PhD programme at the UGent Doctoral School of Arts, Humanities and Law, including language courses.

Start of the project: negotiable (but between 1 October 2015 and 1 July 2016).

How to apply:
Feel free to contact prof. Jeroen Deploige for any further information or questions. If you are considering applying for this position, you are also invited to request the full project description. If you are interested in joining us, please send a copy of your diploma, your CV, a one-page summary of your master’s thesis and a cover letter describing your interest in the project before 28 August 2015 to prof. Jeroen Deploige (jeroen.deploige@ugent.be).

Het KNHG is de grootste organisatie van professionele historici in Nederland. Het biedt een platform aan de ruim 1100 leden en aan de historische gemeenschap als geheel. Word lid van het KNHG.
Het Huygens Instituut beoogt de Nederlandse geschiedenis en cultuur inclusiever maken. Het ontsluit historische bronnen en literaire teksten en ontwikkelt innovatieve methoden, tools en duurzame digitale infrastructuur.