Tag Archives: Prophecy

My Article about the Role of Prophecy in Boendale’s ‘Boec vander Wraken’ out now!

I am very happy that finally my article about the role of prophecy in the ‘Boec vander Wraken” has been published in the newest issue of Beihefte zum Archiv für Kulturgeschichte (77). It is contained in a collection of articles edited by professor Schmieder who also organized the workshop at Erlangen where the authors discussed these papers first.
Unfortunately the publisher Böhlau has a very restrictive policy concerning Open Access, so I cannot post the article right now. However, the articles in this collection are definitely worth reading, so please find out more about Mittelalterliche Zukunftsgestaltung im Angesicht des Weltendes: Forming the Future Facing the End of the World in the Middle Ages and how to order the book here.
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Apocalyptische angstdromen van een Antwerpse stadsklerk? De eindtijd in het “Boec vander Wraken”

This is the title of a Dutch article I wrote in 2014 about the role of eschatology in the Middle Dutch Boec vander Wraken by Jan van Boendale. It was published in Madoc, a Dutch popular scientific journal for medieval studies.


De eerste helft van de veertiende eeuw was voor Europa een periode met grote
rampen. Een van de kroniekschrijvers van die eeuw was de dichter Jan van Boendale. Het Boec vander Wraken, waarin de naderende eindtijd en het Laatste Oordeel een grote rol spelen, wordt aan Boendale toegeschreven. Hij was al op leeftijd toen hij dat werk schreef. Mogelijk ontwikkelde hij door de rampen die hij
beleefde en zijn eigen naderende levenseinde een obsessie voor de eindtijd en
het zielenheil. Dit artikel tracht echter aan te tonen dat de verwijzingen naar de
eindtijd een functie hebben die niet noodzakelijk samenhangt met persoonlijke
obsessies van de auteur.

Please follow the link if you like to access the pdf: LR Madoc2010-1_Ulrike Wuttke

The Last Judgement: Christ on a rainbow in heaven, with Mary and saints; the division of the blessed and the damned, The Hague, KB, 76 F 5, found on Europeana (Public Domain)

The Last Judgement: Christ on a rainbow in heaven, with Mary and saints; the division of the blessed and the damned, The Hague, KB, 76 F 5. Found via Europeana (the European Digital Heritage Platform) where it is published under the license Public Domain

Mountain View Austria 2015

Will the Digital Humanities save the world?

A very personal recap of DHd-Tagung 2015 “Von Daten zu Erkenntnissen”, 23rd-27th February (Graz) and DHSummit 2015 3rd-5th March  (Berlin)

During the last weeks I had the pleasure to attend to the Digital Humanities Conferences DHd Graz and DHSummit Berlin. It were very inspiring days: full of talks, private chats and many merry moments, last but not least was one highlight the city tour Graz at Night. However, the most important were of course the lectures and presentations! So, before I go one, first a very warm Thank You to the organizers and all the people who were involved with the preparations and those who took care of the conferencing crowd!

As I had to miss Manfred Thallers keynote at DHd2015 and only got a glimpse on its content via Twitter, I was happy to hear him live at the DHSummit. What struck me most, was his claim for theory, a very urgent claim that is being discussed at the moment in the DH community. Without theory in most cases DH doesn’t really seem make sense, because if you cannot validate your results by methods, which worth do your research results have?

To gain more comprehension and recognition from the (hmmm… traditional?) Humanities, new methods and new theories are needed. This means that traditional methods cannot (or should not?) be applied one to one in DH research. For example for editorial sciences this means finding new ways for editions and not trying to rebuild digitally the critical apparatus that already in print no-one, except the editorial scientist, understands – or even worse – is interested in. It also means that you have to indicate if your results are valid, as Malte Rehbein pointed out, it depends if a trend is a trend, or only an indication of different quality of your data. As humanists we neither want our research results influenced by our breakfast preferences (one citation from the DHSummit) nor by bad data or lacking methods.

Which brings us to another topic that was discussed intensely during both conferences, standards and sustainability. The Digital Humanities thrive on data. Whether we call them big data or small data or smart data, we need digital data. Questions concerning the long term preservation of digital data, especially of complex data (editions, databases, 3D-visualisations, interactive visualisations, etc.), have to be solved very urgently. Sustainable infrastructures that can be held responsible for this task are needed. I was quite impressed about the amount of people in the audience during the panel discussion of the AG Datenzentren at Graz as discussing long term preservation is not the hottest topic in the DH community (yet). More about this topic from a metaperspective can be found in Christine L. Borgmans latest book: Big Data, Small Data, No Data and I am looking forward for her lecture in Göttingen.

Last but not least, the evening lecture by Michael Seemann and Ralf Stockmann at the DHSummit ended in minor with an apocalyptic prophecy: humanity will be extincted by computer super intelligence in the near future (say around 2030, more about it here). During the lively discussion afterwards there was however a glimpse of hope, maybe getting the Humanities more involved in these developments and not leave it all to the military etc. might save the world for the next generation…

I am not a prophet, so I don’t know if the (Digital) Humanities will have the super power to save the world from the Super Intelligence Computer Apocalypse or rend humanity immortality (though the last sounds quite intriguing), but I am strongly convinced they are adding many interesting aspects to the Humanities. Maybe at the moment they are “a flower some use to adorn themselves with” (another metaphor used in Berlin), though some scholars fear the extinction of the Humanities by the Digital Humanities.

However we will call them in the future, Digital Humanities methods are meant to stay, and I hope with Andrea Rapp in the middle of the disciplines.

Now and in future.

(If we take care of the data)

Concerning a quite unholy alliance between Tartars and Greeks – new article published in ‘Concilium medii aevi’

I am happy to announce that my new article is published in Concilium medii aevi, one of the oldest online-journals for medieval and early modern topics:

Ulrike Wuttke: Rewriting the End. The eschatological alliance between the Tatars and the Greeks in the anonymous Middle Dutch Boek van Sidrac and Jan van Boendale’s Lekenspiegel.

Many thanks to all whose comments helped shaping this article and especially to the redaction of CMA!

I hope you enjoy reading and as always, I am looking forward for comments.

Nederlandse samenvatting

De Lekenspiegel is het belangrijkste werk van de Middelnederlandse dichter Jan van Boendale. Een van de hoofbronnen van deze berijmde lekenencyclopedie is de Middelnederlandse prozavertaling van het Livre de Sidrac voor die hij in het verleden herhaaldelijk naar voren geschoven werd. Met name het begin van de eindtijdprofetie in het Vierde Boek waarin onder andere een alliantie tussen heidense Tartaren en Griekse Christenen tegen de Latijnse Christenen in het Heilige Land wordt voorspeld, steunt grotendeels op de Sidrac. Dit artikel gaat eerst en vooral na op welke manier Jan van Boendale de eschatologische alliantie tussen Tartaren en Grieken uit de Sidrac-profetie in de Lekenspiegel heeft geactualiseerd en licht de historische en intellectuele achtergrond van de oorspronkelijke en de geactualiseerde voorspelling toe. De hypothese wordt naar voren geschoven dat Jan van Boendale uitstekend op de hoogte was van recente historische en intellectuele ontwikkelingen. Echter levert de vergelijking geen nieuwe bewijzen voor of tegen Jan van Boendale’s eigenschap als vertaler van de Sidrac. Het blijft een raadsel, waarom hij eerst in de Lekenspiegel orde in de chaotische kennis van de Sidrac zou hebben geschept en de gedeeltelijk verouderde informatie geactualiseerd zou hebben, om dan alsnog een getrouwe (hoewel bekorte) vertaling van de Sidrac in het voor hem atypische proza in omloop te brengen.

Modern Dutch translation of the ‘Lekenspiegel’ by Jongen and Pieters. Unfortunately Jongen and Pieters didn’t consider the prohecy about the eschatological battles in the Holy Land important enough to include it in their translation.


The magic of Lost and Found in Oude Kerk Amsterdam

On Friday 5th of July I had the pleasure to give a presentation on apocalyptic thinking and the afterlife in the 14th century during the XL edition of Lost & Found at the Oude Kerk, Amsterdam.

Lost & Found is a series of events organized by an amazing team of volunteers featuring diverse short presentations of (future) projects, music, and other interesting formats. I think they have not very often an academic presentation, but because this evening took place in the Oude Kerk, which was built in the 14th century and we were sitting, standing, and later dancing on the graves of such famous people as the Dutch seafaring hero Jacob van Heemskerck, it seemed more than appropriate to talk about heaven and hell and Judgement Day from a medieval perspective. Also for me giving my presentation at such a special place changed my perspective and let me somehow sense more which kind of impact a medieval sermon might have had on lay people.

The Oude Kerk is truly a very special church because it is the oldest church of Amsterdam, not in use anymore as a church but as a cultural place (like many other churches in the Netherlands due to the decreasing numbers of churchgoers), and it is at the heart of the Red Light District (The Wallen). Actually only a few meters from the church there are bars and the famous windows where the prostitutes present what they have to offer. Somehow it made me really sense how intermingled religion and worldly things have always been in real life and maybe more in a crowded medieval town than now.

The whole evening started with a performance of Jugedamos called the ‘Bible performance’. This performance set the right tone for an evening with very disparate presentations that were related to each other in a very special way. First Lotte Geeven presented a plan for a project to make the deepest hole of the world to record the sounds you hear from the deep. Some believe that the disturbing sounds you hear from the deep of the earth are the sounds of the tortured souls in hell… The problem is that making the hole and the recording equipment are very expensive, so if you feel a strong urge to sponsor this fascinating project (and maybe hear your predecessors screaming), don’t hesitate to contact Lotte.

Lost & Found Oude Kerk

My presentation was welcomed warmly. I could not get rid of the feeling that Jan van Boendale, Lodewijk van Velthem, and Jan van Leeuwen would have been more than pleased that their teachings were still found relevant by a lay public almost 700 years later. I was amazed how many questions people had afterwards and that the topic that interested them most were the apocalyptic people, those wild people who will come and persecute the Christians before the End. I was very happy to discuss later with Yassine El Idrissi, who was giving a presentation on his planned documentary about the war in Syria that will be broadcasted on Dutch TV, this motif’s occurrence in the Koran.

Lost & Found Oude Kerk

Very special to me was the presentation of a short movie by Tejal Shah with the title ‘There is a spider between us’ and the following Skype interview with the artist. Her movie addresses problems she experiences about talking about her sexual orientation with her parents and how she copes with her parents’ sexuality. She described in the interview how difficult it is to talk with your parents openly when you are actually living in two separate worlds, but love each other nevertheless.

Also very enchanting was the presentation of the magician Flip Hallema. I felt like a little child again, which I actually always do when animation movies, circus, and Cotton Candy are involved. Flip climbed on a chair and let sticks disappear and repaired and removed magic knots and told us fascinating stories from his long career as a magician. Highly dramatic was the introduction of the last act, the Utrecht based band Kids with Guns, because first the microphone had to be captured by a climber from under the church roof. Seeing somebody actually going up under the roof lets you really sense how small a human is in the universe of a church building. Later we were all dancing to Kids with Guns.

Click here to read the Dutch poem written by Ellen Deckwitz over this evening and to have a look at some more pics.

CfP: Revisiting Early Modern Prophecies (c.1500-c.1815) 26–28 June, 2014, Goldsmiths, London

From their Website:

The Reformation dramatically changed Europe’s religious and political landscapes within a few decades. The Protestant emphasis on translating the Scriptures into the vernacular and the developments of the printing press rapidly gave increased visibility to the most obscure parts of the Bible. Similarly, Spanish and Italian mystics promoted a spiritual regeneration of the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation. Prophecies, whether of biblical, ancient or popular origin, as well as their interpretations gradually began reaching a wider audience, sparking controversies throughout all levels of society across Europe. In recent years, new research has eroded the long standing historiographical consensus of an increasing secularisation accelerated by the Enlightenment, which allegedly cast away beliefs in prophecies and miracles as outmoded. The multiplication of case studies on millenarian movements suggests a radically different picture, yet many questions remain. How did prophecies evolve with the politico-religious conjunctions of their time? Who read them? How seriously were they taken?

This three-day, international conference will aim to answer these questions by bringing together scholars from around the world to reassess the importance of prophecies from the Reformation to the French Revolution and beyond. We therefore invite papers and panel proposals on prophecy in Europe and the Mediterranean world between approximately 1500 and 1800. Possible topics may include, but are not limited to: apocalyptic predictions, the Antichrist, millenarianism, irenicism, wonders and miracles, astrology and divination, ecumenical movements, religious utopias, mystical networks, enthusiasts and female mystics.


Sounds exciting!