Digital lecture Prof. Karla Mallette, 'Lives of the Great Languages. Arabic and Latin in the Medieval Mediterranean'

From 10-11-2021 18:30 on
Digital (livestream)
Stefan Meysman

Digital lecture by Prof. Karla Mallette (University of Michigan) on cosmopolitan languages in the Middle Ages.

On Wednesday 10 November 2021 (18.30 CET), Prof. Karla Mallette (University of Michigan) will deliver a paper entitled 'Lives of the Great Languages. Arabic and Latin in the Medieval Mediterranean'.

This lecture is co-sponsored by the Centre for Medieval Literature (York & Odense), the Centre for Medieval Studies at Fordham, the University of Santiago de Compostella, and the Henri Pirenne Institute.

Please note that it will be a livestreamed event. For registration and link, see the CML webpage.


This talk examines the tangled relations between cosmopolitan languages in the pre-modern Mediterranean. In the elite register, Arabic and Latin functioned as tools that focused thought and aided analysis. Education in the language furnished an intellectual, aesthetic, and ethical formation, considered essential to engaging in public life. At the other end of the social scale, a contact language facilitated communication between people who did not share a common tongue: the Mediterranean lingua franca. Today it’s typically remembered as the language of pirates and prisoners. But pilgrims, honest merchants, and even priests and diplomats learned the lingua franca as an instrument to communicate across (linguistic) boundaries. “Lives of the Great Languages” studies these linguistic instruments in order to think about the strategies that language uses to transcend the boundaries that language creates – and to defamiliarize the national language system of modern Europe, which proposes the use of the mother tongue as cultural medium.


Karla Mallette is professor of Italian and Mediterranean Studies at the University of Michigan (USA) and chair of its Department of Middle East Studies. Prof. Mallette is an expert of the linguistic and cultural medieval history of the Mediterranean, especially the communications between languages and literary traditions in and between Arabic, Latin and the Romance vernaculars.

Besides numerous articles, Prof. Mallette is the author of three monographs: The Kingdom of Sicily, 1100-1250: A Literary History (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005); European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010); and most recently Lives of the Great Languages: Arabic and Latin in the Medieval Mediterranean (forthcoming from University of Chicago Press).