Alternative Facts and the Middle Ages

Workshop (Theory and History of the Field) 15 September 2017


“We are living in medieval times” – Donald Trump


The Research School's introductory activity to the new academic year is a workshop that focuses on the booming catchphrase 'alternative facts.' This phrase has become conventional in media, politics, and beyond and was coined as a euphemism for demonstrable falsehoods. Of course there are facts that can easily be verified. Other statements, however, might be more difficult to validate - especially when dealing with history - and depend on such factors as academic and societal consensus and definition. Some alternative facts, for example heliocentrism, succeed in becoming commonly accepted 'true facts,' crossing borders between questionable knowledge and true knowledge. This workshop poses the question how we should deal with alternative facts as students and scholars within the field of medieval studies. Despite the negative connotation of ‘alternative facts’, the aim of this workshop is to take its implications seriously and to discuss the role of alternativity in the study of the Middle Ages. Discussion sessions will firstly question the role of alternative facts in the medieval period, and examine the implications of such practices of classification. Secondly, attention goes out to medievalisms and in particular to the problem of alternativity therein and how this affects us as scholars. These problems will be tackled under guidance of Natalie von Möllendorf (TU Dortmund), Els Rose (UU), and Josephine van den Bent (UvA) who are going to introduce various exciting topics regarding medieval 'alternative facts.'


The workshop takes place in Utrecht (c. 10.30-17.00). Registration is mandatory. All interested scholars are welcome to participate but especially all new members (ReMA, PhD, and up) of the Research School are expressly advised to join to become acquainted with each other and existing members of the School. You can register with the organization (Pieter Boonstra, RUG; Nathan van Kleij, UvA; Theo Lap, RUG; Mark Vermeer, UU) through