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The grand radiance of “Beyond Canon_”

A place to find allies in scholarship to rely on 

11 March 2024

The Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS) “Beyond Canon_” at the Universität Regensburg (UR) has been attracting many scholars from all over the world who come even without receiving the Centre’s DFG-funded stipend grants. As tenants of Temporary Positions of the DFG, fellows of the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Margarita Salas, or Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF), to name a few, they bring third-party funded projects from different sources. The most important aspect all people come to the Centre for is the global interdisciplinary network of highly accomplished scholars of many disciplines – and the friendships one can make here. Proof of the success of “Beyond Canon_” are its agglomeration effects and radiant power, personified by many scholars on different career levels from various origins who chose to work associated with the chairs of the three directors of the CAS. Since the establishment of “Beyond Canon_”, the chairs of Profs. Tobias Nicklas, Harald Buchinger and Andreas Merkt hosted almost 30 projects (10 Temporary Positions funded by the DFG, 12 by the Humboldt-Foundation, and one Temporary Position funded by each, the Fritz Thyssen, the Gerda Henkel, the Margarita Salas Foundation, DAAD, and SNSF). 

“Beyond Canon_”’s agglomeration effects bear fruits – and make dreams come true

Dr. K. Luc Bulundwe from Switzerland, a postdoctoral researcher whose project is funded by the SNSF, first heard about the UR through a scholar friend who published on Pope Benedict XVI. “And quite quickly I also heard about Prof. Tobias Nicklas as a very important New Testament exegete.” While working on his dissertation, Prof. Jörg Frey (University of Zürich with excellent connections to the UR) asked him about his plans for the time after his PhD. Since Luc intended to start a research project on the book of Revelation, it was natural that Prof. Nicklas’s name as an expert in this field came up again. “I visited Regensburg and the Centre for the first time in 2021 and just a little later had the opportunity to present my project outlines,” Luc says. Then the decision was clear to take his postdoc research project to Regensburg: “In the meantime, I not only had met Prof. Nicklas again, but got acquainted with Prof. Michael Sommer, Tobias’s former doctoral student, now professor in Frankfurt and yet another expert in the field I am working in” – successful networking.

Dr. K. Luc Bulundwe © Dr. K. Luc Bulundwe

The Italian Dr. Elisa Manzo did her PhD on Orosius, a late-antique theologian and historian, in a joint programme between Italy and Spain. She first read about the UR during her Master’s studies around 2015, already within the context of Orosian studies: Adolf Lippold, 1968–1994 professor of Ancient History at UR, is considered one of the leading Orosian scholars. Elisa’s doctoral supervisor Prof. Luca Arcari – a former fellow of “Beyond Canon_” – got in touch with Prof. Nicklas. Thus, Elisa had the opportunity to come to Regensburg for one year as a “Margarita Salas” Postdoctoral Fellow. For Elisa, the CAS was the ideal place to work, to get in touch with experts in the field to receive advice and comments from biblical and theological scholars – but also from a personal point of view. She describes her experience as “full circle,” since working on Orosius at the UR felt like bringing Orosius back home. The often-emphasized agglomeration effects and the fruitful networking of the Centre worked quite well for Elisa on another level, too: she was invited to open the interdisciplinary lecture series “Antike Weltuntergänge” in October 2023. To speak not only about the lesser-known Orosius, but to present her own research in different contexts, to increase her visibility as a scholar, made her time in Regensburg a very positive experience, Elisa states. “In Regensburg, I found motivation and support to successfully propose a panel for the prestigious International Conference on Patristic Studies at Oxford University, which is a dream come true – via the Centre!” 

Dr. Elisa Manzo © Charlotte v. Schelling

The Centre’s networks lead to further opportunities

Dr. Jacob A. Lollar, a postdoctoral researcher from the US with a project financed by the Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, learned about Regensburg and the CAS also through another fellow of “Beyond Canon_”, Prof. Janet E. Spittler (University of Virginia). While a postdoc in Texas, Jacob met Janet at a huge international conference around 2019 while she was a fellow at UR and allegedly told him: “I am going to plan out the next few years of your life” – and that planning proved to be successful. Prof. Nicklas also attended this conference, talking about Apocrypha and the CAS – “and the rest was kind of history,” Jacob states. In 2021, Jacob was officially granted the funding by the Humboldt-Foundation and travelled to Regensburg in 2022. Here, he was able to join a workshop organized by the University of Glasgow, the University of Oslo, and “Beyond Canon_” – a network that has proven to grow into a longer-standing connection with many plans for future joint ventures. “I never could have anticipated how many amazing people I would meet here. Everyone is so welcoming. And the connections I’ve made especially with the people from Oslo and Glasgow have helped me with applying for further research grants: it was actually through their support and encouragement that I successfully applied for the British Academy,” Jacob says, making clear: the network of “Beyond Canon_” is not limited to Regensburg.

Dr. Jacob A. Lollar © Dr. Jacob A. Lollar

The Centre radiates outside, but also inside of UR: CAS, the Faculty of Catholic Theology, and Medieval Art History

But also within the UR, the CAS has connecting forces, for example through the chair of Liturgical Studies of Prof. Harald Buchinger, one of the Centre’s directors. Art historian Dr. Martin Lešák from Czech Republic, a postdoctoral Humboldt-fellow at the Faculty of Catholic Theology, shares his insights with us. Through his dissertation, Martin connected with Prof. Buchinger who encouraged and supported him to apply for the Humboldt Research Fellowship. “After completing my PhD, I saw this as a remarkable opportunity to delve deeper into liturgical sources and history, and thus far, being here at the department of Liturgical Studies has really proven to be an enriching experience. This is also thanks to the “Beyond Canon_” Centre and its interdisciplinary nature. Since I have been at the UR, I listened to excellent art historical papers at the Fellows’ Brunch sessions organized at the CAS. For example, a talk on San Giovanni a Porta Latina in Rome by Prof. Sible de Blaauw, who has been a fellow at the CAS multiple times,” Martin states. The events organized by the Centre are well promoted at the faculty, and people are invited to join interdepartmentally, an intertwining he appreciates very much. Martin Lešák was also able to broaden his network in another direction: “I am happy to share that Prof. Buchinger, Prof. Albert Dietl [the only remaining professor of art history specializing in medieval art at the UR], and I are preparing a seminar for the upcoming summer term focusing on art and liturgy in medieval Rome.”

Dr. Martin Lešák © Dr. Martin Lešák

People and books: the Centre’s network and library are its greatest assets

Jacob, a specialist in Syriac, remembered he had to make hard choices which books to take to Germany. He found himself quite surprised by finding a lot of resources here – both in terms of books and in terms of people, for example Prof. Buchinger’s expertise in Syriac and Dr. Mari Mamyan, an Armenian scholar with complementary expertise – that was something he was not expecting at all. “That was a great surprise and delight,” he states, “the amount of collaboration, help, and collegiality has been incredible: having found allies in scholarship to rely on forever has been wonderful.” 


Charlotte von Schelling
Centre for Advanced Studies "Beyond Canon_" (FOR 2770)
UR - Universität Regensburg

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