Department of History

Wandering Poets in the West

My research has focused on the Latin poets of late antiquity (4thto 7thc.) who changed their residence at least once during their careers. Having previously studied the biographies of this group of poets, I came to Tübingen to examine and describe the migrant identities expressed in their poems. This proved more difficult than foreseen as only a minority of poetic migration narratives depicts migrant identities in terms that could easily be identified as such because they would either relate to modern literary expressions of migrant identities, for instance hybrid identities, or to models of migrant identities in Classical poetry, in particular Ovid’s exile poems. In the majority of poetic migration narratives, on the other hand, identities are not defined by places, but the other way round: Places are developed by and known for the people who inhabit them. This has been a very important insight not only for my study of the wandering poets, which I hope to publish in a journal article, but also for my next project, which aims at studying local identities in late Latin poetry more generally, as well as for understanding personal elite identity in late antique Latin literature as such.

In addition to the excellent research facilities at the Forscherkolleg, I greatly benefitted from the many opportunities for formal and informal exchanges with the other fellows. Thus from participating in the regular Forscherkolleg colloquia as well as from attending dinners and drinks I gained a much better understanding, for example, of how the term ‘identity’ is used in fields other than my own, for example in archaeology and sociology.

For more information about Helen Kaufmann, please click here.