Old English Meets the 21st Century
From teaching to writing blogs, from research projects to presidentship: LeidenGlobal interviewed Dr. Thijs Porck, lecturer at Leiden University, on his work and the different activities that keep him occupied.
Since his childhood Dr. Thijs Porck has dreamt of knights and dragons. From castle ruins, to games and Tolkien, he developed an interest in the intriguing world of the early Middle Ages. During his bachelor History at Leiden University, he mostly learned about the late Middle Ages, but was a little disappointed by the lack of dragons and Vikings. So, after following a course on Old English, spoken in early medieval England, he got inspired to pursue an additional bachelor in English language and literature. He combined his interests during his PhD research on the concept of old age in early medieval England, on which he wrote a book in 2019 that will be published in paperback later this year. Building on that, he is currently co-editing a book with a colleague from Oxford on the entire life course in early medieval England, with different perspectives ranging from medicine to linguistics.
Another book project Porck is currently working on, with colleagues from Stavanger and Glasgow, deals with 20th- and 21st- century recreations of Old English. Various TV series, video games and books, including the works by J. R. R. Tolkien, make use of newly composed texts in Old English. Porck is intrigued by the way the Middle Ages and the Old English language continue to inspire present-day popular culture.
Besides his teaching and research, Porck serves as the Chair of the Dutch-Flemish Association for Old-Germanicists and as President of the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England (ISSEME). He is also involved in the organisation of two international conferences that are taking place in Leiden in 2021.The International Conference on English Historical Linguistics will take place from 7 to 11 June and the 20th Biennial ISSEME conference will visit Leiden on June 22nd.
Porck finds the transfer of scholarly knowledge to a wider audience a very important aspect of his work. Recently, he was featured in the media nationally, in the newspaper Trouw (in Dutch), about the Netflix film The Dig, as well as internationally, in the BBC History Magazine, about old age in early medieval England. He also regularly writes about his findings and research in his own blog, as well as in the Leiden Medievalists Blog, that he helped set up. Last year he even received the LUCAS Public Engagement Award. With the prize money, he decided to engage with the public even more, and he used it to gain open access for an article he wrote on a missing line from a sixth-century Latin poem.
Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Nikki Schotman (April 2021)
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