University of Erfurt

Projekt von Alisa van de Haar M.A.

Knowledge, Skill, and Play in Rebus Poems in Northwest Europe (1450–1650)

During the Herzog Ernst Fellowship, I will be studying the educational functioning of rebus poems kept at the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha. These are poems of two or more verses that contain at least one rebus component, that is, a visual element that, when expressed orally, produces a meaning that supplies or completes the text of the poem, based on the principle of homonymy. Rebus poems were highly popular in early modern times. Many poets played with text-image relations and with the potential of images to communicate content. Nevertheless, they have been marginalized in modern research as trivial games, as a result of which little is known about their functioning. The central hypothesis of this project is that rebus poems could actually be used to educate both learned and unlearned readers, young and old, and thus produce a valuable effect in a ludic manner. This project contends that they did so by reactivating or testing factual knowledge as well as by providing training in transferable skills, which are practical competences that can be acquired or improved through practice, such as visual literacy and semiotic abilities. I will test these hypotheses on the rich collection of rebus poems kept at Gotha, yielding new insights not only into this little-understood hybrid genre, but also into historical text-image relations and into the history of both theoretical and practical education.

Kurzbiographie

Alisa van de Haar is a PhD candidate at the department of Historical Dutch Literature of the University of Groningen. Her doctoral thesis, titled 'The Golden Mean of Languages: Forging Dutch and French in the Early Modern Low Countries (1540-1620)', studies early modern debates on the form and status of the two vernacular languages of the Low Countries in their multilingual context. It was written as part of a doctoral research project funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research. Alisa has further taught historical Dutch and French literature at the University of Groningen and at Leiden University, and she is a member of the editorial boards of academic journals Queeste and RELIEF. 

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