Thinking the European Republic of Letters

We will study Europe from the perspective of its transnational intellectual heritage. Our starting point is the need to understand Europe not only in terms of politics, economics, and geography, but also as an intellectual endeavor and as a Europe of ideas. Without this rich intellectual legacy, Europe would literally be unthinkable.

This group aims to broaden the scope of European studies and European cultural history by focusing on European thought in the context of comparative literary and philosophical discourses. Its purpose is to provide both an open forum for intellectual exchange and new approaches for scholars from various disciplines, especially philosophy, modern languages and literatures, comparative literature, and intellectual history. Our overall ambition is to provide a space for exploration and cutting-edge research on the intellectual development of modern Europe, focusing on the specific role of its intellectual and textual heritage, and to explore diverse European identities through their literary and historical expressions. In a new transnational setting, we will explore the philological foundations of this relationship. We will also examine its interactions with other branches of intellectual history, including art history, medical history, and the history of psychiatry.


Closely related to the forms and traditions of European thought are the languages and literatures of Europe. Together, they constitute the European Republic of Letters – a complex network of intellectual and artistic expressions, influences, practices, genres, and institutions across epochs, borders, languages, and media. By fostering an understanding of the co-emergence of European philosophy and literature, we aim to ackowledge the rich historical and systematic diversity of thought.

The historical focus of the group ranges from the Renaissance and Humanism to the present. While classical, medieval, and early modern studies, philosophy, rhetoric, and poetics are often studied together, this is rarely the case in contemporary academic philosophy. Ideals of knowledge borrowed from the natural sciences and mathematics have long dominated at the expense of literary contextualization and analysis. In literary studies, on the other hand, philosophy has often been met with skepticism in the name of theory. Inspired by studies of premodern connections between these fields, our research group will move beyond such intellectual stereotypes and emphasize the essential interdependence of scientific, normative, aesthetic, and historical modes of thought in a Europe in touch with the rest of the world.



Our research activities, workshops, seminars and guest lectures will study:

  • The contribution of the Republic of Letters to Europe's cultural memory, self-understanding, and self-reflection.
  • The historicity of concepts and ideas, including those of philosophy and literature itself.
  • The possibility of a European philology and its contribution to European identity in relation to other intellectual and philological traditions.
  • The importance of the study of linguistic, literary, and intellectual traditions from European borderlands for the formation of the idea of (modern) Europe.
  • European thought and world history: colonialism and beyond.
  • Literary and philosophical constellations: institutions, conventions, media, including the culture of intellectual correspondence across Europe.
  • The Enlightenment as literary criticism of philosophy and philosophical criticism of literature.
  • Comparative perspectives on a European history of medicine and psychiatry.
  • The role of women in the history of ideas.
  • Linguistic diversity in thought and writing and the role of linguistic diversity in the making of Europe, with special attention to Northern Europe and the Scandinavian languages.
  • The figurality of thought: metaphor, style, genre.
  • Linguistically mediated but non-propositional forms of knowledge.
  • Manuscripts, book history, and editorial practices of European thought: the role of critical philology, editorial practice, and textual reference systems.
  • Cultural practices related to reading and the scenes or contexts in which reading takes place.
  • The transformations of ancient philosophy and poetry in modern thought and literature.


Just as diversity is essential to the European Republic of Letters itself, the foundation of our group lies in the individual research of its members. We will pool these efforts and our many different scholarly and linguistic skills into larger units in order to achieve a complexity of inquiry unavailable to the individual.

Our aims are:

  • To encourage new thinking and new publications in the field.
  • Promote and foster interdisciplinary dialog.
  • Invite leading scholars to Copenhagen, Lund, and Malmö and contribute to conferences nationally and internationally.
  • Organize major national and international conferences.
  • Share research findings through teaching, conferences, both academic and non-academic publications, and media talks.
  • Provide a robust research environment for graduate students and visiting researchers, while also attracting postdoctoral researchers, Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellows, and securing ERC grants or similar funding opportunities.
  • Engage in discussions with a broader public, also in non-academic contexts.
  • Learn from each other across the Øresund in terms of teaching and the connection between research and teaching.



The modern European history of human skin

In its first year, the group will focus on the modern European (medical) history of human skin. This ties in with a wide range of CEMES research topics (European history, culture, philosophy, philology, art and literature) and has a clear interdisciplinary perspective: human skin has always been both (writing) material, metaphor and our first medium of communication. But it was not until the late eighteenth century that it was recognized as the complex biological organ we think of today. The cultural history and even philology of the skin continues to provide important insights into the interrelated narratives of European medical history, philosophy, literature, and art. Historically, the study of human skin has relied on both images and detailed (clinical) descriptions to document and diagnose disease. Dermatological atlases, for example, in which image and text are inextricably intertwined, prove to be inexhaustible resources for exploring fundamental philosophical and aesthetic ideas that are intimately intertwined with the context of European intellectual history, but also with European colonialism. In the first year, the activities of the research group will revolve around this historically changing cultural construction of human skin in the context of European intellectual history.



We welcome proposals for collaborative research on any aspect of our research group. If you would like to become part of our research environment, please contact one of our directors.

The group will add to and benefit from the following projects:

  • Sabrina Ebbersmeyer: “Women in the Nordic Enlightenment (WHENCE). Changing the narratives of early modern philosophy and uncovering women’s contribution to Scandinavian gender equality” (ERC, 2024–2028).
  • Christian Benne: “Transformative Transmissions: German-Scandinavian Intellectual Communities 1790-1860” (DFF, 2023–2025).
  • Irina Hron: “Dermography. Ethics and Aesthetics of Skin Writing” (DEAS) (Horizon 2020, 2022–2024).
  • Sabrina Ebbersmeyer: “Archaeology of the Female Intellectual Identity, Denmark and Germany 1650-1800” (DFF, 2019-2023).
  • Elisabet Göransson/Katarzyna Anna Kapitan: TextVid Øresund Network (Einar Hansens Forskningsfond & Einar Hansens Allhemsfond 2020).



  • Sabrina Ebbersmeyer, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Department of Communication (Director)
  • Irina Hron, Associate Professor, University of Copenhagen, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies  (Director)
  • Christian Høgel, Professor, Lund University, Centre for languages and literature (Director)
  • Christian Benne, Professor, University of Copenhagen, Department of English, Germanic and Romance Studies (Deputy director)






Name Title Phone E-mail
Andersen, Katrine Helene Associate Professor   E-mail
Benne, Christian Professor +4535330085 E-mail
Dahl, Christian Associate Professor +4535329269 E-mail
Ebbersmeyer, Sabrina Professor +4535328861 E-mail
Hoffmann, Birthe Associate Professor +4535328176 E-mail
Hron, Irina Associate Professor +4535325961 E-mail
Jensen, Julio Associate Professor +4535328455 E-mail
Knopf, Alexander Assistant Professor +4535332577 E-mail
Lock, Charles Professor +4535328622 E-mail
Lupton, Tina Jane Professor +4593509415 E-mail
Nexø, Tue Andersen Associate Professor +4535321268 E-mail
Olsen, Niklas Professor +4551299676 E-mail
Pedersen, Maria Nørby Postdoc +4535329803 E-mail
Possen, David Part-time Lecturer +4535328100 E-mail
Sandberg, Anna Lena Associate Professor - Promotion Programme +4535328156 E-mail

Lund University 

Bareis, Alexander
Dahlman, Britt 
Göransson, Elisabet 
Halldenius, Lena 
Hyltén-Cavallius, Isak 
Høgel, Christian
Klareld, Ann-Sofie 
Malmfors, Magdalena 
Persson, Maria 
Nilsson, Maria 
Schönström, Rikard 
Tranvik, Andreas 

Malmö University 

Kobaidze, Manana Kock
Stenbeck, Evelina 
Vamling, Karina 


Buzzoni, Marina  Professor in Germanic Philology, Ca’Foscari University of Venice
Christensen, Anne-Marie Søndergaard  Professor, SDU