Hugo Lundhaug, Professor at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Oslo, was a CAS Fellow in 2006/07, and will re-join the Centre next year with the project Books Known Only by Title: Exploring the Gendered Structures of First Millennium Imagined Libraries.

In his ERC project Storyworlds in Transition: Coptic Apocrypha in Changing Contexts in the Byzantine and Early Islamic Periods (APOCRYPHA), Lundhaug sets out to trace the production, use, development, and importance of apocryphal texts and traditions in Coptic manuscripts throughout the period of Coptic literary production.

‘This was a period in which Egypt and Egyptian Christianity went through major changes, not least in the wake of the council of Chalcedon in 451 and the Islamic conquest of Egypt in the seventh century’, Lundhaug writes in an email to CAS about the advent of orthodoxy, and when Islam became the dominant religion.   

A vast number of apocryphal biblical texts were produced and read in Egyptian monasteries during this period. This project will explore how these texts reflect the massive upheavals in Egypt, what function they had in the religious life at the time, and what influence they had on the worldview of Egyptian Christians, Lundhaug tells the University of Oslo.

He explains further that the project is multi-methodological, and will ‘combine perspectives from literary theory, media studies, cognitive science, and material philology, while also having an important Digital Humanities component’.

‘Excellent news for the CAS project’

We asked Hugo Lundhaug:

What does this funding mean for your work?

‘The ERC funding is incredibly important. It allows me to conduct my research on a much larger scale and with a higher degree of methodological innovation than would otherwise be possible. I will use this funding to hire three postdocs, a PhD student, and research assistants, as well as to organize annual workshops and a conference, and will establish a database with information on all known Coptic apocrypha that the team will use as a heuristic tool. Importantly, the ERC funding also lends the project a higher degree of visibility.’

Lundhaug describes his time as a fellow on Turid Karlsen Seim’s CAS project 12-13 years ago as a transitional period in his career. He had just submitted his doctoral dissertation when the project began, and defended it only a couple of weeks before the project ended in 2007. During that period he also received a postdoctoral grant from the Research Council of Norway, allowing him to continue his research after the CAS project ended.

‘I remember very well how inspirational it was to be able to work in such a vibrant interdisciplinary environment, getting exposed to different academic fields, especially through the weekly lunch presentations. I also remember very well the highly accomplished team of scholars participating in Seim’s project, which I felt very privileged to be part of’, Lundhaug reminisced.

Why do you want to return to CAS?

‘Naturally, the wonderful experience I had at CAS in 2006–2007 plays a major part in my desire to return, but most of all I look forward to working together with the impressive team put together by professors Kartzow and Lied, and to benefit from the inspiring interdisciplinary environment at CAS. Interdisciplinarity has always been a key component in my research, and I find that there are few things more rewarding than getting new ideas from other fields of study that I may apply to my own research questions.’

CAS project leaders Liv Ingeborg Lied and Marianne Kartzow were happy and excited to hear the news about the ERC-funded project, which is also very relevant to the CAS project that starts in the Fall 2020.

‘This is excellent news for the Books Known Only by Title project. Lundhaug is one of our core team members, and his new ERC project will strengthen the research on Coptic materials, draw new attention to forgotten apocryphal texts, and bring relevant research expertise to Oslo’, they write in an email to CAS. 

Lundhaug is one of a record-high eight Norwegian scholars, and one of five from the University of Oslo, receiving the ERC Consolidator Grant, which is awarded to ‘outstanding researchers of any nationality and age, with at least seven and up to twelve years of experience after PhD, and a scientific track record showing great promise’.