Levente Seláf

senior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2017/2018
discipline Literature
Assistant Professor, ELTE University Budapest, Faculty of Arts, Centre for Hungarian Literary and Cultural Studies

Research project

An East Too Near or a West Too Far: French Images of Central Europe in the Middle Ages


The project aims at analysing the representation of the foreigners, of the others as they were seen in France, under a specific angle: the image of the Eastern regions of Europe and their inhabitants in French literature and historiography of the Middle Ages. It is conceived as a small but important contribution to the dialogue on the history of European multiculturalism and the vision of ethnic otherness.


The Eastern boundaries of the Occidental world were often treated as belonging to Europe, but sometimes to a series of oriental, mostly imaginary kingdoms, enemies of the Christianity or Europe. The medieval unity of Eastern or Central Europe has been examined by various scholars in different ways, but little attention has been paid to its image in medieval France despite the huge amount of existing narrative sources.


The approach is essentially imagological, where stereotypes, narrative topoi and narrative functions are highlighted, where therefore it is not the real, historical countries, but the medieval literary images of these places and the otherness of their inhabitants that is going to form the basis of the investigations, and that will be examined closely in all kinds of narratives (romances, hagiographical texts, chronicles, chivalric epic, lyrical poetry). The theoretical background of the research is built on the works by the Aachen school (Dyserinck, Leersen) and other comparative literary historians, medievalists (Classen, Kinoshita) and specialists of Central European history (Todorova).


The analysis will be standing on three pillars, three studies complementing each other: (i) Central Europe and the Western royal dynasties: Western colonialism, dynastic nostalgia and Eastern sainthood; (ii) Heretics, pagans, schismatics and strangers in and from Central Europe; (iii) Redefining the medieval matter of Rome: the Byzantine Empire and its substitutes in Old French Narratives.


Furthermore, the research aims at answering the following questions: Was the image of the Orient more influenced by traveller’s testimonies, or by late antique and medieval literary topoi? Is it possible to spot personal testimonies of certain places behind the literary characters and events placed in Central Europe? To what extent does this region belong to the periphery of the Christian knightly world according to French literary works? Can the complex image of this Central European Christian Orient be compared with that of the ephemeral Crusader states?





Levente Seláf is Assistant Professor at ELTE University, Budapest, in the Centre for Hungarian Literary and Cultural Studies. He holds a Ph.D in Medieval Studies from the Université Paris IV-Sorbonne & ELTE (joint degree). His main research areas are comparative literature, medieval studies, metrical studies, digital humanities & imagology.


Selected publications


Poetics of Multilingualism – Poétiques du plurilinguisme, with P. Noel Aziz Hanna (eds), Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Cambridge, 2017.


'Saint Martin: the Honorary Saint of Hungary', Hungarian Historical Review, vol. 5, 2016, pp. 487-508. 


'Constantinople et la Hongrie dans le cycle des Sept sages de Rome', in E. Egedi-Kovács (ed.), Byzance et l’Occident III: Écrits et manuscrits, ELTE, Budapest, 2016. pp. 153-166.

'A trójai eredet mítosza és Magyarország Olivier de la Marche Emlékirataiban [The myth of the
Troyan Origins and Hungary in the Olivier de la Marche's Mémoires], in G. László & S. János (eds), Fehér Lovag: tanulmányok Csernus Sándor 65. születésnapjára, Lazi Könyvkiadó, Szeged, 2015. pp. 175-181.

Simple Strophic Patterns – Formes strophiques simples, with P. Noel Aziz Hanna & J. van Driel (eds), Akadémiai, Budapest, 2010.






senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2014/2015
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Political Science
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2016/2017
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Environmental Studies
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2017/2018
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Environmental Studies
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
Collegium de Lyon
discipline Communication