Dr. Bernhard Schirg
Freigeist-Fellow der Volkswagen-Stiftung
The man and the mission
Bernhard is the Freigeist-scholar leading Team "Reaching for Atlantis”, a project about one of the greatest visions to see and value the world around us. He is a writer, traveler, and storyteller, a path that has taken him from the texts and manuscripts of Renaissance Italy to the nature of the high North.
At ‘Reaching for Atlantis’, we value the sense of leaving a mark on people over printed paper with our names on it. All you can find here is a team effort, creating and living a vision of what university can mean and provide in the 21st century.
As a team that brings together scholars, creatives, and explorers from Germany and Sweden, we venture towards something that does not have a name yet in the academic landscape, located somewhere in the borderlands of art and literature, photography and storytelling, public history, environmental humanities and activism.
With the stories that we mine from libraries and pursue outdoors, we move where our audience long has moved. Much of our energy flows into formats and events that allow us to connect with the public, to leave a mark and inspire. We create online platforms and wunderkammern. We write illustrated travel stories to express what moved us on our ways. We produce audio features and cut films about encounters, things, and places that left us inspired.
We are “Reaching for Atlantis”.
We strive for wonder.
- June 2021 – current: Leader of the Freigeist-Project project ‘Reaching for Atlantis’ at the Dept of Public History, Hamburg University
- October 2019 – May 2020: Fellow at Wolfson College, Oxford
- May 2018 – October 2020: Start of the Freigeist-project ‘Reaching for Atlantis’ at the Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt
- July 2013 – December 2016:Researcher at the Dept of Medieval and Neo-Latin Philology, Freie Universität Berlin (with Bernd Roling and Stefan Bauhaus as part of the project “Der Rudbeckianismus als Wissenschaftsparadigma im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert”)
- October 2014: Ph.D. viva in Medieval and Neo-Latin Philology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
- April 2010 – March 2012: Researcher at the Dept of Medieval and Neo-Latin Philology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
- March 2010: Magister Artium in Latin Philology, Greek Philology, and Medieval and Neo-Latin Philology, Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
- 2004 – 2010: Magister’s studies (Latin Philology, Greek Philology, Medieval and Neo-Latin Philology, and History of Art) at the universities of Freiburg, Rome (“La Sapienza“), Basel and Göttingen
Short time fellowships and research stays
- Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala (August – October 2020, June – September 2019)
- Ludwig-Boltzmann-Institute, Innsbruck (August – September 2017)
- Gotha Research Centre of the University of Erfurt (May – July 2017)
- Warburg Institute, London (May – July 2016)
- University of Uppsala (June 2014 – July 2014)
- Università di Napoli “Federico II” (September – October 2014)
- Università Cattolica, Milan (February – June 2013)
- German Historical Institute, Rome (April – June 2012, March – April 2017)
- University of Oxford, Lincoln College / Summer School in Greek Palaeography (July – August 2008)
Presentations and conferences
- "Off the deep end. Landscape, depression and the first mission of the HMS Beagle". Anniversary lecture on the launch of Darwin’s ship (11 May 1820). Oxford University Museum of Natural History [postponed to 2022]
- “The stories that drive us. Gunther Plueschow, the Beagle, and the end of myth in Southern Patagonia”. Paper given as part of the Southern Lives Network Workshop, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, 6–7 December 2021.
- “Dag Hammarskjöld”. Conversation about the stories behind objects from the UN-Secretary General’s collection, held between Karin und Kristina Erlandsson (curators at Dag Hammarskjölds Backåkra) and Bernhard Schirg (host) as part of the Nordische Literaturtage 2021. Literaturhaus Hamburg, 25 November 2021.
- “Atlantis in the Anthropocene”. Presentation given in the seminar “Environmental Visual Practice – Extended Ways of Telling” of Tyrone Martinsson. Högskolan för konst och design Valand (Academy of Art and Design Valand) Gothenburg, 18 November 2021.
- "Waymarks. Orientations on Swedish glaciers in the Anthropocene". STREAMS - Transformative Environmental Humanities. International Environmental Humanities Conference, Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH), Stockholm, August 3–7 2021.
- "Project presentation of Too long, didn't read". Southern Lives Network, Wolfson College, University of Oxford, 8 December 2020.
- "Paths into Public History". Session taught for "Public Humanities"-PhD course at the Department of History of Science and Ideas, University of Uppsala, 28 October 2020.
- "Cloudlands: Tracing the Ends of Worlds under the Skies of Southern Patagonia". Environmental Humanities Seminar, Somerville College, University of Oxford, 18 February 2020.
- "'Late on earth': Re-enchanting travel writing — 21st-century dialogues with Darwin, Chatwin, and others". Bodleian Fellows Seminar, University of Oxford, 3 December 2019.
- "Clitoris Monologues. Beverland, antiquarianism and the male construction of Lesbian sexuality". Symposium "Niet zomaar een zondaar. 340 Jaar Hadriaan Beverland", University of Leiden, 25 October 2019.
- "Faking Swedish antiquity. Forgeries in the service of the Swedish Empire (1650–1720)". International conference "Faking It. Forgery and Fabrication in Early Modern and Late Medieval Culture", University of Gothenburg, 15–17 August 2019.
- "Atlantis at your fingertips. Fashioning antiquities for royal dedication, or: an antiquarian's hunt for patronage under the Swedish Empire (1680–1700)". Guest lecture, Department of History of Science and Ideas, Uppsala, 13 June 2019.
- "Reaching for Atlantis. The appropriation of classical mythology in 17th-century Sweden and its material basis". Guest lecture, Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt, 15 April 2019.
- "The world was his oyster. Johann Daniel Major's studies of shells and the autumn of the emblematic age". Workshop "Johann Daniel Major – Study Day", Warburg Haus Hamburg, 27 March 2019.
- "Antiquarismus und archäologische Praxis zur schwedischen Großmachtzeit – der Fall von Olof Rudbecks Atlantica (1679 -1702)". International conference "Konstruktion von Geschichte und 'erfundene Traditionen'", University of Basel, 3–4 December 2018.
- "The continuity of mediaeval poetic traditions in the Italian Renaissance – a case study from Pavia", Workshop "Querelle(s) - poetologisch und epistemologisch", Freie Universität Berlin, 23–24 April 2018.
- "Die moralischen Abgründe des fürstlichen Sekretärs. Liebesdichtung, Sex und Rufmord am Hofe von Isabella d'Este (1474-1539)", Research Colloquium, Institute of Latin Philology, Freie Universität Berlin, 21 December 2017.
- "Mario Equicola’s Neither by hope nor fear (1506/1513) and the author’s fight for a white vest", Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Innsbruck, 18 September 2017.
- "Convenient discoveries – Forgeries of manuscripts and artifacts in the service of the Swedish Empire (c. 1650–1720)", International Conference "Falsche Prinzessinnen, Scharlatane und selbsternannte Experten. Hochstapler in neuzeitlichen Gesellschaften", Gotha Research Centre, 10–12 July 2017.
- "The Daphnic fate of Camerarius, or: Olof Rudbeck the Younger’s botanical dissertation (1686) revealed as Sweden’s first printed emblem book", Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Innsbruck, 15 December 2016.
- "Die Verkürbissung des Joachim Camerarius (1534–1598) – Adaptationen des Emblembuchs in der schwedischen Botanik des 17. Jahrhunderts", Neo-Latin Colloquium, University of Münster, 2 November 2016.
- "The Nordic Face of January". International conference "Baroque Antiquarianism and the search for identity around the Baltic Sea", Finland-Institute Berlin, 19–20 May 2016.
- "Spamming the Council of Milan. Pietro Lazzaroni (c.1420–c.1497) spreading his poems to Lombardian patricians". International Conference “Economics of Poetry. Efficient techniques of producing neo-Latin verse“, The American University of Rome, 28–30 April 2016.
- "Art and Magnificence in Giovambattista Cantalicio’s Poems to the Rebellious Cardinal Bernardino de Carvajal (1511)". 62nd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Boston, 31 March – 2 April 2016.
- Organizer of the panel “Readers of the Lost Art. Neo-Latin Poetic Descriptions of Lost Renaissance Art“ (Speakers: Kathleen Christian, Paul Gwynne, Bernhard Schirg). 62nd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America, Boston, 31 March – 2 April 2016.
- “Il volto settentrionale di Giano. La fortuna di un mito da Giulio Romano al barocco svedese“. The Finnish Institute in Rome, Villa Lante al Gianicolo, Rome, 18 November 2015 (cf. L'osservatore italiano, 20 November 2015, p. 3).
- “Visualising kairos. Leonardo da Vinci's rebus on opportunity and its interpretation in early Cinquecento humanism”. Workshop "The Opportune Moment and the Early Modern Theatre of Politics" organized by the Grasping Kairos Research Network, 12 November 2015, Birkbeck, University of London.
- “Johann Daniel Major's emblematic reading of Olof Rudbeck's Atlantica, or: How to condense an unreadable book to fit on the royal coffee table.” University of Uppsala, 7 October 2015.
- “Olof Rudbeck (1630–1702) and the Fate of Atlantis” (contribution to the session “Swedish Neo-Latin“). 16th International Congress of the International Association of Neo-Latin Studies, Vienna, 2–7 August 2015.
- reachingforatlantis.de (launch: spring 2022)
The primary web-presence of our Freigeist-project. This platform allows the user to browse among more than 500 woodcuts illustrating Olof Rudbeck’s Atlantica – the work that displayed Scandinavia as the place where all mythology (including Plato’s myth of Atlantis) originated – and to delve into the fascinating stories behind them.
- toolong-didntread.de (online)
A sister-project to Reaching for Atlantis. toolong-didntread.de explores the format of visually illustrated long-reads to tell stories behind landscapes. It is a platform to make the encounters that we made with people and places on our way and that informed our thinking part of how we tell the story of our project.
- The Shells (online)
How it all began. A journey to the southernmost tip of the American continent at Cape Froward, crossing the abandoned hut of the last settler on these latitudes. What drove and drives human beings to these utmost recesses of the world? And why do we still set out to wander?
- The Flowers (online)
A story about nature and poetry, unfolding from pressed plants discovered in the volume of Rudbeck’s Atlantica kept in the private library of Dag Hammarskjöld, second General Secretary to the United Nations (1905–1961) and haiku poet.
- The Lifelines (online)
An audio feature honoring the diplomat and poet Dag Hammarskjöld on the sixtieth anniversary of his plane crash, including interviews with ambassador and haiku poet Sir Tim Hitchens and Karin Wastel’s memories of DH.
- The Tern (forthcoming, spring 2022)
Since our first days, human beings associated the flight of birds with freedom. This is a story of the human drive to wander. In the first summer of the pandemic, it follows the Arctic Tern – the emblem bird of the nomadic travel writer Bruce Chatwin – leading from Chatwin’s personal papers in Oxford to the bird’s stopover coasts on the Baltic Sea at the side of an ornithologist / photographer.
- The Track (forthcoming, spring 2022)
A four-day journey along an abandoned railway in Italy, where Arcadian ideals meet 21st-century realities. What keeps us on our tracks, and what makes us leave them behind?
- Atlas Shrugged (forthcoming, spring 2022)
Inspired by the search for a historic mountain panorama published (and mythologically interpreted) in Rudbeck’s Atlantica, this story describes the encounter with sites of forgotten myths under the 21st century conditions of Swedish forest/nature management
- The Shells (online)
- The Atlantis Storyverse (working title)
This platform will be the project’s keystone, leading the strands of reachingforatlantis.de and toolong-didntread.de together. We are currently exploring ways to create a 3D-visualisation that opens up a ‘transmedial storyverse’. Think of it as a virtual landscape that allows you to explore and to delve into stories connected with objects and places featuring in Rudbeck’s story of Scandinavia – videos, animations, illustrated texts and many more. Stay tuned!
For the latest information from the project please consider subscribing to our Instagram channel
- Mario Equicola. Selected works, edited and translated by Bernhard Schirg. Cambridge (Mass.)-London (Harvard University Press: The I Tatti Renaissance Library) (handed in to the editors summer 2019). “More info”
- La fenice e il banano. Metamorfosi botaniche di un mito classico nella Svezia moderna, translated by Simone Signaroli. Ceto (il leggio: Le bocce), 2021 (single publication of the translated article "Phoenix going bananas"; see below)
- Die Ökonomie der Dichtung. Pietro Lazzaronis Lobgedicht an den Borgia-Papst Alexander VI. (1497). Hildesheim-Zürich-New York (Olms: Noctes Neolatinae), 2016 (518 pp.).
(reviews by: Lorenzo di Maggio, Seventeenth Century News 75 (2017), 52–54; Carla Piccone, in: Anzeiger für die Altertumswissenschaft 69 (2016), coll. 249-253)
- Boreas rising. Antiquarianism and the building of national narratives in 17th and 18th century Scandinavia, edd. Bernd Roling – Bernhard Schirg, Berlin-Boston (Walter de Gruyter: Transformationen der Antike), 2019.
- Economics of Poetry. Efficient techniques of producing Neo-Latin verse, edd. Paul Gwynne – Bernhard Schirg, Oxford et al. (Peter Lang: Court Cultures of the Middle Ages and Renaissance) 2018.
- Apotheosis of the North. The Swedish Appropriation of Classical Antiquity around the Baltic Sea and Beyond (1650 to 1800), edd. Bernd Roling – Stefan Bauhaus – Bernhard Schirg. Berlin-Boston (Walter de Gruyter: Transformationen der Antike), 2017.
Articles in Journals and edited Volumes
- "The perfect pitch. Refashioning antiquities and the hunt for patronage under the Swedish Empire - a case study (1680-1700)", in: A Companion to Renaissance Antiquarianism, ed. William Stenhouse, Leiden-Boston (Brill: RSA Series), 2022.
- (with Bernd Roling) "Introduction", in: Boreas Rising 2019 (see "Edited volumes").
- "The Northern Face of January. Narratives of early cultural history between Rome and their appropriation in Swedish antiquarianism (Janus, Saturn, Numa)", in: Boreas Rising 2019 (see "Edited volumes").
- “Pietro Lazzaroni professore di retorica e poesia a Pavia”, in: Profili di umanisti bresciani. Seconda serie, ed. Carla Maria Monti. Travagliato-Brescia (Edizione Torre d‘Ercole: Adunanza erudita), 2019, 151–180.
- "Spamming the Council of Milan. Neo-Latin Poetry and the quest for patronage under Ludovico Sforza (1480–1499)", in: Economics of Poetry 2018 (see "Edited volumes"), 179–198.
- "Cortese's ideal cardinal? Art, splendour and magnificence in Cardinal Bernardino de Carvajal’s (1456–1523) Roman residence", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 80 (2017), 61–82.
- "(Re)Writing the Early Biography of the Alhambra’s Fountain of Lions. New Evidence from a Neo-Latin Poem (1497)", Muqarnas. An Annual on the Visual Culture of the Islamic World 34 (2017), 259–271.
- "The Daphnic fate of Camerarius. Olof Rudbeck the Younger's botanical dissertation (1686) revealed as Sweden's first printed emblem book", in: Emblems and the Natural World (1500–1700), edd. Karl A.E. Enenkel - Paul J. Smith, Leiden-Boston (Brill: Intersections), 2017, 227–270.
- “Phoenix going bananas. The Swedish Appropriation of a Classical Myth, and its Demise in Botanical Scholarship (Engelbert Kaempfer, Carl Linnaeus)”, in: Apotheosis of the North 2017 (see "Edited volumes"), 17–46.
- “Formare un poeta. Bernardino Bornato a Pavia e il modesto Fortleben letterario della poesia panegirica”, in: La lettura e i libri tra chiostro, scuola e biblioteca. Libri e lettori a Brescia tra Medioevo ed Età moderna (Atti della sesta giornata di studi “Libri e lettori a Brescia tra Medioevo ed Età moderna”, Brescia, 8 Maggio 2015), ed. Luca Rivali. Udine (Forum: Libri e biblioteche), 2017, 69–76.
- “Decoding da Vinci’s impresa. Leonardo’s gift to cardinal Ippolito d’Este and Mario Equicola’s De opportunitate (1507)”, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 78 (2015), 135–155.
- (with Paul Gwynne) “‘The ‘Economics Of Poetry’. Fast Production as an Essential Skill in Neo-Latin Encomiastic Poetry”, Studi Rinascimentali 13 (2015), 11–32.
- “Betting on the antipope. Giovambattista Cantalicio and his cycle of poems dedicated to the schismatic Cardinal Bernardino de Carvajal in 1511 (with an edition and translation from Naples, Biblioteca Nazionale, ms. XVI A 1)“, SPOLIA. Journal of Medieval Studies 2015, 248–285.
- “In bivio. Zur Lebenswegentscheidung als Motiv frühhumanistischer Selbstdarstellung bei Geri von Arezzo und Francesco Petrarca”, Studi Medievali 55 (2014), 299–340.
Scholarships and awards
- September 2017: Freigeist-Fellowship awarded by the VolkswagenFoundation (five years, initial funding sum: 961.800 EUR)
- November 2015: Society of Neo-Latin Studies Early-Career Essay Prize 2015, awarded at the Annual Meeting of the SNLS (London, 27 November 2015)
- 2012 – 2013: PhD-scholarship awarded by the German National Academic Foundation (“Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes”)
- 2005 – 2010: Scholarship awarded by the German National Academic Foundation (“Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes”)
- 2003: ”Humanismus heute”-award for best exam in Latin