Michel Zink

2007 Balzan Prize for European Literature (1000-1500)

For his fundamental contributions to the understanding of French and Occitan literature in the Middle Ages, a decisive chapter in the development of modern European literature; for his new interpretation of the relation between medieval and modern literature; for his seminal initiatives that have brought the literature of the Middle Ages back into the cultural tradition of France and Europe.

Michel Zink holds the chair in “Littératures de la France médiévale” at the Collège de France, which goes back to the illustrious tradition of the chair of “Langue et littérature françaises du Moyen Âge” founded in 1853 for Paulin Paris. Thanks to his publications and teaching at the Collège de France, Michel Zink is undoubtedly the major exponent of research in medieval literature in France.

In the development of modern literature in Europe, increasingly important paradigms have emerged in northern and southern France. Michel Zink has made an essential contribution to the understanding of medieval French literature through his lively, innovative and brilliant investigations on the pastoral, on the sermon in the French vulgate, on literary subjectivity in the time of Saint Louis, on Froissart’s concept of time, and on nature and poetry in the Middle Ages.

Moreover, we can also cite his annotated edition of Rutebeuf, as well as numerous monographs dealing with the entire field of French and Proven?al literature in all of the main literary genres from the beginning to the end of the Middle Ages. His new interpretation of the relationship between medieval and modern literature in France – brilliantly expressed in his inaugural address at the Collège de France – is an important point of departure for taking the literature of the Middle Ages out of the narrow confines of specialized philological knowledge and bringing it back to the cultural tradition of France and Europe. His founding of the series “Lettres gothiques” is an important tool for these purposes.

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