Discovering Ca’ Foscari with Erasmus, young researcher returns as a Marie Curie fellow


Who wouldn’t want to go through their Erasmus for a second time, returning to the city where they studied abroad? This is exactly what Elise Franssen, a Belgian researcher chose to do. Franssen will return to Ca’ Foscari as one of the 4 winners of the prestigious Marie Curie grants assigned this year to the university.

In 2007, as a student in Oriental Languages and Literature in the University of Liege, Elise decided, together with her supervisor, Prof. Frédéric Bauden, to study a manuscript by al-Tanukhi, one of the most famous medieval Arab writer. Since the specialist of this type of Arabic classical literature is Ca’ Foscari Professor Antonella Ghersetti, to her Venice seemed the natural fit for her Erasmus.

“I had an excellent time in Venice as an Erasmus student and going back to Ca' Foscari will be like the second chapter of a rich story in an exceptional city”, she told us. “Wandering around the city to discover different places of knowledge, having classes in century-old buildings, hearing seagulls and vaporetti along the Grand Canal while attending courses or working in university libraries gave life a unique taste.”

“My experience working with Professor Ghersetti was very rewarding and we kept in touch after my Master's degree. We regularly met at conferences and seminars; in 2015 she invited me to teach at Ca’ Foscari for the Erasmus+ program for teaching staff .”

The Ca’ Foscari academic is not just a specialist in Arab literature, but has also collaborated with other important scholars to the critical edition of Ramusio's account of Marco Polo's travels. “This achievement is an inspiring example for a consequent part of my new project”, Elise explains. “Professor Ghersetti and I thus decided to try and work together again and this is how I applied for this MSC fellowship, conscious of the difficulty of the competition, but also aware of the great support and outstanding reputation of Ca' Foscari’s Research Office."

During her next period of study at Ca’ Foscari, the young researcher will dedicate her studies to the scholarly methods of al-Safadī, an intellectual of the Mamluk period (1250-1517), an era of cultural boom. This research can also tell us something about our digital age, characterized by an overflow of information brought on by the advent of the internet and new technology; the same is evident through the Mamluk period, when scholars had easy access to more knowledge than the previous generation. “Understanding how scholars adapted themselves to the new paradigm puts into perspectives the strategies we unconsciously implement today”, she explains.