Call for Articles: Verging on the polemical: Patterns of embedding and escalation of religious polemics across medieval genres and cultures

Deadline Abstracts: 15. June 2017

Deadline Articles: 31. October 2017

Publication: July 2018

Journal: Medieval Worlds. Interdisciplinary and transcultural studies (Peer review, Open access), special thematic section edited by Junior-Prof. Dr. Sita Steckel, Medieval history (WWU Münster).

Verging on the polemical: Issues and questions

In past research on religious polemics during the medieval centuries, the perception of religious identities and of specific religious groups has been a central interest. As a result, texts or images which were wholly dedicated to engagement with opponents and their positions, such as the „Adversus Judaeos“ tradition in Latin Christian culture, have been a particular focus.

Yet in recent publications, concepts and strategies of „polemicizing“ themselves have been revisited – and it is clear that the different overlapping research fields interested in medieval religious polemics still have to find a shared terminology and methodology. Especially if we hope to study pre-modern religious polemics in their entangled and connected histories, the highly variable structures of polemical utterances are thus of central interest. This perspective invites a new look at the wealth of texts which only contain polemical passages, or combine different, more and less aggressive rhetorical registers.

Texts which „verge on the polemical“ in this way may result where polemicists transfer pre-existing elements into new texts or genres – or they may reflect situations of escalation in which different styles or methods of engagement were used and resulted in different forms of argumentation. Typically, such texts – or comparable images – give us important insights about the circulation of polemical perceptions and argumentations, indicating how polemical material spread and became embedded into different textual repertoires or social practices. To grasp the contexts and transmission patterns of religious polemics during the medieval centuries, such partly polemical texts seem as important as more focused and homogeneous examples. Not least, they force us to reflect on the differences in the embedding of specific polemical traditions – distinguishing between well-established, pervasive traditions of intellectual violence such as Christian anti-Jewish polemics, and less widespread or newly emerging polemical traditions which had to embed new forms of persuasion into genres not otherwise dedicated to polemical argumentation.

For a special thematic section of the open-access, peer-reviewed journal „Medieval worlds“, we are seeking additional contributions dedicated to such cases. We are particularly (though not exclusively) interested in contributions covering polemics by Islamic, Jewish, Buddhist, other Asian or non-Latin Christian authors of the medieval centuries. Polemical debates within religious groups as well as inter-religious engagements are of interest, but some reference to religion is essential.

Submitted articles (c. 6.000 to max 9.000 words) should relate to at least one of the following issues:

  • Several medieval texts combine polemical passages with other material. Often, the polemical parts underwent a transposition to a different text, genre or language which influenced its composition. Of particular interests are transfers which shift polemical argumentations between audiences – for example, between the typical double audience of polemics, i.e. from members of the religious outgroup to members of the religious ingroup or vice versa.
  • Other texts include the use of polemical arguments or passages in genres where they were not established, thus indicating a spread of intellectual violence to new contexts. Of particular interest are texts which „import“ arguments or persuasive strategies from pre-existing discourses into new situations, indicating the spread of polemical perceptions.
  • Especially where medieval polemicists were confronted with new opponents or new issues, we also witness patterns of discursive escalation which combine different forms of argumentation, or experiment with different argumentative repertoires of varying aggressiveness. Such situations often arise where conflicts spread from one forum of conflict to another, necessitating or enabling a switch to new strategies of persuasion or new rules of engagement.

Please submit your abstract (around 500 words) for an article to sita.steckel@uni-muenster.de by 15 June 2017.


Sita Steckel

Juniorprofessorin (Assistant professor) of Medieval history, High and Late Middle Ages, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

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Author: Sita Steckel

Juniorprofessorin (Assistant professor) of Medieval history, High and Late Middle Ages, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster.

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