As announced in a previous post, scholars from several different fields will come together for two sessions entitled “Fear, Love and Loathing in the Middle Ages: Emotions and the body in polemic and boundary-making”. Within the sessions, Claudia Daiber’s paper “Practicing Pogroms Against Jewish Populations on Stage” will deal with the important theme of anti-Jewish polemics. The paper will focus on a carnival play authored by Nuremberg-based meistersinger Hans Folz (1435/40-1513), a barber and surgeon by profession. As Claudia emphasises, the play contains anti-Jewish imagery and invective which go to extremes. To quote from her abstract:
It is almost time for my favourite congress, the International Medieval Congress at Leeds, and I take this opportunity to announce some activities.
First of all, the Diversitas religionum project would like to issue an invitation to all interested fellow medievalists to join us for two sessions on Tuesday entitled “Fear and Loathing in the Middle Ages” (see I and II).
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.
Given their stereotypical and manipulative nature, medieval religious polemics are often considered problematical as sources. But polemics also present various avenues of investigation. Frequently, polemical texts connected the realms of written and oral as well as learned and unlearned audiences. The intrinsically comparative nature of polemics often went beyond simple ‘othering’ to enable complex (albeit negative) views of religious diversity. As there was no fixed genre called ‚polemics’ in the Middle Ages, polemical discourses could draw on all kinds of communicative strategies.
The two sessions at IMC 2016 consciously cut across inter-religious and intra-Christian polemics. Five papers juxtapose texts attacking different types of opponents – principally heretics, Franciscan friars, and Jews. They hope to explore the limits and potentials of polemical techniques and the relation of arguments and audiences.
Anyone interested in medieval religious polemics is welcome to attend, discuss, or comment below.
The workshop is a cooperation between COST Action IS1301 “New Communities of Interpretation. Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe“ and the Cluster of Excellence ”Religion and Politics in Pre-Modern and Modern Cultures“ at Münster. The COST Action IS1301 is a network uniting over 100 researchers from 22 countries working on religion in the long fifteenth century. Especially in its Workgroup 1 (“Theoretical approaches”), the network challenges existing national narratives of late medieval and Reformation history and literature, and aims to create new European narratives explaining the profound transformations of the period.
The workshop assembles members of the COST Action “New Communities of Interpretation”, the Cluster of Excellence “Religion and Politics” and external guests. It invites reflection on the historiography and on extant and possible theoretical frameworks for mid- and long-term religious transformation. By frameworks, we mean ways (including historical narration) in which macro-historical, societal processes and problems can be linked to the micro-historical level that our research typically aims for.
We suggest that recent sociological approaches to religious change make for particularly interesting frameworks, as they may offer a platform for interdisciplinary debate. Using Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of the religious field as a starting point, the workshop will discuss historical actor constellations and “migrations of the holy” to test the potential of differentiation theory as an interdisciplinary framework.
The programme is downloadable here: The Religious Field_Flyer_web
In recent research, a much-needed insistence on religious diversity as a medieval phenomenon has come to the fore, and many studies have highlighted emerging concepts and practices of tolerance, pluralism and peaceful coexistence between religions during the Middle Ages. For all its advantages, however, this approach leaves out large segments of the medieval imagination – generally, the focus lies very firmly on inter-religious relations, even though many experiences of diversity within largely Christianized or Islamicized areas would have been intra-religious, i.e. experiences of diverging observances, religious orders, ‚sects‘ or other informal conventions shaping religious communities. Secondly, the decided emphasis on forms of pluralism foregoes to make use of a large and equally important area: An intriguing avenue towards evaluating medieval concepts of religious diversity may lie in analyzing polemics, invectives and scornful comparisons between religious groups. Typically studied for the light they throw on the image or stereotype of one specific group, such polemics have seldom been seen as (albeit negative) expressions of diversity.
The International Medieval Congress at Leeds is almost upon us, and I’m looking forward to very many of its sessions – not least, of course the ‘New religious histories’ sessions, co-organized by Melanie Brunner (Leeds), Amanda Power (Sheffield) and myself – sessions 529, 629, 729, 829).
I wanted to post here about the Round-table (929) titled ‘Towards a Comparative Approach to Religious Histories – A Round Table Discussion’. (Leeds University Union – Room 5 – Kirkstall Abbey, 19.00-20.00h). We have just (rather late in the day, alas) asked the participants of the round-table to prepare brief statements on a number of questions. As these questions are probably also discussed elsewhere and we usually only have limited time in the round-table session, I wanted to post them here in case one of the session speakers, session attendees or otherwise interested parties wanted to add something in written form here. I was hoping I could summarize any pre-event comments to this blog post during the roundtable, but it might also serve for further comments after the Leeds week. Any interested scholar is welcome to post relevant short comments.
The idea for the sessions arose after past Leeds round-tables and informal discussion. We organized the 2014 sessions and this round-table hoping that they would bring together scholars from different fields which have drifted rather (too) far apart: Participants come from the history of the mendicant and monastic orders, male and female convents, but also from research on heresy and various aspects of ecclesiastical history (especially post-Lateran IV) and theology. While the concept binding them together – religion – might be one item for our common agenda, we hope to use the round-table to discuss further current problems, trends and future plans. Ideally, we would encourage participants to engage other corners of the broad field of religion, and name problems and issues which might be discussed profitably in a larger group. This might include
– Theoretical and historiographical issues: As many old paradigms are abandoned, shall we try to build new ‘total‘ explanations? Which recent developments do we find particularly useful and why?
– Conceptual issues to do with the history of religion, which might profit from interdisciplinary discussion. Not least, we might discuss which approaches to religion itself we consider useful at the moment.
– Future plans, including ideas on how to cross-fertilize adjacent research fields methodologically and organizationally, and research questions which could connect separate fields, ideas to break down very compartmentalized approaches, but also possible events.
“Production and Use of Religious Texts in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe”, places for 10 PhD or advanced M.A. students. See the description here.
As I am writing this, the first Congress of a new European network is being opened: Since last September, COST Action IS1301 has been under way, with over 100 researchers setting out to study ‘Contexts, Strategies and Processes of Religious Transformation’. Many people working on religion and/or book history in the Late Medieval and Early Modern period will already have heard of this COST Action, but for those who haven’t, some basic facts: