Medieval Religious Polemics Compared – Two Sessions at IMC Leeds 2016

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.

Session details:

Sponsor:          Research project ‘Diversitas religionum: 13th-Century Foundations of European Discourses of Religious Diversity’, WWU Münster.
Organiser         Sita Steckel, Historisches Seminar, WWU Münster

Session 1007 – Religious Polemics Compared, I: Inside the Polemicist’s Workshop

Wednesday 6 July 2016: 09.00-10.30

Moderator/Chair: Sita Steckel

Paper 1007-a: From Anti-Heretical Polemics to Vernacular Catechism: Ulrich von Pottenstein’s Translation of Petrus Zwicker’s Anti-Waldensian Treatise

Reima Välimäki, Department of Cultural History / Turku Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies (TUCEMEMS), University of Turku

Paper 1007-b: Magistra Magistrorum: Hildegard of Bingen’s Polemical Discourse on False Teaching

Andra-Nicoleta Alexiu, Historisches Seminar, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

Paper 1007-c: The Text as Heretic: Polemical Techniques and the Speculum Simplicium Animarum

Justine Trombley, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of Toronto


Session 1107 – Religious Polemics Compared, II: Polemics between Rhetoric and Politics

Wednesday 6 July 2016: 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair: Emilia Jamroziak, Forschungsstelle für Vergleichende Ordensgeschichte (FOVOG), Technische Universität Dresden / Institute for Medieval Studies / School of History, University of Leeds

Paper 1107-a: Good and Bad Franciscans: The Construction of Mendicant Identity in Polemical Discourse

Melanie Brunner, Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds

Paper 1107-b: ‘To eradicate their perfidy’: Anti-Jewish Sentiment in Everyday Jewish-Christian Business Transactions

Birgit Wiedl, Institute for Jewish History in Austria, St. Pölten


Sita Steckel, WWU Münster

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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