Upcoming sessions IMC Leeds 2017: From “Fear and Loathing” to new religious histories

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). The original idea behind the sessions, which started with Andra Alexiu, Stephanie Kluge, myself and our shared interest in the theme of polemics,  was to focus on the role of negative emotions for medieval community-building and opinion formation – as we found, this range of emotions has not been as popular in the history of emotions as the more positive spectrum, even though it features prominently in medieval polemics. This also seemed to fit well with the IMC’s special thematic strand concerning the ‘Other’. In discussing with friends and colleagues, however, it was emphasized that the construction of communities through appeals to negative emotions could hardly be studied without also looking at positive emotions. The range of the papers was thus widened.

As the sessions stand, it looks as if the first session will largely remain focused on negative emotions: We will start with Claudia Daiber’s (University of Amsterdam) paper on the use of emotions in plays, which focuses on anti-Jewish polemical material – a short preview will follow on this blog tomorrow. We go on with Stephanie Kluge’s (Münster) discussion of the use of emotions in anti-mendicant and anti-clerical exempla. The session concludes with Bénédicte Sère’s (Paris X) paper on the use of emotions in the polemics of the Great Schism – developing an aspect of her recently published splendid book on the debate culture of the Great Schism, Les débats d’opinion à l’heure du Grande Schisme. Ecclésiologie et politique (Brepols).

The second session will verge towards the nexus of emotions and (religious) community and more positive or at least ambiguous emotions: Opened by Andra Alexiu’s (Münster) paper on Hildegard of Bingen’s use of emotions in conflict, it will go on with Emilia Jamroziak’s (Leeds) paper on emotions and community in late medieval Cistercian chronicles. The third paper, by Ragnhild Martine Bø (Oslo), will look at emotional responses to miracles in Sagas.

Alexandra Cuffel (Bochum) has kindly agreed to give a response before we end the session with discussion.

Very happily, these sessions have come together from both longstanding research networks and new contacts made at previous conferences and congresses, and we hope that new acquaintances will develop from it.

For me personally, the sessions continue a re-familiarization with the research area of the history of emotions, which I hadn’t engaged with since my dissertation and a 2011 article on emotions in Carolingian epistolography,which has, for a series of absurd reasons, still not appeared. A first step in that direction was made in co-organizing a Training school “Passionate Devotions. Emotions in Late Medieval and Early Modern Texts, Images and Music” this April for COST Action IS 1301, together with Ragnhild Bø, which has been extremely rewarding and instructive for me (see the report here). Yet my reading for this training school at least partly confirmed my impresssion that the history of emotions has not been applied as productively in the specific area of polemics and negative emotions as elsewhere. Of course, there has been much very important work on these subjects – not least Alex Cuffel’s book on Gendering polemics – and many relevant treatments of ‘othering’ have dealt with negative emotions. Yet I am still trying to piece it all together, and hope to be inspired by the many dedicated papers on ‘others’ at Leeds and by our sessions. I also look forward to attending other session series, such as that on ‘Public opinion, Debate, and the Medieval Public Sphere’ on Monday, where I will present a paper on “Polemic translated? Latin and vernacular appeals to public opinion in the secular-mendicant controversy”. Its focus is on Rutebeuf, and it will also deal with the issue of emotions briefly.

Finally, there will be another Round Table on “New Religious Histories” on Tuesday evening at 19:00h – co-organized, as during the last years, with Melanie Brunner (Leeds), Emilia Jamroziak (Leeds) and Amanda Power (Oxford). As before, this round table will attempt to bring together people working on different bits of the fragmented research field of medieval religion. We look forward to hear statements from John Arnold (Cambridge), Sabrina Corbellini (Groningen) and Kirsty Day (Edinburgh) as well as Emilia and Amanda.

Please come and join us for any or all of these sessions or comment below!

Sita Steckel


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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