Call for Papers – Enemies Within: The struggle against internal division in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

The 28th Biennial Conference of the Middle Ages and Renaissance Studies Program at Barnard College

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Kristina Richardson (CUNY)
Mitchell B. Merback (Johns Hopkins)

2022 marks a dubious anniversary: exactly one thousand years ago, in 1022, 13 Cathars were burned at Orléans—the first recorded instance of such punishment of Christian heretics. Exactly five hundred years later, a new sign of internal dissension erupted: In 1522, Martin Luther published his German translation of the New Testament, and in the same year, the Diet of Nuremberg staged an ultimately unsuccessful papal effort to suppress Luther, who had been declared a heretic in the 1521 Edict of Worms. Europe was far from unique in such efforts to suppress internal divisions, which also had a long history in the Middle East, where, for example, during the Mihna in the ninth century CE, the Abbasid caliph had similarly attempted to enforce a theological orthodoxy through centralized or systematized forms of persecuting heresy—attempts that, as in Europe, ultimately failed.

In the Middle Ages and Renaissance, as now, cultures often negotiated their identities by protecting their boundaries against external threats, but equally by marking, and often trying to suppress, enemies within. This conference will focus on cultural anxieties generated by internal challenges, both within the boundaries of a polis and within the boundaries of an individual, exploring how binaries like internal/external, enemy/ally, and related terms, become unstable or unpredictable vectors across periods of time. We invite paper proposals that speak to this issue in its most capacious sense, not only in the religious sphere but equally in the arts, literature, history, and history of science.

Please submit an abstract of 250-300 words and a 2-page CV by March 30, 2022 to Rachel Eisendrath,

PLEASE NOTE THAT, IF THE PANDEMIC ALLOWS, THIS CONFERENCE WILL BE HELD IN PERSON AT BARNARD COLLEGE in NYC. We will announce by the end of summer 2022 if instead we have to hold the conference on Zoom.

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