Enemies Within: The struggle against internal division in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at Barnard College is pleased to announce the following conference:

Enemies Within:
The struggle against internal division in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Saturday, December 3, 2022



Kristina Richardson (University of Virginia), “Romani Printers in Late Medieval Europe”

Mitchell B. Merback (Johns Hopkins University), “The Art of Blasphemy on the Eve of the Reformation”


2022 marks a dubious anniversary: exactly one thousand years ago, in 1022, thirteen 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 dissention 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 bring together twelve speakers across disciplines ranging from religion to art history to 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.

Please note that registration is free but required. All those who register will receive a link to attend the Zoom sessions.

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