Selected past events
Heresy at the International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 6 July 2017
At the 2017 International Medieval Congress (IMC) the Medieval Heresy and Dissent Research Network co-sponsored, with the Doat Project, University of York, a strand of sessions on the theme of ‘The Production of Heretical Knowledge’. The three sessions focused on ‘Reaction and Procedure’, ‘Identity and Memory’, and ‘Heresy and Inquisition through the ages’. Four PhD students from Nottingham and two from York gave papers, alongside established scholars from both institutions.
Please go to ‘The Production of Heretical Knowledge’ for further details.
Heretical Self-Defence Conference, Nottingham, 11-12 April 2018
At the University of Nottingham, this international conference on ‘Heretical Self Defence’ asked how, and how well, did heretics and people rightly or wrongly associated with heresy, defend themselves from persecution? What determined this in the case of different movements? How did this change across our period? The conference highlighted the following categories of resistance in particular: Text, Law, Subterfuge, Flight, and Arms.
Research team members
Peter Darby is researching heresy as a theme in the eighth-century Latin writings of the Northumbrian monk and scholar the Venerable Bede (c. 673–735). Bede was well versed in the controversies over heresy which occurred in Late Antiquity and he had access to the writings of some of the key figures in those debates such as Augustine of Hippo and Jerome. But Bede's interest in heresy was by no means purely historical: a core aim of this research is to show Bede to be a figure who was fully engaged with the controversies of his time, such as the arguments over Christology which beset the Christian Church in the late-seventh and early-eighth centuries, and the dispute over images that originated in Byzantium around a decade before his death.
See Peter Darby's profile
Rob Lutton is currently completing a book on the Holy Name of Jesus in late medieval England. This new devotion had wide appeal and spanned private prayer and meditation as well as public liturgical celebration throughout the country in parish churches and cathedrals. It involved an intense focus on the name 'Jesus' as a devotional and contemplative tool and also as a protective charm against physical and spiritual danger. Aspects of the Holy Name were controversial, such as its potential to shift attention to the word-image of 'Jesus' itself rather than the person of Christ. In addition, it generated interest among lollards, followers of the ideas of the 14th-century theologian John Wyclif, who were condemned as heretics by the English church. The book explores how and why the Holy Name was so popular to such a wide range of adherents in order to ask larger questions about religious change in England before the Reformation.
See Rob Lutton's profile
Claire Taylor is currently working on the relationship between property, poverty, and high-medieval religious dissidence. Medieval clergy were not supposed to possess much individually, and to hold everything ‘in common’, but they could own enough between them for some scandalously sumptuous lifestyles. This seemed to contrast with the lives led by Christ and the apostles, to whom He denied personal possessions, and advocated more generally that His followers should not ‘store up goods for the morrow’, because God would surely provide.
Many 'heretics' wanted a return to absolute poverty for those in the religious life, and led by example. In some extreme cases, they thought that the laity too should live in individual poverty, and even rejected the concept of giving charity to the poor, which necessarily involved someone owning property in the first place. Clearly, some medieval people envisaged a very different world from the one which they inhabited. We should ask such questions as, what was the relationship between their views on property and the extent to which they were persecuted? Also, to what extent did ‘heretics’ reflect a more generalised movement towards voluntary poverty?
Such issues can only be explored if we first understand how medieval people understood the concept of ‘property’. Recent scholarship, for example, on feudalism and on the meaning of donations to monastic houses, is challenging our idea of what was understood by ‘ownership’. We should seek out multiple medieval theories of poverty, therefore, just as there are many competing modern ones, in both cases arising out of material circumstances and ideological-religious conviction.
See Claire Taylor's profile
Justine Trombley is currently researching the condemnation of heretical books by the church in the late Middle Ages, with the support of a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship. 'Condemnation' is often still thought of as an event which dictates how a book was viewed by all readers, everywhere, for the rest of its circulation. But, unlike in later centuries, there was no centralised office or institution in the medieval church tasked with keeping track of and regulating books, and the procedures for dealing with heretical texts could vary widely in both their methods and their effectiveness in suppressing the book in question.
Comparing a number of condemned books, the project investigates these differences in order to show the diversity, rather than uniformity, of how heretical texts were dealt with. A key element to this research is examining the link between the circumstances of a book's condemnation and the dissemination of the fact of condemnation itself. This involves tracking the dissemination of a condemnation, examining how knowledge of a condemnation itself may have acted as a suppressive power against a text, and how (or whether) such knowledge endured over time. It also looks at change over time, examining how the medieval church's perception of books in relation to heresy may have shifted in the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, and how this may have affected the procedures it used to suppress them.
See Justine Trombley's profile