Contra Imperium Forms of Dissent in England 1300-1700

deadline for submissions: 
November 24, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
Insubria University, Como, Italy

Dates: 6-7 April 2020

Venue: University of Insubria, Como, Italy

Call for papers deadline: 24th November 2019

Committee: Paola Baseotto (Insubria University), Omar Khalaf (Insubria University), Marie-Christine Munoz-Levy (Université Paul Valéry, Montpellier 3)

Confirmed keynote speakers: Andrew Hadfield (University of Sussex) – Alessandra Petrina (University of Padova)


The purpose of this colloquium is to investigate various forms of dissent in England from the fourteenth to the eighteenth century. Our aim is to establish a network of researchers investigating the cultural, social and political dimensions of polemical texts. This first colloquium, which focuses on the language of dissent in England 1300-1700, will be followed by workshops at Insubria University and elsewhere on other relevant aspects of polemical writing.


Call for Papers



And for dissension, who preferreth peace

More than I do?—except I be provoked.

Henry VI, III, 1, 32-33


Civil dissension is a viperous worm

That gnaws the bowels of the commonwealth.

Henry VI, III, 1, 73-74


The period 1300-1700 marked a turning point in the history of Western Europe. Social and political interactions were often characterized by feelings of intolerance towards some forms of civil and ecclesiastical authority. The publication in the early years of the sixteenth century of Erasmus’s Praise of Folly, Thomas More’s Utopia and the writings of great Protestant Reformers such as Luther, Karlstadt, Melanchthon, Zwingli and Calvin shook cultural and institutional pillars. England played a major role by challenging Papal hegemony through Henry VIII’s Act of Supremacy and the establishment of an independent Church of England. Henry VIII’s policies, however, especially the dissolution of monasteries, were disputed by a group of fervent Roman Catholics gathering under the so-called Pilgrimage of Grace (1536-7). These events paved the way for successive waves of criticism.

Literary giants such as Shakespeare and Milton (the first in his historical tragedies, the other in his pamphlets) gave expressive voice to dissent. The first decades of the seventeenth century saw the flourishing of polemical writings gradually infiltrating the foundations of the State. The English Civil War (1642-51) stemmed from demands for a renewal of the political status quo.

Earlier forms of dissent are no less worthy of attention in themselves and as patterns for later articulations: the works of Margery Kempe (who suffered civil and religious persecution) and John Wyclif (a stern critic of the distance of the Church from evangelical poverty), are representative examples of a wider spirit of criticism that characterized the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 



This first colloquium focuses on voices and expressions of dissent and opposition to power (whether political, religious, cultural, or social) in England 1300-1700.

Proposals for 20-minute papers are welcome on:


- forms of dissent (in literary/non-literary texts)

- the language and rhetoric of dissent

- the addressees and circulation of polemical texts


Select contributions will be published in a peer-reviewed edited volume.

Proposals for a 20-minute presentation in the form of a brief abstract (200-250 words) and a short biographical note should be emailed by 24th November 2019 as pdf/word files to

Notification of proposal acceptance: 10th December 2019

Registration opens in January 2020.

Early bird registration (€ 60) is available until 14th February, 2020, the full fee is € 70.

The registration fee includes a book of abstracts, coffee break and lunch on Monday 6th April and Tuesday 7th April 2020.