Religious Dispute and Toleration in Early Modern Literature and History.

deadline for submissions: 
December 15, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
University Toulouse-Jean Jaurès (France)

Religious Dispute and Toleration in Early Modern Literature and History. Online (4th June 2021)


According to Christian Plantin, the various types of agonistic exchanges serve different purposes: “In the field of conflict resolution, certain forms of interaction are aimed at reaching a consensus and ending the conflict (negotiations, conciliations, etc.), while others aim at exposing or amplifying the disagreement (political debates, polemical discussions, etc.)” (Christian Plantin, “L’interaction argumentative” in Dialoganalyse VI, Referate der 6 Arbeitstagung Prag 1996, eds. C. Cmerijkova et al., Tübingen, 1998, 153). The Renaissance is a period marked by the notion of interconfessional conflict but also by a certain religious hybridity illustrated by the numerous interactions between Catholics and Protestants in the British Isles and in mainland Europe.

            The public religious disputation organised during the reigns of Elizabeth I and then James VI and I (both in Scotland and in England) or the conferences organised by Henry IV of France testify to a desire to use and to adapt this old form of controversy, which was rigidly codified, in order to arouse religious antagonism. Indeed, this form of communication was primarily used to reveal a disagreement. Participants in these agonistic dialogues made sure to stand their ground while trying to force the enemy to retreat. In literature, the staging of scenes of religious disputation or the emergence of the genre of the polemical dialogue seem to reflect, at first sight, the oppositional nature of interconfessional relationships. We welcome papers investigating the conflictual dimension of scenes of disputation or dispute and their mechanisms.

            However, not unlike all the conflicts at that time, religious antagonism was characterised by a notion of confrontation between two parties but also by that of appeasement and the dialogical style is always likely to serve a double purpose. Indeed, this conference wishes to go beyond a simple dichotomy. Although disputation and toleration are usually opposed, this one-day conference seeks to explore the dynamic interplay that exists between these two concepts. To what extent is the clear separation between the language of conflict and the language of appeasement relevant when examining the various types of interconfessional interaction during the Renaissance?

            Does the encounter between the two warring parties always have one single purpose (amplification or appeasement)? Or, can the polemical objective be concomitant with an attempt to establish an agreement, even if it ultimately proves unsuccessful? How can a disputation, by adopting the methods of political diplomacy for instance, be turned into a tool used to resolve the conflict?

            Proposals focusing on early modern European literature and/or history and dealing with the following issues (non-exhaustive list) will be considered:

-       How the genre of the medieval disputatio resurfaced and was adapted in the writings of the period: theatre, polemical dialogue, pamphlet…

-       How the religious conflict and/or religious toleration is staged and represented in literature, with a special emphasis on so-called “minor” works.

-       The transition from a language of conflict to a language of appeasement

-       Paradoxical forms of toleration, or at least appeasement, in scenes of dispute: strategies of dissimulation, negotiation, elements left unsaid, silence, ritual sacrifices…

-       Forms of compromise

-       Polyphony and inclusion of the religious Other, negotiation of a common space on stage

-       Drama generating and/or amplifying conflict


Please send 300-500-word abstracts, in English or in French, and a short bio to by 15thDecember 2020. Confirmation of acceptance by 15th January 2021. The conference will be held remotely. Participants will then be invited to submit articles to a peer‑reviewed research journal.