Themes of Polemical Theology Across Early Modern Literary Genres, Conference, 3–4 December 2014, Bratislava

full name / name of organization: 
Svorad Zavarský/Ján Stanislav Institute of Slavonic Studies, Slovak Academy of Sciences
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The confessional division within the Church in the early modern period was accompanied by fervent activity in the field of polemical theology. This gave rise to a specific literary genre that, in spite of its abundant representation among early modern texts, has not received due attention from philologists as a distinct form of thought and expression. When reading early modern texts, one comes across references and allusions to confessional polemics again and again. Evidently, writings of religious controversy, practical rather than theoretical as to their purpose, were capable of reaching out beyond their own sphere, thus making their presence felt in society and exerting their influence on individual people's lives.

Polemical theology developed its own system of arguments, images, biblical quotations, etc. which to a great extent became standardized through several prominent manuals of controversy (like e. g. those of Martin Becan, Francis Coster or Robert Bellarmine on the Catholic side). The patterns of polemical-theological discourse were widely known among the educated and their influences can be found in a wide spectrum of early modern literary genres, such as historiography, drama, poetry, oratory, epistolography, scientific dissertations, etc. Therefore we believe it might be beneficial to regard the system of the early modern polemical theology with its ever-recurring motifs and fixed forms of argumentation as an adequate key of interpretation with which to dicepher the 'polemical' codes in literary works.

The conference aims to take an interdisciplinary look at early modern texts, both Latin and vernacular, through the prism of the fundamental topics of polemical theology (e. g. the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and the sacrificial character of the Mass; the invocation of saints; the veneration of relics, images and the Cross; rituals and ceremonies; free will, good works and their merits; the sola scriptura argument; the visibility of the Church; papal primacy, purgatory, predestination, etc.) and/or against the background of the marks of the true Church, whether it be the four classical marks contained in the Creed – una, sancta, catholica, apostolica – or the more elaborate concept of the fifteen marks developed by Robert Bellarmine, or any other model, Protestant or Catholic, applied in the early modern period. It should be remembered though that the notion of polemical theology is not confined solely to the Catholic-Protestant controversy but it also includes contentions among Protestant denominations, polemics with the Orthodox, Muslims and Jews, as well as arguments against atheists and the religiously indifferent.

We hope to bring together scholars – especially philologists, historians and theologians – researching this phenomenon from different perspectives and across different literary genres. We invite proposals for papers on any aspect of research falling within the scope of the conference, in particular on:

•themes of polemical theology in non-theological genres
•the marks of the true Church as motifs in non-theological genres
•implications of polemical theology for the issues of historical consciousness and national identity as displayed in early modern texts written in both Latin and the vernaculars
•manuals of controversy and their literary use beyond polemical theology
•non-theological motifs in the genre of polemical theology

Abstracts of 150–200 words in English or German should be emailed to Svorad Zavarský ( no later than 15 April 2014.

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