Rhetorics of Reform and Medieval Religion

AHA Session 158
Saturday, January 8, 2011: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Dartmouth Room (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Bruce L. Venarde, University of Pittsburgh
Mayke de Jong, Universitiet Utrecht

Session Abstract

This session will explore characterizations of reform in both Christianity and Islam. In particular, it considers the effects of narrating reform in terms of “movements.” Does the very concept of a “movement” limit our understanding of agency in religious change? Does it privilege certain aspects of religious experience over others?  These three papers consider how religious innovators during the medieval millennium deployed ideas about reform and how historians today use the term to narrate the medieval past.  How might we broaden our approaches to religious change to capture more fully the diversity of visions of reform and efforts to achieve it over the Middle Ages?  In sum, is it possible or desirable to write a history of reform without movements?  By focusing on methodological issues, the session will address all those interested in the history of religion and spirituality.

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