Communication and Communities in Late Medieval Central Europe

AHA Session 128
Society for Austrian and Habsburg History 1
Medieval Academy of America 1
Central European History Society 5
Saturday, January 7, 2012: 9:00 AM-11:00 AM
Belmont Room (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
David Mengel, Xavier University

Session Abstract

Recent research continues to strengthen our understanding of Europe in the later Middle Ages as dynamic and creative, challenging the older narratives of waning, lateness and crisis. New authors, new ideas and new communities helped to create the mass of historical material that characterizes this great age of the manuscript book. This session exemplifies the creative, extensive and intensive study of late-medieval manuscripts and communities that has begun to retell the story of the centuries that traditionally divide medieval from early modern Europe.

This session focuses on Central Europe, where scholars, ideas and manuscripts from France, England, Bohemia and German-speaking lands crossed paths and—in part through contentious church councils—sought to remake Europe by establishing new connections and shaping new communities. The numerous manuscripts of Jean Gerson’s works which communicated his ideas to eager fifteenth-century readers now also provide unprecedented insight into the mechanisms of the large-scale manuscript production and distribution that helped to define a community of scholars on the eve of print. Correspondence between English, Bohemian and French university scholars also provided the context for the “fiction of transmission” which another paper in this session considers. Handwritten testimony of invented correspondence, this fascinating record of imagined academic communication was invested with real significance within and beyond Bohemia during the Great Schism. Finally, this session includes a close study of the materials and manuscripts which promise new insight into the novel and controversial community of Tabor, a radical community whose identity was formed through traditional religious rituals as well as through violence.

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