Session Title

Conversions: Transformations in the Vices and Virtues in Late Medieval England

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Conversions: Medieval and Modern Working Group, Duke Univ.

Organizer Name

Jessica Hines

Organizer Affiliation

Duke Univ.

Presider Name

Amy N. Vines

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro

Paper Title 1

Humility in The Showings of Julian of Norwich

Presenter 1 Name

Grace Hamman

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Duke Univ.

Paper Title 2

Identifying Suffering: Changing Models of Compassion and Identification in Fifteenth-Century England

Presenter 2 Name

Jessica Hines

Paper Title 3

The Multi-Dialogic Grammar of Avarice in Book V of Gower's Confessio amantis

Presenter 3 Name

Jessica D. Ward

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of North Carolina-Greensboro

Start Date

13-5-2017 1:30 PM

Session Location

Valley I Shilling Lounge

Description

The Conversions: Medieval and Modern Working Group at Duke University (developed as a part of the Early Modern Conversions project based at McGill) aims to analyze and explore conversion as theory and historical practice. Conversion, in its most basic sense, signifies a reversal, a change of direction. Yet the change or turn-around that is conversion has meant many different things in different cultures and across a wide range of discourses from logic to lyric poetry, theology to politics. While no one, for example, is born a Christian, in the European early middle ages, conversion indicated the entry into a specific form of Christian life: monastic orders. It was also a decisive term in the cultivation and defense of that powerful medieval tradition of the eucharist known as transubstantiation. The call to conversion was central both to medieval movements of reform within Christendom and to the rhetoric and politics of the crusades that ventured outside it. So a study of conversion has great potential to illuminate many aspects of these traditions and of medieval culture, both in revolutionary change and in sometimes striking continuities across what seems a cultural revolution.

This panel is interested in exploring one particularly prominent discourse in Late Medieval England—that around the vices and virtues. This panel understands that the processes of developing vices or virtues are inherently processes of conversion. In order for a person to become either vicious or virtuous, some form of transformation of practices, habits, or understanding must occur. Moreover, building on the work of such scholars as Barbara Rosenwein and Siegfried Wenzel, our panel considers 14th and 15th century Europe (and England in particular) as a time and place in which cultural changes such as the rise of the profit economy, clerical reformations, challenges by heretical religious movements, and political instability, transformed the representations and theories of vices and virtues.

By focusing closely on the conversions taking shape in a particular religious discourse over a relatively short time span within a particular culture, the tight focus of our panel allows for a conversation about the minute, but often important, changes taking place within the representation of vices and virtues in this period. How did changes in pastoral manuals shape changes in writing about vices and virtues (and vice versa)? How did economic changes shape understanding of such vices as avarice or even gluttony? Such a tight focus gives us a lens into the culture of a particular culture as it is undergoing significant culture changes that resonate even into the contemporary era.

While the lens through which we are exploring conversion in the medieval period may be tightly focused, a study of vices and virtues is expansive in the types of questions and concerns that it raises. A study of vice and virtue is at once concerned with the ethical, historical, social, intellectual, affective, and theological. To ask what the vices and virtues are, how they may be shaped, developed, or changed, how one can convert from vice to virtue and vice versa, is to look for the significant, if often minute, changes occurring in the moral culture of Late Medieval England.

Jessica N. Hines

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May 13th, 1:30 PM

Conversions: Transformations in the Vices and Virtues in Late Medieval England

Valley I Shilling Lounge

The Conversions: Medieval and Modern Working Group at Duke University (developed as a part of the Early Modern Conversions project based at McGill) aims to analyze and explore conversion as theory and historical practice. Conversion, in its most basic sense, signifies a reversal, a change of direction. Yet the change or turn-around that is conversion has meant many different things in different cultures and across a wide range of discourses from logic to lyric poetry, theology to politics. While no one, for example, is born a Christian, in the European early middle ages, conversion indicated the entry into a specific form of Christian life: monastic orders. It was also a decisive term in the cultivation and defense of that powerful medieval tradition of the eucharist known as transubstantiation. The call to conversion was central both to medieval movements of reform within Christendom and to the rhetoric and politics of the crusades that ventured outside it. So a study of conversion has great potential to illuminate many aspects of these traditions and of medieval culture, both in revolutionary change and in sometimes striking continuities across what seems a cultural revolution.

This panel is interested in exploring one particularly prominent discourse in Late Medieval England—that around the vices and virtues. This panel understands that the processes of developing vices or virtues are inherently processes of conversion. In order for a person to become either vicious or virtuous, some form of transformation of practices, habits, or understanding must occur. Moreover, building on the work of such scholars as Barbara Rosenwein and Siegfried Wenzel, our panel considers 14th and 15th century Europe (and England in particular) as a time and place in which cultural changes such as the rise of the profit economy, clerical reformations, challenges by heretical religious movements, and political instability, transformed the representations and theories of vices and virtues.

By focusing closely on the conversions taking shape in a particular religious discourse over a relatively short time span within a particular culture, the tight focus of our panel allows for a conversation about the minute, but often important, changes taking place within the representation of vices and virtues in this period. How did changes in pastoral manuals shape changes in writing about vices and virtues (and vice versa)? How did economic changes shape understanding of such vices as avarice or even gluttony? Such a tight focus gives us a lens into the culture of a particular culture as it is undergoing significant culture changes that resonate even into the contemporary era.

While the lens through which we are exploring conversion in the medieval period may be tightly focused, a study of vices and virtues is expansive in the types of questions and concerns that it raises. A study of vice and virtue is at once concerned with the ethical, historical, social, intellectual, affective, and theological. To ask what the vices and virtues are, how they may be shaped, developed, or changed, how one can convert from vice to virtue and vice versa, is to look for the significant, if often minute, changes occurring in the moral culture of Late Medieval England.

Jessica N. Hines