Call for Papers: Forms of Dissent in the Medieval and Early Modern World

Within the contemporary political and academic climate, a notion of dissent–as protest, as critique, as resistance–seems in many ways embedded into our political culture and academic practice. No less central was dissent in the medieval and early modern period. While religious and political structures are most visibly invoked as sites of medieval and early modern resistance and reform, adjacent spheres of hermeneutics, law, gender, intellectual discourse, the creative and performing arts, and more were all arenas in which various forms of dissent could be imagined, interpreted, and played out. From the Latin dissentio–to differ in sentiment, to feel differently–dissent is a capacious enough concept to encompass action, but also reflection; contentiousness, but also acknowledgment; separation, but also concurrence. Thus, while dissent in the medieval and early modern period can certainly be said to include the often widely consequential currents of religious, social, and political reform and revolution that permeate the years between late antiquity and the seventeenth century, it may also be illuminatingly imagined as encompassing more particular–but equally generative–forms. To what extent, for example, can innovations and experimentations in artistic forms and representations be conceptualized as aspects of dissent? Or, how might close study of particular individual or local acts of dissent–heresies, polemics, lawbreaking, convention-shirking, etc.–illuminate and expand our understanding of premodern conceptions of what it means to “feel differently”? By expanding our definition of dissent to include a more capacious set of actions, ideas, and forms, we hope to encourage broad discussion and engagement with the myriad ways that dissent is imagined and represented across the medieval and early modern period.

Now in its 18th year, the Annual North Carolina Colloquium in Medieval and Early Modern Studies invites graduate students to submit proposals for twenty-minute paper presentations to an interdisciplinary audience that consider the forms and functions of dissent (broadly conceived) throughout the medieval and early modern world. In addition to investigations of forms of dissent against established structures, hierarchies, and institutions, we especially invite papers which seek to explore how forms of dissent operated as turning points or pivots, as “sites of conversions,” within and as an integral part of those same structures. In this sense, we invite participants to consider in what ways dissent might be imagined not only as a rupture or a break, but also as an ongoing process of conversion or even innovation. With support from the international Early Modern Conversions Project, we are interested in considering dissent in all its forms–social, religious, political, artistic–and especially in its points of contact with conceptions of conversion, broadly considered.

We welcome graduate students working in all fields of inquiry concerned with the period from late antiquity to the end of the 17th century, including but not limited to history, literature, theology, philosophy, musicology, cultural studies, anthropology, art history, gender and sexuality studies, religion, and political theory. Topics for papers might consider dissent’s interaction with one or more of the following broad categories, but all pertinent submissions are warmly welcomed:

  • Religion, theology, and ecclesiology
  • Literature, textuality, hermeneutics
  • Politics, law, and legal thought
  • Gender and sexuality
  • The creative and performing arts
  • Intellectual history and philosophy
  • Social history and material culture

Interested participants should submit a 250-word abstract no later than January 22, 2018. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance by February 1, 2018. Free accommodations and local travel assistance during the conference with host students may be available for interested participants traveling from outside the Triangle area; please indicate in your application if you might be interested in staying with a graduate student host. All applications and inquiries should be sent to Please include the presenter’s name, institutional affiliation, and contact information in the body of the email; abstracts should be attached as a separate PDF or Word document.