(D2-8) The Book as a Weapon in Religio-Political Conflicts: Discourses of Violence and Their Transmission in 15th- and 16th-Century England

The project investigates discourses of violence and their transmission in the medium “book” in religio-political communication of 15th- and 16th-century England. Against the backdrop of the analysis of epoch-specific notions of the relationship of physical and non-physical violence, the centre of attention will be the question as to the role of language, particularly the language transmitted in writing in manuscripts and printed books. It focuses on violence made the subject of discussion at the level of what is represented, as well as on the forms of textual transmission as such, at the level of the representation, in which language itself – as acting and possibly as violent – becomes the object of attention.

The following two areas are central to the analysis of the discourses of violence:

1. Reception of the Bible

On the textual level, particularly the biblical remittance in the conflicting interests of the Old and New Testament as a basis of the different legitimation strategies for violence in accordance with the potestas is to be analysed. These were exercised on the part of the church to ward off heretical movements such as the Lollards in late medieval England and, during the Reformation in the 16th century, on the part of both church and state to safeguard the intended unity under the specific conditions of an Anglican established church. As regards method, approaches from intertextuality research may be examined as to their applicability to the analysis of the forms of use of biblical texts dealing with the topic of violence. Specific textualisation strategies in connection with the patterns of reasoning will thus be analysed and the corresponding new contextualisations of the Bible at the end of the late Middle Ages in the Lollard movement and during the Reformation in the 16th century will be worked out.

2. The transmission aspect: book communication

From a book historical point of view, the central question deals with the transmission of Bible related discourses of violence in book communication, namely in the form of handwritten and printed books and pamphlets as a formative factor in the conflict-laden literary communication of the religio-political field. In view of the possibilities of producing a (pre-modern) ‘public’ through printing, this transmission aspect seems to be of particular relevance for assessing the effectiveness of such biblically grounded notions of physical and non-physical violence. Central theses on the difference between manuscript culture and early printing culture, such as the one by Elizabeth Eisenstein (1979) on book-specific communication in the field of religion, will be examined critically with a view to the topic of violence.

The Project is part of coordinated project group Legitimation and de-legitimation of violence with reference to text and tradition.