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IMC 2015: Sessions

Session 1124: Reform and Renewal in Intercultural Contexts, II

Wednesday 8 July 2015, 11.15-12.45

Moderator/Chair:Jo Van Steenbergen, Henri Pirenne Institute for Medieval Studies / Department of Languages & Cultures: The Near East & the Islamic World, Universiteit Gent
Paper 1124-aMechanism for Change in Traditional Culture: A Case Study from the Jewish Codes of the Geonic Period
(Language: English)
Zvi Stampfer, Taylor-Schechter Genizah Research Unit, University of Cambridge
Index terms: Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Religious Life, Social History
Paper 1124-bThe Three Kings of Cologne: Prester John and Eastern Utopias
(Language: English)
Matthew Brown, Department of English, Speech & Foreign Languages, Texas Woman's University
Index terms: Language and Literature - Middle English, Lay Piety, Political Thought
Paper 1124-cByzantine Religious Dialogues with Muslims in the 14th and 15th Centuries: An Emphasis on Philosophy?
(Language: English)
Tomoo Uegaki, Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman & Modern Greek Studies, Department of Classics, Ancient History & Archaeology, University of Birmingham / Kyoto University
Index terms: Byzantine Studies, Language and Literature - Greek

Paper -a:
The book Halachot Psukot attributed to Rabbi Yehudai Gaon (Iraq, d. 761) is the first of its kind in Jewish legal works. This first legal codex of Jewish law was monumental in breaking away from centuries of cultural, religious, and legal boundaries. It was trailblazing in two unique ways. One in that it broke from oral to written culture, and secondly, that the legal authority shifted from the institutions to the individual scholar. In this paper, I will try to address the question what allowed for this phenomenon of breaking away from traditional and legal boundaries forbidding the writing of any legal religious work. I will show the interplay between outside Islamic influences and tradition and suggest a model for change that can be applied to most traditional cultures. Using remnants of legal works from the ancient Cairo Geniza, I will draw a high-resolution picture of the process of change within a traditional environment.

Paper -b:
There has been a recent surge of interest in medieval England's imaginative ideas of a Middle Eastern 'Other' as a foil for emerging Western nationalism, utopianism, etc. This paper focuses upon a surprisingly neglected text, the Middle English Three Kings of Cologne, which is heavily invested in imagining the East, yet has mainly been treated mainly as a pious devotional narrative. I argue that this text's neglected references to the kingdom of Prester John, as well as its imaginative reconstruction of the political arrangements of the Magian kingdoms, reveal a pattern of Magian 'reformism', which was used by supporters of King Edward III as a way to reimagine Western temporality and political norms.

Paper -c:
In the 14th and 15th century when the expansion of the Ottoman Empire threatened Byzantines, some Byzantine intellectuals composed dialogues on the Christian faith with Muslims, fictive but based on actual discussions with them. These dialogues, inheriting forms and themes developed by precedent apologetic works, showed a new trend: an emphasis on Greek philosophical knowledge as a tool for inter-religious communication. This paper will focus on the dialogues written by Manuel II Palaiologos, Gennadios II Scholarios, and George Amirutzes, and explore how this emphasis, together with images of Muslims in these works, reflected the authors' experience and ideal about the relationship between Christian and Muslim intellectuals.