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Call for Papers

Obscuritas in the Middle Ages

conference held at the Institute for Greek and Latin Studies Faculty of Arts, Charles University in Prague

Prague, October 6-8, 2011

But hasty and careless readers are led astray by many and manifold obscurities and ambiguities, substituting one meaning for another; and in some places they cannot hit upon even a fair interpretation. Some of the expressions are so obscure as to shroud the meaning in the thickest darkness. And I do not doubt that all this was divinely arranged for the purpose of subduing pride by toil, and of preventing a feeling of satiety in the intellect, which generally holds in small esteem what is discovered without difficulty... Nobody, however, has any doubt about the facts, both that it is pleasanter to have some knowledge communicated through figures, and that what is attended with difficulty in the seeking gives greater pleasure in the finding... Accordingly the Holy Spirit has, with admirable wisdom and care for our welfare, so arranged the Holy Scriptures as by the plainer passages to satisfy our hunger, and by the more obscure to stimulate our appetite. For almost nothing is dug out of those obscure passages which may not be found set forth in the plainest language elsewhere. Augustine, De doctrina christiana, 2.6

The obscurity of the Scriptures, an ongoing challenge to medieval exegetes, as well as the obscurity of this whole world, are images omnipresent during the Middle Ages. Yet, there are many other contexts where we encounter obscurity, and the exact character of approaching, interpreting, and appropriating its various types changes and depends on particular time, space, and the case itself. At the same time, obscurity is not only perceived but also intentionally created, be it in order to build an elite within a society, or for aesthetic, educational or another purpose. Papers addressing the structures, characters and ways of both creating and receiving particular (primarily textual) obscurities in the Middle Ages are welcome at the conference.

Please, send your abstracts (250-300 words) together with a brief CV specifying your current affiliation to Lucie Dolealov at by January 15, 2011.
The conference is organized within the framework of a postdoc research grant from the Grant Agency of the Czech Republic to Lucie Dolealov Reception of Obscurity in Medieval Manuscript Culture: The Case of Versus maligni angeli (GAR P405/10/ P112). There is no conference fee. University accommodation will be sought for those interested. Modest funds are available to help cover expenses of selected participants.