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Acts of belief as symbolic communication 

in the late medieval and Renaissance period

An international interdisciplinary colloquium examining the nature of prayer as performance in late medieval and early modern culture


This project seeks to explore aspects of prayer as a performative act in European culture during the late medieval and early modern period, considering these findings in light of the most current theoretical and anthropological perspectives.  An intentionally interdisciplinary effort, it will draw together studies of literature, material culture and religious anthropology.  The project intends to answer the following questions:

  • How was prayer represented in literature, plays or works of art?
  • How do prayers in plays by Shakespeare, Marlowe and Middleton, for example, register responses to the controversies and debates about what constituted true or effective prayer?
  • How did communities utilize prayer as a distinguishing feature for their religious identity, and how were these forms policed?
  • How was prayer bound up in the material culture of religious practice (funeral rites, for example) and the social practices that determined social status of different periods?
  • More importantly, how might these literary, social and material gestures serve as a marker for shifting social perspectives and customs, especially during the Reformation?

Programme available here!

Call for Papers

Papers are invited from those who work on prayer during this period, either through language, material culture, social practice or from a more theoretical perspective. The aim will be share research, whether it be an examination of the architecture created to facilitate prayer, the texts created to preserve, stimulate, guide or police prayer (poetry, hymns, sermons, or polemic), or more scientific attempts to define a person or community’s relationship to the practice of prayer.

Please submit proposals of 150 words for papers of 20 minutes in length.  Panels on specific aspects of early modern prayer will also be considered and should include a brief summary of the panel focus with 150 word proposals of each paper included in the panel.  All submissions should be made via email (prayer@hum.au.dk) by 15 October 2011.

Key speakers

  • Armin Geertz, Aarhus University
  • Helen Wilcox, Bangor University
  • Graham Parry, University of York
  • Reiner Sörries, Museum for Sepulchral Culture, Cassel, Germany
  • Roy Eriksen, Agder University, Norway
  • Alison Findlay, Lancaster University


Co-organised by the School of Communication and Culture and the School of Culture and Society, both at Aarhus University, in conjunction with the School of English, Bangor University, Wales.