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Paris Theologians and 'The Other' in the Thirteenth Century

Research output: Book/ReportAuthored book

Original languageEnglish
Publisher or commissioning bodyCambridge University Press
DateIn preparation - 2019


This research explores the ways in which Parisian theologians in the thirteenth century defined ‘the other’ and sought to establish proper relations between Christians and those whom they regarded as ‘other’. The concept of ‘otherness’ has been deployed by medieval historians for some time, and the normative conclusions drawn by medieval scholars have often been cited. My work breaks new ground in at least two ways. First, in addition to medieval scholarship on human ‘others’ (Jews, heretics, Muslims, lepers), I also analyze the construction of boundaries between humans and metaphysically different beings (animals, angels and liminal cases such as pygmies and monsters), and between humans in this life and humans after death (separated souls, the damned and the blessed). I am therefore bringing together material that has previously been studied separately by different scholars with expertise in traditionally distinct fields. Second, I explore the way in which academic discourse operated when ‘others’ were considered, building on one of the most significant aspects of my previous work. Key arguments reveal: the instability of academic discourse when different types of boundary could be drawn; the anxiety caused not by otherness but by similarity (either similarity perceived where it was not wanted or similarity desired where it was hard to find); inconsistency about the significance of the body as a signifier of difference; and the importance of arguments based not on syllogistic logic but on the concept of convenientia, a way of thinking that I can now show permeates medieval scholarly work but has rarely even been noticed. The book will thus show how thirteenth-century theologians sought to define the Christian self by imagining different kinds of boundaries, and in so doing the book will offer new understandings of the ways in which medieval scholars thought and engaged with the world around them.

Cambridge University Press have expressed a strong interest in publishing this book which will be completed during research leave in 2018-19.


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