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Dancing on the Threshold

A Cultural Concept for Conditions of Being Far from Salvation

Gregor Rohmann

“Dancing mania” and “St. Vitus dance” were culturally formed illness concepts that enabled late medieval people in the Rhine area to act out states of liminality. The semiotics of these trace back to ancient Platonic cosmology, which had been transmitted into medieval theology by late antique Neoplatonism. In this article the iteration of these motifs especially through the early and high Middle Ages is scrutinized. When “dancing mania” emerged in the fourteenth century it was thus neither an early case of mass hysteria nor a particular form of religious deviance, as is still assumed frequently.

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Historical Semantics in Medieval Studies

New Means and Approaches

Bernhard Jussen and Gregor Rohmann

Between 1972 and 1992 Reinhart Koselleck, Otto Brunner, and Werner Conze published the famous seven volumes of Geschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Historisches Lexikon zur Politisch-Sozialen Sprache in Deutschland. The handbook was, in its day, a milestone for any historian interested in turning from the history of ideas to the history of semantics, of the verbal (and non-verbal) production of meaning. In his introduction, published in 1972, Reinhart Koselleck had directed the authors’ attention to the understanding that Historical Semantics stands and falls with defi ning corpora. In the pursuit of orientation about the quantity and dissemination of semantic figurations, but also of comparability of the articles’ findings, all authors were expected to use predefined text corpora. In conversations with his Bielefeld colleagues Koselleck often complained later that too many authors did not follow his rule and that too many of the handbook’s articles had just continued to work with approaches rooted in the history of ideas.

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Reviews

Gregor Feindt and Ralph Weber

Paweł Rojek, Semiotyka Solidarnos ´ci: Analiza dyskursów PZPR i NSZZ Solidarnos ´c´ w 1981 roku [Semiotics of Solidarity: Discourse Analysis of the Polish United Workers Party and the Independent Self-Governing Trade Union Solidarity 1981] (Krakow: Nomos, 2009), 264 pp.

Elz˙bieta Ciz˙ewska, Filozofi a publiczna Solidarnos ´ci: 1980–1981 z perspektywy republikan´skiej tradycji politycznej [The Public Philosophy of Solidarity: 1980–1981 from the Perspective of Republican Political Tradition] (Warsaw: Narodowe Centrum Kultury, 2010), 379 pp.

Krzysztof Brzechczyn, O ewolucji solidarnos ´ciowej w mys ´li społeczno-politycznej w latach 1980–1981: Studium z filozofi i społecznej [The Evolution of Solidarity in Social-Political Thought 1980–1981: A Study in Social Philosophy], (Poznan´: Wydawnictwo Naukowe Wydziału Nauk Społecznych Uniwersytetu im. Adama Mickiewicz, 2013), 192 pp.

Hagen Schulz-Forberg, ed., A Global Conceptual History of Asia, 1860–1940 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2014), 205 pp.

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Talking about Christianitas at the Time of Innocent III (1198-1216)

What Does Word Use Contribute to the History of Concepts?

Tim Geelhaar

This article looks at the use of the word christianitas at the time of Innocent III (1198–1216 CE) to study how contemporary word use can contribute to the history of a concept. The papal register of letters shows that it is difficult to trace a consistent use of christianitas as a term for the concept of Christendom by Innocent III. In England, France, and Germany the word mainly designated the Christian religion, a personal virtue, or a restricted clerical unit, whereas the Armenians and others tried to invoke the idea of Christendom to rally support for their own political agenda. The constitutions of the IV Lateran Council, where Innocent III gathered ecclesiastical and secular princes from almost all Christian lands to impose his church reform, do not contain the word. It thus seems questionable if christianitas could be employed as the generally accepted term for designating a concept or an actually existing supranational unit.

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Virtus as a Political Concept in the Middle Ages

Silke Schwandt

The article deals with the semantic career of virtus as a political concept in the Middle Ages. It traces the different aspects of meaning assigned to this word in four medieval texts, namely St. Augustine's City of God, the Regula Pastoralis of Gregory the Great, the Via Regia of Smaragdus of St. Mihiel, and the Policraticus of John of Salisbury. Using quantitative methods, I analyze the employment of virtus with a focus on its relevance in the political discourse, and I also address the shift in meaning and argumentative capacity that the term undergoes over time. In the end, virtus can be shown to be a highly flexible yet strongly functional term that plays an important role in the conceptions of medieval societies.

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The Way a Language Changes

How Historical Semantics Helps Us to Understand the Emergence of the English Exchequer

Ulla Kypta

The article argues that it is not only useful to study the changing meanings of concepts, but also to analyze the way these concepts changed their meaning over time. As a case study, I analyze the transformation of the language of the earliest surviving accounts of the yearly auditing process in England, the pipe rolls from the twelfth century. The language changed gradually and continually, without guidance or a plan. It is highly likely that the language was learned while the pipe rolls were written. Thus, the clerks could easily close their circle. This led to a strong sense of belonging and self-consciousness, which can be affirmed by other contemporary sources, and which laid the foundation for the accounting procedures that became a long-lasting organization.

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Contradictory Concepts

An Essay on the Semantic Structure of Religious Discourses

Lucian Hölscher

The widespread opinion among conceptual historians is that political concepts are always contested in their actual usage. Religious concepts in modernity are also not only contested; they are constructed on an ontological contradiction. They imply that the object to which they refer exists, and at the same time that it does not. I demonstrate this idea using four religious concepts: religion, God, the beyond, and spirit. I conclude with discussion on the reality status of religious concepts in modern historiography and religious studies.

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Ferdinand and the Sultan

The Metaphor of the Turk and the Crisis of the Spanish Monarchy in the Early Nineteenth Century

Juan Luis Simal and Darina Martykánová

King Ferdinand VII of Spain was often compared to the Ottoman sultan. It was a rhetorical operation that continued a tradition in Western Christendom by which Christian rulers were compared to oriental despots not because they were considered to be equal to them, but to show how far astray from the ideal of good government they were. This article examines the multiple dimensions of this comparison. To what extent was it a reaffirmation of the construction of the Turk as a radical other? Or were there new essential elements, and therefore the metaphor of the Turk can also be interpreted within a new universalistic discourse that opposed tyrants to oppressed peoples across cultural and religious barriers? Our examination leads to a reflection on the transnational character of the discursive frameworks in which the metaphor of the Turk was built and rebuilt, on its circulation and limits, and on its specific uses.

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Immunity

A Conceptual Analysis for France and Romania

Ciprian Negoiţă

This article aims to investigate, from an interdisciplinary point of view, the concept of parliamentary immunity. The main objective of this inquiry is to identify the historical premises and the political, linguistic, and legal instruments that determined the conceptualization of parliamentary immunity in light of the main intellectual events in Romania and France. Embracing Reinhart Koselleck's working methods, this research will develop in extenso a comparative conceptual analysis based on methodological rigor, emphasizing not only the importance of the concept after its entry into national languages, but also the political usages of the concept and the present understandings of it.

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Innovation

A Study in the Rehabilitation of a Concept

Benoît Godin

For centuries, innovation was a political and contested concept and linguistic weapon used against one's enemy. To support their case, opponents of innovation made use of arguments from ethos and pathos to give power and sustenance to their criticisms and to challenge the innovators. However, since the nineteenth century the arguments have changed completely. Innovation gradually got rehabilitated. This article looks at one type of rehabilitation: the semantic rehabilitation. People started to reread history and to redescribe what innovation is. What was bad innovation became good innovation because of long-lasting and beneficial effects, so it was believed.