Past Event

Columbia Medieval Studies Seminar: Bénédicte Sère (Paris–Nanterre)

October 25, 2018
5:30 PM - 7:00 PM
Columbia University Faculty House

Bénédicte Sère (Paris–Nanterre), "Pope as Pastor of Souls? Historiographical Construct about a Weak Power"

Bénédicte Sére is an Associate Professor (Maître de conferences) in medieval history at the University of Paris Nanterre. She specializes in the political, religious, intellectual and cultural history as well as history of emotions. Among her most recent monographs are Les débats d’opinion à l’heure du Grand Schisme. Ecclésiologie et politique (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016) and Les 100 dates de l’histoire de l’Église (Paris: Que sais-je ?, 2018). Her forthcoming project, Penser l’Eglise. Essai d’historiographie critique, will be published by the Presses Universitaires de France in 2019. 


This presentation came out from a kind of surprise: the observation of the sharp contrast between the contents of the archives and the grand narratives of all academic, religious handbooks, meaning the grand narratives of the official historiography of the Roman Church. 

This contrast between the reading of sources at the end of the Middle Ages and the writing of church history by itself from the 15th century onwards is what I call ‘a contrast of narratives.’ How could the historian account for the discursive gap between the archives of the time – most of the time unedited – and the official narratives of the ecclesial power from the 15th century onwards? In other words, how to report, other than by the link of cause with effect, the contrast between the fragility of the papal figure in sources and the assertion of its power in narratives? 

After having setting up the complexities of narratives and counter-narratives, I would suggest introducing the concepts of honour and shame in the writing of the history of the Roman church, the way it led to minimization of shameful episodes, proclamation of ecclesiological victories and reassertion of honor and authority, supreme authority in the context of pontifical absolutism. I would strongly suggest introducing the concepts of honor and shame in a re-reading of Church history to be able to deconstruct this narrative, which has invaded all the universitarian and academic manuals and textbooks."




The event will be held in Faculty House, 64 Morningside Drive. The cost for dinner following the talk at 7:00, payable by check only, is $30.  When you RSVP please indicate whether or not you plan to come to dinner; please give 10 days advance notice.