Dr George Southcombe

Almut Suerbaum, George Southcombe and Benjamin Thompson (eds), Polemic: Language
as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015).

Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse

If terms are associated with particular historical periods, then ’polemic’ is firmly rooted within early modern print culture, the apparently inevitable result of religious controversy and the rise of print media. Taking a broad European approach, this collection brings together specialists on medieval as well as early modern culture in order to challenge stubborn assumptions that medieval culture was homogenous and characterized by consensus; and that literary discourse is by nature ’eirenic’. Instead, the volume shows more clearly the continuities and discontinuities, especially how medieval discourse on the sins of the tongue continued into early modern discussion; how popular and influential medieval genres such as sermons and hagiography dealt with potentially heterodox positions; and the role of literary, especially fictional, debate in developing modes of articulating discord, as well as demonstrating polemic in action in political and ecclesiastical debate. Within this historical context, the position of early modern debates as part of a more general culture of articulating discord becomes more clearly visible. The structure of the volume moves from an internal textual focus, where the nature of polemic can be debated, through a middle section where these concerns are also played out in social practice, to a more historical group investigating applied polemic. In this way a more nuanced view is provided of the meaning, role, and effect of ’polemic’ both broadly across time and space, and more narrowly within specific circumstances.


‘The Polemics of Moderation in Late Seventeenth-Century England’, in Southcombe,
Suerbaum and Thompson (eds), The Uses of Polemic.

I have most recently published an essay on late seventeenth-century English polemical
writing in a book, of which I am one of the editors, on medieval and early modern uses of
polemic. I am now in the process of finishing a monograph on Restoration nonconformity. In this book I investigate the experiences of a variety of religious dissenters, and point, in particular, to the ways in which they used printed works as a form of political action. I have co-supervised four graduate students working on aspects of English witchcraft, and

I am currently co-supervising doctoral students working on Quaker theology, and Anglo-Japanese relations.

  • Dissent and the Restoration Church of England

  • English nonconformist poetry

  • Shrews in Pamphlets and Plays’

  • Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture

  • ‘“A Prophet and a Poet Both!”: Nonconformist Culture and the Literary Afterlives of Robert Wild’

  • More
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