The Enchanted World of Medieval Europe: Immune to Deconstruction?

A study day organized by the Center for European Philosophy


Friday 23 November 2018, 13:00-20:00


University of Antwerp, Stadscampus, Room C.001, Prinsstraat 13, 2000 Antwerpen

Description and program

The view that the Middle Ages were a ‘Golden Age of Faith’ has long been considered as a cornerstone in the majority of theories of religious change in the West. It served both as the theoretical starting-point for research on religious modernization and as the ideal-typical model of religious vitality. These assumptions are increasingly being challenged, however, by new research on the social and cultural history of medieval Europe. 

What is interesting about this development is that it marks a crucial distinction between narratives of secularization and narratives of disenchantment. This is because the deconstruction of the idea of the ‘Christian Middle Ages’ has not automatically led to the conclusion that the idea of ‘medieval enchantment’ must be abandoned as well. Quite on the contrary, a number of contemporary scholars seem to argue that the farewell to the ‘Golden Age of Faith’ has reinforced the theoretical construct of the ‘enchanted world of medieval Europe’. This is a surprising result. While recent research has tackled almost every element of the grand narratives of religious change, one theoretical bulwark seems to have survived the onslaught of critique, revision and disassembling: medieval enchantment. 

In this study day, we set out to investigate whether this conclusion makes sense. Is the enchanted world of medieval Europe really immune to deconstruction? And if so, what does ‘medieval enchantment’ actually mean? And how does it affect our understanding of disenchantment and of processes of religious change that are partly based on this concept?

13:00-14:50 Part I: Charles Taylor’s conception of the enchanted world: discussion and critique (lecture and reading seminar)

15:00-16:50 Part II: Deconstructing the ‘Golden Age of Faith’, reconstructing ‘medieval enchantment’: a survey of recent scholarship (lecture and reading seminar)

17:00-18:00 Soup & sandwich dinner

18:10-20:00 Part III: After the reconstruction of medieval enchantment: the concept of disenchantment and its impact on theories of religious modernization (workshop and discussion) 

Practical information

No prior reading or preparation is required. All the study material will be provided in printed and electronic form at the start of the study day.

Participation fee: €20 (course material and catering included), to be paid in advance.

Registration: please write an e-mail to confirm your participation before Friday 16 November to

Course coordinators: Herbert De Vriese and Guido Vanheeswijck (University of Antwerp)

This study day is part of series of lectures and study days devoted to a critical analysis of philosophical discourse on reenchantment. For more information, follow this link.