In its most basic sense, the term conversion (Latin conversio) signifies a reversal, a change of direction. Yet the change or turnaround that is conversion has meant many different things in different cultures and across a wide range of discourses from logic to lyric poetry, theology to politics. Even within the long traditions of Christianity, understanding of conversion has included significantly different inflections. The study of conversion has great potential to illuminate many aspects of medieval and early modern culture in terms of revolutionary change or of striking continuities across what seems a cultural revolution. Articles in this special issue address foundational questions about the nature of the self over time (continuous across a single life-narrative or cleaved in two by a momentous event); reconciliation with or a break from different social, religious, and political communities and relationships; the roles that introspection and exemplarity, the inner life and the lives of others, play in conversion; the rhetorical forms and linguistic grammars of conversion; the links between persuasion and conversion; the relationship of moral transformation and philosophical or religious vision; and the links between conversion and authority, between conversion and violence.

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