Appel à contribution – Thomas a Kempis, his works and their reception

On 25 July 1471, Thomas a Kempis (b. 1379/80) passed away in the Windesheim convent of Sint-Agnietenberg near Zwolle. In 2021 it is 550 years since his passing.

To commemorate this anniversary, the Titus Brandsma Institute and Radboud University Nijmegen are hosting a two-day international conference on Thomas, his works and their reception on Thursday 19 and Friday 20 August 2021.
> Read more about Thomas a Kempis

The aim of the conference, then, is twofold:

  1. to study Thomas’ life, his works and his context;
  2. to explore the reception and appropriation of his works throughout the centuries.

Keynote Speaker: John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame)

Confirmed Speakers: 

  • Charles Caspers (TBI)
  • Anna Dlabačová (Leiden University)
  • Koen Goudriaan (VU Amsterdam)
  • Carolina Lenarduzzi (Leiden University)
  • Margarita Logutova (National Library of Russia, Saint Petersburg)
  • Peter J.M.A. van Ool (independent scholar)
  • Ad Poirters (TBI)
  • Marc Smeets (RU)
  • Pieter de Villiers (University of the Free State, Bloemfontein)

Date: Thursday 19-Friday 20 August 2021. The conference will begin around 10 on Thursday morning and end at 4 on Friday afternoon.

Venue: Conference Centre Soeterbeeck (Elleboogstraat 2, 5352 LP Deursen-Dennenburg). For directions, see

Soeterbeeck has taken all necessary measures against the new coronavirus. Because of this, the conference can only be physically attended by 30 people at most, including the speakers. This number may be adjusted as protective measures become either more or less restrictive. If more people wish to attend, the committee will enable them to sit in on the conference digitally.

Organising Committee: Inigo Bocken (TBI), Charles Caspers (TBI), Rijcklof Hofman (TBI), Cécile de Morrée (RU), Daniela Müller (RU), Peter Nissen (RU), Johan Oosterman (RU) and Ad Poirters (TBI)

COVID-19 restrictions
If the virus should make travel and assemblies impossible in August 2021, the committee intends to organize and host the conference digitally, possibly in the form of a smaller expert meeting on Zoom.

The registration fee is:

€ 170     accommodation at Soeterbeeck for two nights (18-19 and 19-20 August); breakfast, lunch and coffee/tea breaks on Thursday and Friday; conference dinner on Thursday evening

€ 120     accommodation at Soeterbeeck for one night (19-20 August); breakfast on Friday; lunch and coffee/tea breaks on Thursday and Friday; conference dinner on Thursday evening

€ 70       lunch and coffee/tea breaks on Thursday and Friday; conference dinner on Thursday evening

€ 40       lunch and coffee/tea breaks on Thursday and Friday

This fee and any travel expenses are the responsibility of the speakers and/or their institutions.

If you are interested in attending the conference, please contact Wendy Litjens,
Official registration starts soon.

More about Thomas a Kempis

Born in Kempen in present-day Germany, Thomas entered Sint-Agnietenberg in 1399. He served his community for more than seventy years and in many capacities, though primarily as master of nocies and as a gifted scribe, spiritual author and historian. In fact, he is not only the most renowned but also one of the most prolific writers of the Modern Devotion. The care with which he wrote, and the number of his surviving works, make his sources, working method, language and style, thought and spirituality a grateful object of study.

Thomas is best known, of course, for The Imitation of Christ, a work whose authorship was contested for centuries. By now, however, its provenance has been established beyond reasonable doubt. The book is certainly one of the most highly influential and widely published texts of all time. Its reception has been extraordinarily wide. This is true not only in terms of the number of editions that have appeared and languages in which it has been translated.

The Imitation has been embraced by people with all sorts of backgrounds and from all walks of life, from Ignatius of Loyola to Vincent van Gogh. This raises questions about, for instance, the nature and extent of its influence, the mechanics of appropriation in its translations, or the ways in which it has been and continues to be made topical. Simultaneously, the Imitation’s exalted position also means that relatively little attention has hitherto been devoted to similar issues concerning the afterlife of Thomas’s other works.

Source : Titus Brandsma Instituut

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