Kalamazoo Calls for Papers–Robin Hood, Monsters, Pilgrimage, Women, Sarcasm and Snark!

Good morning, Readers!

The long, dry summer spell is over and we are now officially back in classes at my university, which (hopefully) means I’ll be back to blogging slightly more regularly. You can (of course) expect more thinking about comps, reviews of things I’ve been doing to prep for them and ways I’ve been thinking about the reading I’ve done, and other ways in which I’m prepping for the event. There will be posts on what one might wear as a teaching graduate student, posts on ways to think about teaching as a grad student, and some humor to lighten things up from time to time. I’ll try to make things as helpful, informative, and interesting as possible, and of course if you want to read about anything in particular, please let me know and I’ll try to get a post up on that subject as well!

Today, I’ve got for you some calls for papers (CFPs) from various organizations with which I am affiliated, all for the International Congress on Medieval Studies, or “Kalamazoo”/ “The Zoo”), which takes place at Western Michigan University from May 14-17, 2015. Abstracts for all of these CFPs are due by September 15, so get thinking and writing! It is not necessary to have the whole essay completed when you submit an abstract. If something you read in these calls for papers strikes you as an interesting topic or gives you an idea for a paper, by all means write the idea up as an abstract and submit it! You’ve got until May to have the full paper done.

For those graduate students who have never submitted an abstract for the Zoo before, it’s quite easy to do. You’ll want to send a 300 word abstract and a completed Participant Information Form (which you can get here: http://www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html#PIF ) to one or all of the listed contact people–that’s it!

And now, without further ado, the sessions! The first is a session on “Food and Feast in Medieval Outlaw Texts” sponsored by the International Society of Robin Hood Studies:

“Food and Feast in Medieval Outlaw Texts” (Paper Panel)

Organizers: Alex Kaufman, Valerie Flint, and Melissa Ridley Elmes

The romances of medieval England are full of scenes of feasting and eating. Food, its preparation, and its consumption are present as central points of human interaction, community, and fellowship, providing opportunities to examine and analyze agricultural and mercantile practices as well as trade, economics, and the social standing of its producers and consumers; and feast scenes perform a wide variety of functions, serving as a cultural repository of manners and behaviors, a catalyst for the adventure, a “cute-meet” for the lovers, a moment of regrouping and redirecting the narrative, a testing ground for the chivalric and courteous skills of the attendees, an occasion on which some important revelation is made, and a culminating moment of narrative resolution, for instance. But what about in the outlaw tales comprising the Matter of the Greenwood? How important are food and feasting in the tales of Robin Hood, Gamelyn, Hereward the Wake, Eustache the Monk, and Fouke le Fitz Waryn, for example? This session will consider the presence and function of food and feast in medieval outlaw tales, with an eye to considering whether and how instances of food preparation and eating in these tales can be said to display, to develop, or to subvert the conventional ideas of community and fellowship most commonly associated with foods and feasts in secular medieval literature.

Please send 300-word abstracts and completed Participant Information Forms (PIFs) by September 15, 2014, to Valerie B. Johnson (valerie.johnson@lmc.gatech.edu), Melissa Ridley Elmes (maelmes@uncg.edu), and Alexander L. Kaufman (akaufman@aum.edu).

The second abstract is for a “Pilgrimage, Exploration and Travel” panel sponsored by Hortulus: The Online Journal of Graduate Medieval Studies:

“Pilgrimage, Exploration, and Travel,” a theme selected by our readers, will be the Hortulus session at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 1417, 2015. Papers presented in our session may also be considered for our Fall 2015 issue on the same theme.
Organizers: Hortulus staff

Scholarly interest in the topic of pilgrimage spans many geographies and disciplines. Additionally, recent scholarship has revealed the significant impact of pilgrimage and travel upon medieval people of a variety of religious, social, and regional backgrounds, not just the pilgrims themselves. We invite proposals that explore the topics of pilgrimage, exploration, and travel from multidisciplinary and comparative perspectives. Some potential topics for papers might include relics, badges, clothing, and associated material culture; perceptions of space, including landscape, geography, and architecture; the economics and politics of pilgrimage; pilgrimage narratives and other literary evidence; miracles and healing; readings of pilgrimage that consider monastic vs. lay approaches, social class, and gender; local and “national” identity; sacred journey in general (not just Christian) in the pre-modern world; liturgy and ritual of pilgrimage; and failed pilgrimages.

Please send a 300-word abstract and a Participant Information Form to kalamazoo@hortulus-journal.com by September 15, 2014


Two CFPs for MEARCSTAPA, an organization that focuses on monsters and monstrosity as scholarly subjects:

Monsters I: Monstrosity at Kalamazoo: 50 years in the Making

 Organizers: Dr. Larissa Tracy and Dr. Asa Simon Mittman

 Presider: Dr. Larissa Tracy

 At the Second Biennial Conference on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo in 1964, Urban Tigner Hohnes from the University of North Carolina delivered a general address on “Gerald the Welshman.” The plenary lecture on Gerald of Wales no doubt touched on the aspects of monstrosity deeply embedded in Gerald’s works, such as the Topographia Hibernica and Itinerarium Cambriae. Since then, monstrosity and Monster Studies have gained considerable momentum in medieval academic disciplines, lurking in the margins for a number of years in papers on Beowulf, ethnic and religious identity, magic, and medieval romance and finally coming to the fore in the last twenty years. The publication of works dedicated to monstrosity like John Block Friedman’s The Monstrous Races in Medieval Art and Thought, Bettina Bildhauer and Robert Mills’ The Monstrous Middle Ages, and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Theory have created numerous opportunities for the examination and excavation of the monstrous within the medieval world. MEARCSTAPA invites papers on this development of Monster Studies from a liminal subject only hinted at in certain canonical contexts to an entity that basks in the light of discussion, emulation, and adoration. Papers should focus on the discipline of Monster Studies over the years, as well as on specific aspects of medieval monstrosity. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words, with a brief bio, tokattracy@comcast.net

Monsters II: Passing as the Monster: Guises, Veilings, Facades, and Uncanny Appearances

Organizers: Thea Cervone and Asa Simon Mittman

There are many aspects of the phenomenon of “passing,” but one aspect that is often overlooked is that of a human being “passing” as a supernatural creature or monster. MEARCSTAPA seeks papers that explore situations in which a person (or group of people) dons a disguise, tells a lie, makes a pretense, puts on a performance, or engages in trickery in order to convince others that he or she is a representative of the occult world. In what situations, or for what reasons does a person pretend to be a ghost or revenant? Why might a person pose as a faerie or member of the invisible world? Why does a person pretend to be possessed; or more so, pretend to be a demon or devil? Why might a person perpetrate a monster hoax? And why would anyone pretend to be a witch or sorcerer? These situations can be found throughout the literature, drama, art, history, polemic, and folklore of the medieval and early modern periods. What meaning is communicated by such frauds? What does the discovery of such a disguise, lie, or performance tell us about the subjectivities and presuppositions of monster belief? What does it tell us about the relationship between monster belief and the community that harbors it? How do such disguisings affect other aspects of monstrosity in these genres? How do these situations fit into the larger field of monster studies? Papers should be focused on humans engaged in disguise or deceit as occult figures, supernatural creatures, or otherwise preternatural beings.

And next, CFPs for the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship:

Medieval Feminists at Work: Negotiating Complicated Workspaces (A Roundtable)

Organizer: Jennifer Edwards

 The academic community creates a fraught and challenging workplace, with the overlapping of working, social, and personal relationships whose boundaries are not always clear, consistent, or mutually acknowledged. Expectations for undergraduates, graduate students, adjuncts, junior and senior faculty, and administrators vary by institutional culture and across the academic lifecycle. The inherent power dynamics of the academic system–wherein faculty train students, tenured faculty evaluate and determine the fate of untenured colleagues, administrators control funds and access, and undergraduate complaints compromise adjunct careers—create a perfect environment for bullying, harassment (sexual or otherwise), and abuse, particularly when complicating factors such as race, sex, disability, and age are involved. Anecdotally in personal communication, persistently in the forums of The Chronicle of Higher Education, in the #YesAllWomen Twitter movement, and in many other places, academic women identify themselves as vulnerable to gross manipulations of power within these dynamics. Yet, despite the increase in institutional mechanisms to deal with abuse, many female academics find it impractical, even career suicide, to complain formally about these problems. Medievalists, moreover, are often the only premodern specialist in their department, or even on campus, and so lack the community support of other fields.

This session comes out of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s Political/Social Issues subcommittee. We anticipate that the roundtable will examine complications medievalist women have encountered in the academic workplace as well as feminist methods for addressing issues and creating a safe, healthy, and functioning workspace. Thus, we seek panelists willing to share personal experiences as well as those able to speak about practical solutions and strategies. Panelists will prepare very short (5-7 minute) formal remarks, so the focus of the session can be informal discussion.

Please send a one-page (circa 300 word) description of potential talking points and a completed Congress Participant Information Form to jennifer.edwards@manhattan.edu by September 15, 2014.

Gender and Materiality in the Middle Ages Kzoo-2015

Organizer: Angela Bennett Segler

A number of different scholarly organizations have come together for the 50th Medieval Congress to pose questions about Materiality in the Middle Ages. While each panel represents a different issue and/or approach, at the core of these many inquiries is the question, “what about the MATTER of the Middle Ages?” The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship hopes to add a specific vein to this inter-organizational effort to interrogate medieval materiality from as many different angles and using as many different methods as possible. This panel at the 2015 Medieval Congress will actually be a follow-up session to one at MLA 2015 in January, in which several scholars will be taking up the topic of “Gender and Medieval Materialisms.”

This panel, seeks papers that investigate the relationship between gendered bodies, medieval material culture and practices, and the expression of this practice in material-discursive texts. Our aim is not to simply continue an established conversation about the materiality of medieval culture and gender, but to take the field’s traditional work on materiality and corporeality and extend it through the framework of contemporary feminist materialism scholarship.

As Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman point out in their introduction to Material Feminisims, feminist theory in the late twentieth century, that linked into the “linguistic turn,” tended to “distance [it]self as much as possible from the tainted realm of materiality by taking refuge within culture, discourse, and language” (1) and even when feminist scholarship did focus on the body, it produced what Alaimo and Hekman call a “tremendous outpouring of scholarship on ‘the body’” that really amounted to scholarship analyzing the “discourses about the body” (3) rather than material bodies themselves. The “body” of late twentieth-century feminist scholarship tended to be the discursively produced, socially constructed body that emerged at the nexus of social, cultural, and textual forces to render “the body” legible as such a thing within a human network of distributive agency and performative action. The material here, was still, somehow, the realm of either inescapable or unconsctructed, almost a priori, reality while the cultural and the discursive covered that background (material) surface with a multiplicity of overlapping significations and inscriptions.

We ask for work on medieval materialisms that seeks not to push against the linguistic turn, but to recover the significance of matter itself that has, throughout much of Humanist history, been flattened into nothing more than a surface onto which the human can inscribe meaning, significance, and value. This idea that matter is merely the passive stuff to be molded into human forms echoes the common gendered binary of active/passive mapped onto male/female.

Please submit proposals for papers that aim to take seriously the way in which matter matters in the Middle Ages, and in particular, the way that matter worked and/or was deployed to create gendered frameworks, experiences, or texts in medieval culture, discourse, and philosophy within medieval texts and contexts.

Topics can include (but are not limited to):

• Gendered (human or non-human) bodies
• Material constraints of gendering or gendered materialization
• Gendered reading or writing practices
• Medical/Anatomical/Gynecological materialities
• Materiality of queerness or genderqueerness
• Gendered material practices or material practices of gender (and/or gender performance)
• Transgender materialities
• Material sex and gender

Please submit abstracts for papers of 250-400 words to medmaterialism@gmail.com with “SMFS Kzoo” in the SUBJECT LINE. (This e-mail is receiving proposals for multiple panels, so please be sure to include this.) Please ATTACH your abstract as a Word (or other text) document and include your name, contact information, and panel to which you are proposing (SMFS) in the text of the document.

And, finally, for the Southeastern Medieval Association:

Cornering the Snarket: Sarcasm in Medieval Culture

Organizer: Alan Baragona

The rhetorical trope of irony is well-trod territory. However, sarcasm, the “flesh tearing” subset of irony, is less studied because it it relies so much on the tone of a speaking voice and therefore is notoriously difficult to identify in a written text. However, there are instances in medieval texts where the combination of circumstance and word choice conveys unambiguous sarcasm. This session will feature papers about such passages in literature and historical records. Literary essays should address questions such as what clues the writers give that sarcasm is at work, how prominently sarcasm appears in particular cultures or specific genres, and how sarcasm conforms to the Christian milieu of medieval Europe. Historical essays should address how sarcasm was identified and what attitudes were towards it, what its importance was to particular historical incidents or to the cultural mores of the time and place, and what the social, political, or legal consequences were that led to its being preserved in the records.

Send 300 word abstract and PIF form to Alan Baragona at sabaragona@gmail.com

That’s it! I hope these CFPs give you a ton of great ideas for future research projects!


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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