Call for Papers – Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers

Association of Literary Scholars, Critics, and Writers
Twenty-Third Annual Conference
October 3-6, 2019 at The College of the Holy Cross
Worcester, Massachusetts

Call for Papers

Conference Committee for 2019:
Lee Oser, The College of the Holy Cross
Rebecca Rainof, Princeton University
Ernest Suarez, Catholic University
Rosanna Warren, University of Chicago

Please note: everybody who participates must be a current member of the ALSCW.  We encourage participation by creative writers, scholars, critics, and secondary school teachers. The 2019 introductory membership rate for new members, graduate students, and retirees is $50. Renewals are $100. Visit our website for detailed information (

Proposals of 300 words and a C.V. should be sent as email attachments to Lee Oser at <leeoser > and Ernest Suarez at <> on or before June 1, 2019.


1) Style Matters
Moderator: Willard Spiegelman, Duwain E. Hughes Jr. Distinguished Professor of English, Emeritus, Southern Methodist University

Take the two words of this title and interpret them as you will: either a noun and verb combination, or a combination of two nouns in which the first functions adjectivally.

This seminar centers on discussions of literature that will begin with the premise (or perhaps, dangerously, contest it) that style is the distinctive part of the literary experience. Style matters most. Because I am hoping to find a wide range of subjects, I will entertain proposals about matters of style (“style matters”) in texts both canonical and under-represented, from all periods and languages.

Many years ago, J. Hillis Miller termed the phrase “the linguistic moment” to refer to those places in books, poems, and other texts, where language calls itself to our attention; where language itself is foregrounded in the literary experience. If we broaden his phrase to “the stylistic moment” we’ll have the basis for a lively and exciting discussion of what, for many of us, brought us into literary studies in the first place.


2) Rewriting Shakespeare and Defoe

Moderator: Mary Jo Salter, Krieger-Eisenhower Professor, Johns Hopkins University

In loose coordination with two other seminars in the current conference, “Shakespeare and the Bible” and “Defoe’s Palette: Robinson Crusoe at 300,” this seminar will look at some ways the work of canonical writers—in this case, Shakespeare and Defoe—has been re-imagined by writers who are themselves highly original minds.  From W. H. Auden’s “The Sea and the Mirror,” a multi-form poetic response to The Tempest, to J. M. Coetzee’s Foe, a novel rewriting Robinson Crusoe with a female twist, new works are continually created that could not have been imagined without their predecessors and yet are independent, and indeed may in their own right come to seem essential to our literature.

Questions to be explored in panelists’ papers might include: What can a “re-writer” learn from Shakespeare and Defoe’s own relations to precedent texts?  What might be the most successful “rewrites” of Shakespeare and/or Defoe, and what lessons can both creative writers and scholars take from these successes?  What happens when a rewrite involves a shift in genre? What are the pedagogical values (or pitfalls) in assigning students to write imitations or spin-offs of Shakespeare and Defoe?  And as time disengages us from canonical writers’ periods, what does it mean to “update”?

3) Shakespeare and the Hebrew Bible

Moderator: Noah Millman, Independent Scholar, Screenwriter, and Filmmaker

“After God,” Alexandre Dumas père proclaimed, “Shakespeare has created most.” But while God’s creation was born out of chaos, nearly all of Shakespeare’s plays were based on prior material that the poet reworked. Shakespeare’s genius was such that, in general, he comprehensively transformed his source materials, until his versions completely eclipsed their antecedents, and became the originals with which future generations of artists must engage.

But some sources are too powerful to be superseded in this manner. Writing in arguably the first generation for whom the Bible was readily available to individuals in English (the Geneva Bible being first printed in England in 1576), and in a country where scriptural interpretation had been the fulcrum of recent history, Shakespeare inevitably alluded to the Bible with great frequency. Did he also engage with the Bible in a deeper fashion, reworking biblical characters, themes and narratives in ways that throw new light on Shakespeare’s plays, and on the biblical texts themselves? Can what Robert Alter called “midrashic allusion” — “an exegetical meditation through narration on a potent earlier text” — be a framework for thinking about Shakespeare’s relationship with the Bible?

The seminar will circle around these and related questions about Shakespeare’s relationship to the Hebrew Bible in particular. Papers are welcome that approach these questions from a variety of angles, including both literary-critical and theological perspectives, as well as from the perspective of theater practitioners.

4) Defoe’s Palette: Robinson Crusoe at 300

Michael Prince, Associate Professor of English, Boston University

Ventriloquism, dissimulation, irony–readers have struggled over the years to describe the causes and effects of Defoe’s style. This call for papers invites scholarly and creative accounts of Defoe’s stylistic breakthrough as the author of Robinson Crusoe.  As Joseph Browne asks in The Moon Calf (1705), how did Defoe “step up from a Hosier to a Poet”?  In what did this stepping up consist, such that today, three hundred years after first publication, Robinson Crusoe still inspires and resists attempts to explain its enduring qualities?

5) Afterlives of the Middle Ages

Sarah Stanbury, Distinguished Professor of Arts and Humanities, College of the Holy Cross

Since the end of the Middle Ages, a fascination with the idea of the medieval has remained robustly alive. We can think of Spenser’s Faerie Queene, Dryden’s translation of the Canterbury Tales; 19th-century Gothic and Arthurian revivals; and more recently, fantasy, from the Lord of the Rings to Harry Potter and Game of Thrones. Indeed, the vitality of gaming as well as serial fiction and TV based on medieval themes suggests the Middle Ages has a particularly firm hold on today’s popular imagination. What, this seminar asks, has been the enduring allure of the medieval, and why does its artistic legacy matter? Do fictions set in the Middle Ages present an opportunity for escape from the modern world or, conversely, do they represent a deliberate engagement with that world?

Papers on any post-medieval period are invited, and may address drama, fiction, poetry, film, TV, or gaming. Also welcome: creative work, works-in-progress, and papers about writing fiction or films set in the Middle Ages.

6) Romantic Literature and the Environment

James Engell, Gurney Professor of English, Harvard University

What are the legacies—enduring, valuable, and questionable—of the ways in which romantic literature represents the relationships of humans to the natural world?  Topics might include anthropocentrism, new awareness of geologic time scales, incipient ideas of sustainability, the symbiotic bond of human communities and cultivated spaces, or human communities and wildness, even wilderness.  Are we naively repeating a romantic ideology when we regard certain romantic texts and writers as foundations of modern ecological and environmental awareness?  What of women such as Susan Fenimore Cooper, Charlotte Smith, or Eliza Farnham?  Does romantic literature have much to say about indigenous peoples and the environment?  The rise of botany, the (sensitive) plant and leaf?  Human treatment of animals domesticated and wild?  A sense of nature as continual process, never static, with evolving forms?  What streams of modern thought concerning literature and the environment can be traced, however it meanders or goes underground, from current writers back through Rachel Carson, Aldo Leopold, John Muir, Thoreau, Wordsworth, and others?  Are there cautionary tales about accepting romantic literature as a touchstone for environmental values?

7) ‘He died in 1895. He is not dead’: Frederick Douglass through American Poetry

Moderator: Ishion Hutchinson, Associate Professor and Meringoff Sesquicentennial Fellow, Cornell University

Frederick Douglass never leaves the civic imagination. Fixed in the public imagination, bearing what President Obama called his “mighty leonine gaze,” his image is famous. But that image derives from the cool element of prose, solemn and vulnerable to political appropriation. Does it admit Douglass’s fugitive rage?  This seminar will explore how poetry sustains Douglass the agitator and radical, moving beyond mere portraiture and praise, into what can be broadly termed a poetics of conscience. Together we will gather the complex ways in which poets—from Henrietta Cordelia Ray in the nineteenth century to Robert Hayden in the twentieth century and after—integrate an enduring sense of Douglass’s will-seeking liberty within their private and public lives.

8) Melville at 200

Moderators: John Burt, Paul E. Prosswimmer Professor of American Literature, Brandeis University and Wyn Kelley, Senior Lecturer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

2019 is Herman Melville’s Bicentennial year.  This seminar will welcome papers on any aspect of Melville’s work.  Here are some suggested areas of interest in which scholarship on Melville is already brewing:

Melville as a critic and analyst of politics and culture (as a theorist of race, as a critic of literature, as a philosopher and critic of philosophies, as a religious thinker)

Melville’s poetry (his poems and collections, is lyrics embedded in prose works, his long narrative Clarel,  his sources, influences, and genres).

Melville’s Lies Circumstantial and Lies Direct (Claggart as the last and most flagrant of M’s many liars, confidence-men, unreliable narrators, or the self-deceived)

Teaching and Reading Melville in the Digital Age (Digital Archives and Editing, Mapping and literary cartography, new spatial and temporal paradigms)

Papers on other aspects of Melville’s work are encouraged. We seek to encourage a wide variety of approaches to the subject and to engage writers, critics, and teachers at all levels (university, college, and high school).

9) The Health Humanities: A New Frontier in Literary Studies and Creative Writing

Moderator: Kate Daniels, Edwin Mims Professor of English, Vanderbilt University

Increasingly, on campus and in community, literature and writing are finding common ground with medicine and recently-articulated narrative practices of health care.  An impressive amount of research supports the efficacy of these interdisciplinary efforts which unite the arts and humanities with STEM-focused research and teaching, challenging the binary that has long separated “art” and “science” in academia.  Known as Health Humanities, this new area of inquiry “champions the application of the arts and humanities in interdisciplinary research, education and social action to inform and transform health and social care, health or well-being.” (Crawford, Paul Health Humanities. Palgrave, 2015). In this session, we will consider some of the literature-based practices being done by writers, scholars, and healthcare providers, as they parse out the developing parameters and perimeters of this new area of work in the humanities.  Topics may include ways to institute humanities-based creative practices into healthcare settings; examples of successful Health Humanities or Healthcare Arts programs, curricula, or events/symposia;  Narrative Medicine; bibliotherapy; surveys of the field; or creative production emanating from the Health Humanities.

Contributions welcome from creative writers, historians of medicine, healthcare arts workers, and literary scholars.

10) Is Oratory Literature?  Some Test Cases   

Moderator: John Briggs, Professor of English, University of California, Riverside

The orator must be, to a certain extent, a poet.


Beneath the surface of repartee and mock seriousness, [Plato’s Phaedrus] is asking whether we ought to prefer a neuter form of speech to the kind which is ever getting us aroused over things and provoking an expense of spirit.

The literalist, like the anti-poet … is troubled by [rhetoric’s] failure to conform to a present reality.  What he fails to appreciate is that potentiality is a mode of existence….  The discourse of the noble rhetorician, accordingly, will be about real potentiality or possible actuality, whereas that of the mere exaggerator is about unreal potentiality.

– Richard Weaver, The Ethics of Rhetoric

What is oratory?  What relation does the most eloquent oratory have, if any, to literature?   Is rhetoric ultimately an enemy of the literary imagination?  Are rhetoric and poetics quarrelsome, closely-bonded siblings?  In the American nineteenth century, why was great oratory considered to be literature?  Is the classical heritage of oratory lost to the modern world?  Is Elizabethan dramatic oratory an anomaly confined to that age?  Can oratory enlarge the literary character of a work of literature?

What is going on in the young Winston Churchill’s strangely promising, never-published essay on rhetoric: “The Scaffolding of Rhetoric”?  Is there a conjuring power at work in Daniel Webster’s Bunker Hill orations? What does the power of parody in Twain’s after-dinner speeches disclose about late nineteenth-century American oratory?

Why was The Columbian Orator so interesting to budding speakers, including Frederick Douglass?  How might we characterize the depths and dimensions of speakers like Wendell Phillips, Theodore Parker, Edward Everett?  What characterizes oratory that discovers an unheard public voice, as in speeches by abolitionists who were Suffragists: Frances Wright, Angelina Grimke, Abby Kelley, Lucretia Mott, Ernestine Rose, and Lucy Stone?  As there is a kind of oratory in the musical Hamilton: The Revolution, is there music in the speeches of the historical Hamilton?  Did the modern age strike oratory a mortal blow?

11) What Is Great Literature?

Moderator: Diana Senechal, Varga Katalin Gimnázium, Szolnok, Hungary

Beginning with the premise that great literature exists, we will consider how to define, identify, and honor it; why the greatness matters; and what role such literature plays in our education, culture, and individual lives. While considering questions of greatness in the abstract, the seminar will focus on specific works of literature: works that have been considered great over the centuries, works that have come in and out of recognition, and works still waiting to be noticed. Perspectives of writers, editors, and teachers are welcome.

Seminar papers might champion a particular work of literature; discuss how to introduce a great and difficult work to students; describe the pleasures of reading a particular work that does not fade in interest or quality over time; consider the work of a literary editor, who seeks out greatness in many forms; consider how certain literary works affect other works; consider the perils of rigid conceptions of greatness; or pursue another angle on this topic.

12) Graphic Poetics: Approaching the Relationship Between Comics and Poetry

Moderator: Jorge J. Santos Jr., Assistant Professor of Multiethnic Literature of the United States, College of the Holy Cross

In her recent article for Poetry magazine, comics scholar Hillary Chute delineates the potential fruitfulness of studying the relationship between comics and poetry – a casual comparison often made by such comics visionaries as Alison Bechdel and Art Spiegelman. As Canadian cartoonist Seth (Gregory Gallant) has noted, “The ‘words and pictures’ that make up the comics language are often described as prose and illustration combined. A bad metaphor: poetry and graphic design seems more apt” as this analogy can better elucidate the distillation, condensing, and visual rhythms of graphic narrative. As such, this panel seeks to take up this call by exploring the relationship between poetry and comics. Broadly speaking, this panel welcomes a diverse variety of approaches, from reconsideration of important earlier work (e.g. Don Marquis), to the referential strategies of Bechdel or Alan Moore, to the adaptation of specific poems from such collections as The Graphic Canon series or Above the Dreamless Dead, or a focus on the syntactical influence of poetic forms on graphic narrative structures.  Other approaches to discussing poetry and comics are certainly encouraged as well.

Papers are generally pitched at an intellectually engaged lay audience.  Proposals for papers and presentations are welcome from practicing poets, cartoonists, comics artists, or scholars in the field.

13) “Poor Passing Facts:” Re-reading Robert Lowell in the Age of Fake News

Moderator: Katie Peterson, Associate Professor of English and Chancellor’s Fellow, University of California at Davis

Robert Lowell, the first poet described as “confessional,” made details of the personal life central to the American poem’s aesthetics. In his time (1917 – 1977) he achieved unquestionable stardom. Making poems out of our lives is now so commonplace that we forget how audacious Lowell’s turn to the personal was. He knew all too well its dangers— as he writes of in one of his last poems, “Epilogue,” “We are poor passing facts, / warned by that to give / each figure in the photograph / his living name.”

As Lowell’s work enters the second year of its second century, what is the state of his “living name” in the world of poetry today? Which of his insights and innovations have persisted? What predicaments of personality still haunt his memory (Lowell, who published his ex-wife’s letters in a later collection, The Dolphin with little or no remorse)? What about Lowell’s relationship with other poets of his day, like Elizabeth Bishop? What do we gain from considering Lowell’s work in relation to contemporary poets, like Claudia Rankine, who has mentioned Life Studies as a model for her landmark volume Citizen? Lowell’s status as a poet was unparalleled in his day, but what remains of his voice for us to learn from, take pleasure in, and hear? What does any poem try to preserve, and what do facts have to do with it? This panel will aim to confront these and other questions in answer to its central query, why re-read Robert Lowell in 2019?

14) What do we mean by “close reading”?

Moderators: Christopher Schmidt, Chair, Upper School English at Parish Episcopal School, and Cassandra Nelson, Bradley Fellow, University of Virginia

In this seminar, literary critics and teachers of literature will seek to understand the cluster of practices known as “close reading,” and consider whether and why it matters in the 21st-century classroom and beyond. What does “close reading” entail, exactly? What are best practices for reading closely, and which texts deserve this kind of attention? Why, in an age of Twitter and emojis–and other technologies that encourage brevity, haste, and easy consumability, regardless of truth or beauty–does close reading matter at all? How should we teach the practice of close reading, especially (but not exclusively) to students in introductory literature courses?

We invite proposals for papers focusing on any aspect of close reading: its aims and methods, historically and today; its alignment, or lack thereof, with Common Core standards, literary criticism and theory, the digital humanities, or creative writing; best pedagogical practices at both the K-12 and college levels; and what is at stake in losing or maintaining the discipline of close reading. High school teachers and college professors who teach introductory literature courses are especially welcome.

15) The Landscape of Rome’s Literature

Moderator: Aaron Seider, Associate Professor of Classics, The College of the Holy Cross

In the stories of Rome’s beginnings along the Tiber’s bank; of its fields stained by the blood of civil war; and of its battles beyond empire’s edges, Roman authors turned to the landscape to reflect on their society and their writing. What can close readings of Livy’s early Rome, Vergil’s Italian settings, or Tacitus’ British battles, for instance, reveal about the relationship between language and landscape in Roman literature? This seminar offers a forum for exploring a range of questions related to the literary construction of landscapes, with a particular interest in what the Romans’ written landscapes communicate about their identity and their work as authors. We invite papers that address these questions from any perspective, with a range of potential topics including the intersection between landscape and areas such as emotion, memory, genre, time, or aesthetics; the relationship between the natural and built environment; metaphorical uses of the landscape; and literary receptions of the classical landscape.

16) On What Philosophy and Literature May Teach Us about Who and What We Are, and How They Might Teach Us Differently 

Moderator: Jeffrey Bloechl, Department of Philosophy, Boston College, and Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry, Australian Catholic University (Honorary)

If it is true, as many have suggested, that we are a mystery to ourselves; and if we nonetheless turn to philosophy and to literature in order to learn something of who and what we are; and if, finally, we do not wish to say that philosophy and literature are the same, we might do well to attend not merely to their many different words on our condition but more so, and perhaps first, to the different modes in which they are uttered. Philosophy is not literature, and literature is not philosophy. Yet we grant to each the right to teach us something. Would their different modes of addressing us and our different modes of listening to each of them say something important about our humanity?

Proposals for papers in the general orbit of these propositions are welcome from scholars, teachers and graduate students in philosophy and/or literature. These may build on readings of particular texts, draw mainly from the position of one or a few thinkers, or develop independent lines of reflection. We welcome proposals taking bearing in any historical period.

17) Literature and Theology

Moderator: Anthony Domestico, Associate Professor of Literature at Purchase College, SUNY and books columnist for Commonweal

The American novelist Paul Harding describes reading theology as “gratifying on every single level that you could want as a writer of fiction, as a person who contemplates.” What role might theological reading play in literary creation, and what role might literary reading play in theological investigation? Can literature do theology, and by what means? What role does the literary have in theological discourse?

This seminar offers participants the opportunity to explore these and other questions, considering points of contact and departure between the literary and the theological. Papers are welcome from critics, poets/novelists, and theologians. Historical period (medieval, Renaissance, modern, etc.) and faith tradition (Jewish, Christian, Islamic, Buddhist, etc.) are open.

Plenary Panels

  • Ancient Greek Tragedy: Poetry of the Body

Moderator: Sarah Nooter, Associate Professor of Classics and Theater and Performance Studies, University of Chicago

Antonin Artaud wrote that theater “which is in no thing, but makes use of everything—gestures, sounds, words, screams, light, darkness—rediscovers itself at precisely the point where the mind requires a language to express its manifestations.” Indeed, ancient Greek tragedy was a genre of words, song and suffering. Though most people encounter tragedy now through its language on the page, the presence of bodies is a paramount feature of the genre in its early incarnations. This seminar seeks to bring into conversation both the extraordinary poetry and music of tragedy and its embodiment and presence in performance.

Papers are welcome that look to any aspect of song, embodiment, gestures, poetry, voice, or sounds in tragedy, as well as papers that examine these aspects in adaptations or the reception of the genre in the modern era.

  • Poets Resettling the United States (by invitation only)

Moderator: Greg Delanty, Professor of English, Saint Michael’s College

  1. Carman Bugan, Gotham Writers Workshop, on her own experience
  2. Clare Cavanagh, Northwestern University, “’Fairly Californian’: West Coast Miłosz.”
  3. Sally Connolly, University of Houston, “Eavan Boland, Paul Muldoon, and Vona Groake”
  4. Major Jackson, University of Vermont, on Derek Walcott
  • Artistic Freedom and the Enforcement of Morals (by invitation only)

Moderator: David Bromwich, Sterling Professor of English, Yale University

  • Samuel Beckett’s Radio and Television Plays

Moderator: James McNaughton, Associate Professor of English, University of Alabama

Samuel Beckett’s innovations were not limited to theater and fiction. His interest in other media emerges early: in 1936 Beckett applied (unsuccessfully) to work as a film-hand with Sergei Eisenstein in Moscow, for instance. And later in his career he wrote a short film and numerous plays for radio and TV. This panel attends to these less-appreciated aspects of Beckett’s work. Papers can address topics as diverse as those found in Beckett’s writing itself, but whether writing about torture politics or specific productions, Beckett’s ghosts or TV voice over, panelists should pay attention how Beckett exploits the formal possibilities of the medium. This call is semi-open: some papers have been invited and we seek others besides.

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Call for Papers – Religion & the Strange, Boundary Making and Crossing

Boston University Graduate Program in Religion Conference 2019

Call for Papers

Sunday, September 15, 2019

“People are strange, when you’re a stranger.”
– The Doors

Religions sanction and sacralize, they legitimate and legislate, creating rhythms for solidarity and comfort. But not everyone hears the same tune. Who defines the strange, and how? What does religion look like after sundown? Hungry ghosts, crystal visions, hidden realms, secret teachings, and a myriad of mysteries lie between and outside the lines of official histories  of belief and practice. Is the study of religion adequately attuned to “the strange”? How do we listen to the margins, the unofficial, and the esoteric?

What happens to the concept of religion itself when we embrace the uncanny, the unusual, and the unknown?

Boston University’s Graduate Program in Religion Student Association is pleased to announce a Graduate Student Conference on “Religion and the Strange.” We invite papers from many disciplinary and theoretical perspectives and welcome creative and provocative presentations that open up new avenues of inquiry. For more information, contact Chad Moore at


Making Strange
How is strangeness produced and for what purposes? How are boundaries of religious normativity policed? What happens to those rendered outside such bounds? How should religious studies scholars account for the processes by which the heterodox, the heretical, the esoteric, or the exotic are generated?

Covenants and Covens
How does the concept of conformity impact perceptions of witchcraft and magic? Do secrecy and exclusivity heighten the effects of religious conformity? Can religious communities be defined by contracts?

Sojourners and Strangers
From invading caravans to faithful pilgrims, how does the framing of the journey affect the sojourner’s reception? What differentiates those who are unfamiliar from those who are unsafe? Between religious insiders and outsiders, what strange encounters emerge?

Consecrating and Conjuring
Spiritual entities are revered and sought after, exorcized and protected against. But why are some welcomed and others feared? Who has the power to invoke these entities, and in what ways have humans conceived their impact and effect in connecting the physical and spiritual world?

Queer as Folklore
How are hegemonic traditions opposed or subverted by other movements? How does popular culture challenge religious authority? What does the queering of religious systems look like on the ground? How do traditions exclude alternative ways of being and knowing?

Voices and Visions
From angelic messages and prophecies to divine inspiration and oracles, how do religious traditions negotiate the changes initiated by revelation? How do encounters with supernatural beings or visits to the heavens introduce new traditions or authenticate ideas? What happens when visions conflict or compete with one another?

Please submit a CV and  a 300-word abstract by May 20, 2019 to

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Open Letter to the President of France

The Medieval Academy of America has been asked to circulate the following open letter addressed to the President of France, urging patience and care as plans take shape for the repair and renovation of the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. A rough English translation of the letter follows. The letter was written by Medieval Academy member Xavier Dectot and a small group of French curators, including Mathieu Deldicque and Oriane Beaufils. Email to add your name.

Monsieur le Président,

Au soir du 15 avril, les regards du monde entier se sont tournés vers Notre-Dame de Paris embrasée, rappelant combien ce monument n’est pas que celui des catholiques, des Parisiens, des Français ou même des Européens, mais un de ces édifices que le génie de ses bâtisseurs successifs a légué à l’humanité. La France s’est dotée très tôt, en partie sous l’influence du brûlant roman de Victor Hugo qui sonna comme un plaidoyer pour la cathédrale parisienne, d’une législation visant non seulement à la protection des monuments historiques, mais aussi, à prévoir un cadre d’action lorsqu’ils ont été mutilés par les ravages du temps ou des hommes. Dès 1862, le gouvernement a choisi de placer la cathédrale parisienne, alors en cours de restauration, sous la protection de cette législation. Plus d’un siècle plus tard, c’est encore sous l’impulsion de la France, entre autres, que l’UNESCO choisit de mettre en place une liste du patrimoine mondial de l’humanité, assortie de critères de protection précis. En 1991, la France a demandé et obtenu l’inscription sur cette liste des rives de la Seine à Paris, s’appuyant notamment sur la présence, en leur cœur, de Notre-Dame de Paris et plus largement sur l’existence d’une perspective qui s’était constituée entre le Moyen Âge et le début du XXe siècle,
protégée en tant que telle.

Une telle protection ne saurait exister sans une déontologie qui s’impose à tous ceux qui œuvrent à l’entretien, à la conservation et à la restauration de ces monuments. Là encore, la France fait figure de pionnière, notamment grâce aux réflexions de Jean-Baptiste Lassus et d’Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, élaborées autour de leur pratique dans l’Île de la Cité, à la Sainte-Chapelle et à Notre-Dame. Cette déontologie, évidemment, a évolué. Elle a abouti à la charte de Venise en 1964, complétée par le document de Nara en 1994, qui fixent un cadre internationalement reconnu aux interventions sur les monuments, tant pour les opérations de conservation que de restauration ou de reconstruction

Dans toute cette histoire, la France a longtemps joué un rôle moteur, s’appuyant sur des institutions d’excellence formant les spécialistes de la protection, reconnues internationalement et attirant des étudiants du monde entier (École de Chaillot, Institut national du patrimoine, formations universitaires, compagnonnage aussi, aujourd’hui inscrit, à la demande de la France, sur la liste du patrimoine immatériel de l’humanité). Ce n’est pas un hasard si le siège du Conseil International des Monuments et des Sites se trouve à Paris. Cette excellence de la France dans le domaine patrimonial, on en a encore vu la preuve dans l’intervention exemplaire des pompiers dont l’action a permis d’éviter un désastre bien pire, et dans les actions qui ont permis de consolider dans l’urgence la
cathédrale et d’en évacuer l’essentiel des œuvres déplaçables au cours de la semaine. Nous avons tous conscience d’avoir échappé à un désastre majeur, celui de l’effondrement de la cathédrale et de la disparition avec elle des 850 ans d’histoire qu’elle conserve.

Malheureusement, cette excellence a aussi été quelque peu oubliée par les gouvernements précédents, et avec elle l’investissement national dans la sauvegarde du patrimoine : comme le montre le rapport du Sénat sur le projet de loi de finances pour 2019, les crédits de paiements affectés à l’entretien des Monuments historiques, hors grands projets, ont diminué, en euros courants, de 2010 à 2012, avant de se stabiliser, toujours en euros courants, depuis 2013. Depuis longtemps, pourtant, les alertes se multiplient sur l’insuffisance criante de ces budgets, obligeant à privilégier des travaux d’urgence, tels ceux qui se déroulaient à Notre-Dame, plutôt qu’une approche véritablement planifiée.

Aujourd’hui, le drame est là, et il nous dépasse tous. Notre-Dame de Paris n’est pas qu’une cathédrale, pas que l’un des monuments majeurs de l’architecture européenne. C’est l’un des monuments autour duquel, pendant près de deux siècles, se sont constituées la protection et la déontologie françaises et mondiales des Monuments historiques. L’émotion qui l’a entouré a montré combien ce drame était mondial, il nous reste à en percevoir toute la portée historique.

C’est pour cela que nous, universitaires, chercheurs et professionnels du patrimoine, de France et d’ailleurs, nous permettons de nous adresser à vous aujourd’hui, Monsieur le Président, pour vous demander, comme l’a si bien dit Jean Nouvel, de « laisser le temps du diagnostic aux historiens et aux experts avant de [vous] prononcer sur l’avenir du monument ». Nous savons que le calendrier politique demande d’agir vite, nous savons combien une Notre-Dame mutilée pèse sur l’image de la France. Néanmoins, ce qui va se passer à Notre-Dame dans les années à venir nous engage, tous, bien au-delà de ce calendrier. L’enjeu de ces travaux dépassera les mandats politiques comme les
générations, et c’est à leur aune que nous serons jugés.

Aussi ne venons-nous pas vers vous pour préconiser telle ou telle solution. C’est trop tôt. Que pourrat-on faire ou ne pas faire, quels choix seront possibles? Nous ne pouvons apporter de réponse à ce jour. Cela dépend de contraintes techniques qui sont fonction de l’état du bâtiment. Mais ces choix doivent aussi se faire dans le respect de ce qu’est Notre-Dame, plus qu’une cathédrale parmi d’autres, plus qu’un monument historique parmi d’autres, en ayant une approche scrupuleuse, réfléchie, de la déontologie. L’histoire de Notre-Dame de Paris fait que l’ampleur de l’incendie dépasse ses seules
conséquences matérielles. Vous avez déclaré, Monsieur le Président, vouloir restaurer Notre-Dame. C’est notre souhait à tous, mais pour ce faire, n’effaçons pas la complexité de la pensée qui doit entourer ce chantier derrière un affichage d’efficacité. Prenons le temps du diagnostic. L’exécutif ne peut se passer d’écouter les experts, la France en forme parmi les meilleurs du monde et nombre de ceux-ci se trouvent dans votre administration, au Ministère de la Culture. Sachons reconnaître leur expertise, prenons le temps de trouver le bon chemin et alors, oui, alors fixons un délai ambitieux pour une restauration exemplaire non seulement pour le présent, mais aussi pour les générations à venir.

L’excellence des savoir-faire des artisans et entreprises de France, leur expérience, celles de ses architectes, l’expertise de ses conservateurs, de ses historiens, sont mondialement reconnues. La place à part de la cathédrale a attiré, à travers le monde, l’attention des universitaires et de nombreux programmes de recherche dont les résultats sont aujourd’hui à notre disposition. Ces ressources françaises et internationales mettent les meilleures chances du côté de la France pour rétablir NotreDame dans sa dignité de symbole. Sachons les écouter. Faisons-leur confiance, faites-leur confiance, sans retard mais sans précipitation. Le monde nous regarde. Aujourd’hui, il ne s’agit pas d’un geste d’architecture mais de millions de gestes, humbles et experts, gouvernés par la science et le savoir, dans le cadre d’une politique patrimoniale renouvelée, ambitieuse et volontariste, soucieuse de chaque monument, qui redonnera à la cathédrale d’Hugo,
de Viollet-le-Duc, la nôtre, la vôtre, sa place et sa fonction dans l’histoire et dans l’avenir.

Monsieur le Président,

On the evening of 15th April, the whole wold looked in horror at the fire in Notre-Dame, reminding us how this monument does not belong solely to Catholics, Parisians, French or even European people, but is a heritage that the genius of its successive builders bequeathed humanity. France was amongst the first countries to see the role played by those historic monuments, adopting very early, partly influenced by Victor Hugo’s masterpiece novel pleading for the Parisian cathedral, a legislation aiming not only at protecting them, but also, as part of the Legislative branch’s foresight, designing the conditions in which to act should they become mutilated by men or time. As soon as 1862, the government chose to place the Parisian cathedral, then being restored, under the protection of these laws. Over a century later, France, once again, alongside other countries, pushed for the UNESCO to put in place a World Heritage list, with specific protection criteria. In 1991, France asked, and obtained, that the banks of the Seine in Paris be placed on this list, putting forward, in particular, the central place of Notre-Dame and, more widely, a structured perspective constituted between the Middle Ages and the early 20th century, which deserved protection.

Such a protection cannot exist without a deontology for all those charged with upkeeping, conserving and restoring those monuments. Once again, France was a pioneering figure, building on the practice of Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the Île de la Cité, both in the Sainte-Chapelle and in Notre-Dame. This deontology, of course, has changed over time. It lead to the Venice charter in 1964, amended by the Nara document in 1994, giving an internationally recognised procedure for heritage interventions, for conservation as much as for restoration or partial reconstruction.

In this history, France has, for a long time, played a central role, based on world-class institutions educating protection specialists, internationally recognised and drawing students from across the continents (École de Chaillot, Institut national du patrimoine, universities, as well as the compagnonnage, now part, as per France request, of UNESCO’s immaterial heritage). It is not by chance that the International Council for Monuments and Sites is based in Paris. This French excellence in heritage, we saw it at work once again last week, in the praiseworthy action of the firemen who prevented much worse a disaster, and in the following acts that allowed the urgent propping up of the building and the removal of most of the mobile artworks. We are all conscious that we avoided much worse a disaster, the potential collapse of the cathedral and the destruction, with it, of the 850 years of history it preserves.

Alas, this tradition of excellence was slightly forgotten by the previous governments, and with it, national investments in heritage preservation: as shown by the Senate’s report on the 2019 budget, the credits allowed to the conservation of the Monuments Historiques have diminished, in current euros, between 2010 and 2012, before stabilising themselves, still in current euros, from 2013 onwards. Yet, for a long time now, alerts have been raised as to how insufficient those budgets were, and that only urgent works, like those that were taking place in Notre-Dame, could be done, rather than a planned, structured approach.

We now have to face the disaster, and it goes far beyond us all. Notre-Dame of Paris is not just a cathedral, not just one of the major heritage of European architecture. It is one of the buildings around which, for nearly two centuries, French and world heritage protection and deontology were constituted. The emotion it created showed how much this was a world drama, the historical perspective of which we still have to grasp.

This is why we, academics, researchers, heritage professionals, from France and elsewhere, are now coming to you, Monsieur le Président, to ask, as Jean Nouvel expressed so well, that “historians and experts be given the time to diagnose before [you] take a decision on the future of the monument”. We know that the political time requests quick action, we know how much a mutilated Notre-Dame weighs on French image. Nevertheless, what will happen in Notre-Dame in the years to come engages all of us, far beyond that time. The challenge of these works goes far beyond political mandates,
beyond generation, it is by how we respond to them that we will be judged.

As such, we don’t come to you to plead for this or that solution. It is too early. What can we or can’t we do, what are the options? We don’t know yet. It will depend on technical constraints, resulting from what the building can bear. But these choices must also be done respecting what Notre-Dame is, more than a cathedral amongst others, more than a heritage site amongst other, with a scrupulous, thoroughly thought, conception of deontology. The history of Notre-Dame in Paris means that the breadth of the fire goes far beyond its material consequences. You have said, Monsieur le Président, that you wanted to rebuild Notre-Dame so that it would be “even more beautiful”. It is what we all
want, but in order to do so, we must not ignore the complex process of thought that must drive this endeavour, beyond the necessary efficiency. Let’s take the time to diagnose. The Executive branch can’t afford not to listen to the experts, of which France educates some of the best, a large number of which are in your administration, in the Ministère de la Culture. Let’s acknowledge their expertise, take the time to find the right way and then, yes, fix an ambitious goal for an exemplary restoration, not only for the present, but also for the future generations.

French artisanal and business excellence and experience, that of our architects, the expertise of its curators and historians are renowned throughout the world. The special place of the cathedral has drawn towards it, throughout the world, academic attention and numerous research programs, the result of which are now at our disposal. Those French and international resources give France all the opportunities to bring Notre-Dame its symbolic dignity back. Let’s listen to them. Let’s trust them. Trust France, without delay, but also without precipitation. The world is watching us. The world and the centuries to come.

Today, this is not just an architectural gesture, but millions of gestures, humble or expert, governed by science and knowledge, within a renewed, ambitious, willing, heritage policy, caring for each monument, that will give back to the cathedral of Hugo, Viollet-le-Duc, ours, yours, its place and its role in history and in the future.


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Rare Book School: manuscript courses this summer

Rare Book School is currently accepting applications for its summer 2019 courses. Following are just a few of our offerings on medieval and early modern manuscripts:

The Book in the Manuscript Era (H-20) with Raymond Clemens: Learn about the manuscript book in the West from late antiquity to the beginning of the sixteenth century, using the manuscript resources of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Topics include the book form; its materials and construction; the writing and decorating of books; different types of books: biblical, theological, historical, poetic, legal, classical, liturgical, and devotional; the histories of books; the manuscript book in the digital age. H-20 runs June 9–14 at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

Advanced Seminar in Medieval Manuscript Studies (M-90) with Barbara A. Shailor: Deepen your understanding of the varied approaches to medieval and Renaissance manuscripts. Students will use hands-on analysis and discussion of manuscript fragments and codices in the collections of Yale’s Beinecke Library to improve their paleographic and codicological skills. Previous coursework and experience with manuscripts, and very good or excellent knowledge of Latin are required for this course. M-90 runs June 9–14 at Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

The Medieval Manuscript in the Twenty-First Century (M-95) with Will Noel & Dot Porter: An introduction for students of both the digital humanities and manuscript studies to the concepts and realities of working with medieval manuscripts. Students will discuss digital surrogacy and best practices when digitizing medieval manuscripts as well as current publication technologies and resources for digitized medieval manuscripts. Those interested in manuscripts and digital technologies are welcome to apply! Advanced technological experience is not required. M-95 runs June 23–28 at the University of Pennsylvania’s Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Visit for course details, previous student evaluations, and instructions for applying. We hope to see you and fellow bibliophiles in an RBS course soon.

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Conference – Invasion 1169

Invasion 1169

The National Conference on the Occasion of the 850th Anniversary of the Anglo-Norman Invasion, 2–4 May 2019

About this Event

May 2nd, 2019, marks, perhaps to the very day, the 850th anniversary of the first landing in County Wexford in 1169 of the Anglo-Norman adventurers enlisted by the king of Leinster, Diarmait Mac Murchada. Their arrival marks the start of the Anglo-Norman Invasion of Ireland.

Within two years, Henry II would become the first reigning English monarch to set foot on Irish soil. In what was arguably the single most formative event in Irish history, King Henry formally brought the island under the lordship of the English crown, a constitutional relationship that endures to the present day in the case of Northern Ireland.

To mark the 850th Anniversary in May 2019 of this foundational moment in the shared history of Ireland and Britain, Trinity College Dublin will host the national conference on the history of the Invasion, which will take place on 2nd to 4th May 2019. By assembling a platform of world experts, the conference will communicate the latest findings in historical scholarship on the 1169 Invasion and its aftermath to the widest possible audience. This conference also marks the third meeting of the biennial Trinity Medieval Ireland Symposium, a series that seeks to make cutting-edge historical scholarship accessible to all people and promote a wider public understanding and enjoyment of medieval Irish history.

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Fires at Notre-Dame and Al-Aqsa Mosque

To the Members of the Medieval Academy of America:

If, like me, you were stunned by the images of Notre-Dame in flames and were shocked a second time to hear that fire also broke out yesterday at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, there is better-than-expected news to share today.

The fire at Al-Aqsa was quickly extinguished and resulted in no injuries and no significant damage to the interior or exterior of the complex.

The medieval vaults at Notre-Dame did what they were meant to do: with the exception of a section at the crossing, the vaulting held firm as the wooden beams above it collapsed, protecting the interior of the Cathedral. The great rose windows survived. Even so, the damage and loss is significant, and one firefighter was injured.

Many members have asked me how they can help with the restoration of the Cathedral. Here are some immediate initiatives:

1) The French Heritage Fund has set up a special fund for the restoration of Notre-Dame. 100% of all donations will go towards the Cathedral’s restoration – there will be no administrative fees charged, and your donation is tax deductible. Click here to donate.

2) If you have particular expertise regarding the Cathedral or Gothic art and architecture in general, please contact me explaining your expertise and detailing any special resources you may have (photographs, data, measurements, etc.) so I can add your name to a growing list of experts that will be forwarded to the relevant French authorities as they begin their work.

I know that for many of you, the destruction at Notre-Dame feels personal. We all know that the Cathedral is more than stone and mortar. For many of you, it is a life’s work of study. By pooling our collective expertise, I hope that the Medieval Academy can play a small part in bringing Notre-Dame back to life.


Lisa Fagin Davis
Executive Director
Medieval Academy of America

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Katherine Jansen (The Catholic University of America) appointed Editor of Speculum

Editor of Speculum

Katherine Ludwig Jansen has been appointed the new editor of Speculum, beginning 1 July 2019.

Jansen will continue as Professor of History at the Catholic University of America, where she has chaired the Department of History, served as interim director of the Center for Medieval and Byzantine Studies, and cofounded the university’s Rome Center. She received her PhD from Princeton University, and has held visiting professorships both at Princeton and at Johns Hopkins University. Her first book, The Making of the Magdalen: Preaching and Popular Devotion in the Later Middle Ages (2000), won several prizes; her second monograph, Peace and Penance in Late Medieval Italy, was published last year. She has also co-edited three volumes: Medieval Italy: Texts in Translation; Charisma and Religious Authority: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Preaching, 1200-1500; and Center and Periphery: Studies on Power in the Medieval World in Honor of William Chester Jordan. She has held NEH, ACLS, and Fulbright fellowships as well as residential fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), Villa I Tatti, and the American Academy in Rome.

During her tenure, Catholic University will house the editorial offices of Speculum on its campus. Books for review should continue to be sent to the Medieval Academy offices in Cambridge until further notice; please check the Speculum web page for updates. Sarah Spence, the current editor, continues in her role until 31 August and will handle the production of issues that are already in process, while Jansen will deal mainly with new submissions until that time.

The Medieval Academy welcomes Kate, and thanks Sallie for her leadership and service, CUA for its support of Speculum and medieval studies, the search committee (chaired by David Wallace) for its hard work, and everyone involved for their patience.

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Jobs for Medievalists

Job Posting: Indexer for Bloomsbury Medieval Studies

Bloomsbury Medieval Studies is a new online resource launching in Autumn this year. To make the content more discoverable we are looking for someone with experience of keyword indexing to assign terms to book chapters and images. Ideal candidates will have had experience entering data into a database and working on online products or working with a library classification system.

Available via institutional access, Bloomsbury Medieval Studies will be a new interdisciplinary digital resource with a global perspective, bringing together high-quality secondary content with visual primary sources, a brand new reference work and pedagogical resources to support students and scholars across this rich field of study.

This work can be done remotely and will need to be completed by July 2019.

For more information, please contact

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Call for Papers -Writing Home: Literatures of Place & Belonging, c.1300-1600

Writing Home: Literatures of Place & Belonging, c.1300-1600

25th-26th July 2019, University of Liverpool

What makes a home? Is it as our four walls and families, neighbours and neighbourhoods? Our parishes, towns, cities, and countries? Our values, cultural practices, and experiences? Or is home where we have come from, where we are, and maybe, hopefully, where we are going? Join us in July at the University of Liverpool for a two-day conference exploring how home took shape in the literatures of the late medieval and early modern periods. We will consider how ideas of home changed over time in response to religious, political, and economic upheaval, civil unrest, and human and cultural migration.

Topics may include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Physical and conceptual parameters of home.
  • How these parameters shifted during translations & redactions
  • Migrant experiences & home-building practices.
  • Writing home abroad or in exile.
  • The relationship between smaller and larger units of home & belonging (e.g. the household and the parish; the parish and the city; the city and the country, etc.).
  • Sensing home: somatic experiences of belonging.
  • Literary representations of domesticity and the household.
  • Reading homes in miscellanies (patronage, organising principles, signs of readership and manuscript culture).
  • The ‘beginnings’ of home in origin narratives, foundation myths, and genealogies.
  • Legendaria and folktales: literatures that enrich the history of home.
  • Performing home on stage and at court.

We welcome abstracts for 20-minute papers related to the themes outlined above. Please send abstracts of no more than 300 words and a short biography of around 100 words to The deadline for submissions is Tuesday 30th April 2019.

We are hoping to receive funding for a limited number of small bursaries available for early career researchers to contribute to travel and accommodation costs. If you could like to be considered for these, please put a note in your bio and we will contact you with further information. Applicants must not have access to institutional funding.

We look forward to hearing from you.

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Deadline for “The Medieval Book

May 1 is the application deadline for Western Michigan University’s 2-week intensive course “The Medieval Book” (June 10-21, 2019). Admission to the course, which is offered for professional or personal development without credit or for 2 graduate credit hours, is by competitive application.

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