Call for Papers – The New England Medieval Conference

Slow Catastrophe 

The New England Medieval Conference
Saturday, 3 October 2015
Northeastern University, Boston

2015 NEMC Program Committee: Amy Appleford (Boston University), Sean Gilsdorf (Harvard University), Kathleen Coyne Kelly (Northeastern University), Irit Kleiman (Boston University),

and Alex Mueller (University of Massachusetts Boston)

The theme for NEMC 2015 is “Slow Catastrophe.” The title echoes Rob Nixon’s Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Harvard University Press, 2011), in which Nixon examines what he calls the “attritional lethality” of “climate change, toxic drift, deforestation, oil spills, and the environmental aftermath of war,” which “takes place gradually and often invisibly.” In the medieval period, such events as floods, earthquakes, famine, the toppling of dynasties and the onset of war may register as spectacularly sudden, not only for the people who experienced them, but sometimes for the scholars who now study them. What happens, however, when we engage the long view, in slow motion, in order to examine both natural and social change as it is recorded and represented in the history, literature, and arts of the Middle Ages? How did medieval people think across time, and how do we think about them across time? If we scale up temporality, cause and effect, and correlativity, if we emphasize “distance” over “closeness,” and rethink the connections (or disjunctions) between the material and the cultural, what might emerge that was previously only glimpsed or even invisible?

Paper proposals (c. 500 words) for one of the three sessions listed below should be sent by 1 May 2015 to Kathleen Coyne Kelly (

  1. Environment and Nature
  2. Politics and Peoples
  3. Cultural Formations

Humanities scholars also are finding the poster, a standard format for the sciences, to be an attractive option for disseminating their work, especially work in progress. Attendees therefore are invited to bring a poster to the meeting this year. The posters will be set up for the day and through the closing reception, with plenty of time at lunch to browse. NEMC attendees do not have to address the conference theme; rather, the point is to share work of all sorts with colleagues. (If you’ve never made a poster, you should be able to get help from your home institution, perhaps through your tech support or teaching and learning center.) Please submit proposals of about 300 words by 1 May 2015 to Kathleen Coyne Kelly,

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