2024 CARA Annual Meeting

The Medieval Academy of America
Committee on Centers and Regional Associations (CARA)

What’s In a Name? Advantages and Challenges of the ‘Medieval’ Today

Sunday, 17 March 2024
The University of Notre Dame
Private Dining Room, Morris Inn

The New Yorker, 26 May 2003; © Jack Ziegler


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The word “medieval” has a variety of meanings and implications in academic as well as popular discourse. How does using this rubric for the object of your teaching and research help or hinder you in appealing to students, engaging with colleagues, or gaining institutional support for your work? What are the implications of interpreting non-European societies as “medieval” (as “global Medieval Studies” implies)? If terms like “medieval” or “Medieval Studies” are problematic, then what alternatives might there be—and what shortcomings might they have? This year’s CARA meeting invites colleagues engaging with these questions to explore how we define ourselves and our field, and discuss the value as well as the difficulties of “the medieval” and “the Middle Ages” today.



Breakfast and coffee (8:30-9:00 am)

Welcome and Introductions (9:00 am)
Sean Gilsdorf (Harvard University), CARA Chair

Session One: Periodization and Institutional Identity (9:00-10:00 am)

On Friday 15 March, Dr. Zrinka Stahuljak (Professor of Comparative Literature and French and Director of the CMRS Center for Early Global Studies, UCLA) will deliver the CARA Plenary, “How Early Before it is Too Late? ‘Medieval’ Periodization, Epistemic Change, and the Institution.” In this session, CARA Director of Conference Programs Kisha Tracy (Fitchburg State University) will lead a discussion with Professor Stahuljak about her plenary and the issues it raises. Attendance at the plenary is encouraged but not necessary.

Break (10:30-10:45 am)

Session Two: Making a Case for the Middle Ages (10:45 am-12:15 pm)

In this session, meeting participants will participate in smaller group discussions, where they will be asked to craft responses to a series of scenarios and share their discoveries and challenges with others. These discussions are meant to prompt reflection on how we represent the notion of the “medieval” to a variety of constituencies, and help us to envision new approaches for the future. Is there value in “leaning into” the medieval, or should we frame our work in different ways? How might our decisions be affected by different audiences and goals? Finally, how do the curricular and administrative realities of our different institutions affect our decision to embrace or efface terms like “medieval” and “the Middle Ages” in our teaching and departmental work? Lunch will be provided during Session Two.

Concluding Remarks (12:15-12:30 pm)

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