Call for Papers – 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies

55th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, May 7-10, 2020

Sponsored by the Program in Medieval Studies at Yale University

Session 1: Violating Sacred Space

Sacred space is, in part, defined by its possible violation, examples of which abound in the Middle Ages. The martyrdom of Saint Nicaise, killed in his church by Vandals, is preserved in narrative and art. In Bokenham’s “Life of Saint Margaret,” the saint complains that her relics have been abandoned in churches destroyed by conflict and neglect. Legal sources also betray anxiety about the instability of sacred space: several sources note that damaging church property was an excommunicable sin, while Gratian’s decretals dictate the reconsecration of churches desecrated by bodily fluids.

In this paper panel, we invite papers that explore violations of sacred space from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Potential topics include the defacement of sacred art, the destruction and rebuilding of churches, literary narratives of violation, archaeological evidence thereof, secular and ecclesiastical legal records, and theoretical explorations of the nature of space and ritual.

Session 2: Medieval Representations of Scholarly Labor

From the Codex Amiatinus’s depiction of Ezra writing in a book to that of Hildegard of Bingen receiving and dictating her supernatural visions in the frontispiece to the Scivias, interest in representing the labors of scholars spanned the length of the Middle Ages. Not only do depictions of scholarly labor such as these, whether visual or textual, shed light onto the material culture and historical practices of medieval scholarship, but they also reveal the ways in which medieval artists and writers sought to convey ideas about the work that they themselves performed and the functions they served in society.

We encourage papers from all relevant disciplines that focus on visual, literary or historiographical portrayals of scholars laboring at their craft. Suggested topics might include depictions of divine interventions in acts of scholarly labor, postures of scholars or displays of the intensity of effort, the relationship of scholars to their work (whether positive or negative) and the milieu of their labor, or representations of scholars sharing their work, such as in public readings, to list but a few possibilities.

Session 3: Migration, Exile, and Displacement: A Roundtable

Medieval refugees’ stories can be difficult to access, but our own encounters with contemporary refugee crises may hint at the disruption that accompanied mass displacement in the Middle Ages. As millions across the globe continue to be uprooted, what can we learn about the experience of displacement in the medieval world? Persecution, war, plague, poverty, and other factors all contributed to forced migration and exile, as seen in the expulsions of Jews from England and France; the expulsion of Andalusi Muslims during Spain’s Reconquista; displacements caused by the Mongol invasions; and in the migration of peoples escaping the Black Death. Some medieval sources, like those that reimagine the Flight from Egypt, portray exile as an injustice, while others, like Bede, understand it as divine punishment. On the other hand, authorities who created such crises are often silent about their motives.

In this roundtable, we invite papers that explore experiences of forced migration or displacement from multiple perspectives and disciplines. Potential topics include literary narratives and visual representations of exile and migration; native responses to large-scale migration; criminal, political and legendary exiles; legal practices of sanctuary and exile; theological and typological explanations of migration; modern reclamations and appropriations of medieval narratives; and theoretical explorations of the effect of displacement upon identity formation.

For any of the three sessions, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and the participant information form to by September 10th. Thank you!

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