Call for Papers – Digital Britain: New Approaches to the Early Middle Ages

Digital Britain: New Approaches to the Early Middle Ages

Location: Harvard University
Date: March 25–26, 2016

Medievalists already have an impressive track record in using the Digital Humanities in their teaching and research. It is now a common practice for an undergraduate to scrutinize high-resolution images of a thousand year-old manuscript while she transcribes the texts it preserves. A researcher can pinpoint when and where certain words were used, or identify the scribe who copied a particular manuscript, or map out the paths of literary borrowings thanks to online reference tools.

Now that we are well into the digital turn, this symposium seeks to take stock not only of methodology but also of avenues for future work. How should we keep rethinking traditional fields like paleography or source study? What can new media say to the old (and vice-versa)? And, in attending to a multimodal Middle Ages, how—and what—should we read? Traditional methods in literary analysis have already been challenged by Franco Moretti’s “distant reading” and Matthew L. Jockers’s “macroanalysis.” What is the appropriate scale for medieval literature? Is the sentence a viable unit for the Middle Ages? And how big is big data? We invite proposals that focus on research and on pedagogy. Papers might engage with a wide range of languages, including Old English, Anglo-Latin, Old Irish, Old Norse, Early Middle English, Anglo-Norman, and Middle Welsh; research topics, including quantitative formalism, corpus linguistics, social network analysis, TEI, manuscript studies, and maps; and new classroom technology, including annotation tools, online textbooks and courses, databases, and exercises. We particularly welcome proposals that challenge ideas of canonicity, or that situate Britain within a broader global sphere.

The conference will be hosted by Harvard University’s English Department and the Standing Committee on Medieval Studies, with support from the Morton Bloomfield Fund and the Provostial Fund for the Arts and Humanities. We are pleased to announce that Martin Foys (University of Wisconsin–Madison) and Timothy Stinson (North Carolina State University) will be delivering the plenary addresses.

Potential presenters should submit an abstract of approximately 250 words to Erica Weaver, Joey McMullen, and Samantha Berstler at by January 15, 2016. Presentations should be no longer than twenty minutes.

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