Call for Papers – Eco-Critical Approaches to Medieval Art: East and West

ICMA Panel @ 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 9-12, 2013 at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI
Organizers: Anne Harris and Nancy Sevcenko

How did the use of natural materials affect the meaning of medieval works of art? How did the act of representing nature construct the concept of the natural?  What do medieval works of art reveal about the interaction of natural forces and human agents? Ecocriticism explores conceptualizations of nature, both in its material presence and in its abstract representations.  It invites a study of medieval art with a keen interest in the “stuff” of nature used in the fabrication of art (wood, stone, glass, gem, metal, vellum, and ivory) as well as in the “image” of nature produced by visual representations (in the form of landscapes, gardens, animals, stones, trees, flowers, the human body, the cosmos).  Personified as the “Child of God and Mother of things” by Alain of Lille, Nature transmitted a divine agency into the material world. In Christian Materiality, Caroline Walker Bynum argues for devotional objects as “disclosures of the sacred through material substance.”  How can we investigate medieval art objects at their point of intersection with natural matter and human experience?

This panel seeks to reassert and explore the agency of natural matter upon its human “interactors” through both devotional and secular works of art. We invite papers that explore the materiality of works of art as it relates to the natural world, that analyze the representation of nature as it conceptualizes nature, and/or that localize works of art within cultural constructions of the natural.  Beyond being curious about the ability of works of art to “reflect” attitudes to nature, this panel asks how works of art in the European, Byzantine and Islamic Middle Ages shaped conceptions of the natural, made nature present within a devotional or secular context, and evoked the divine agency of nature through its materiality.

Please send paper proposals consisting of a one-page abstract and a complete Participant Information Form (available on the Congress website) by September 15 to either one of the organizers:

Anne Harris:
Nancy Sevcenko:

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