Call for Papers – Graduate Conference in Medieval Studies at Princeton University

Codes of Conduct:
How to Behave in the Middle Ages

April 22, 2016

Andrea di Bonaiuto, The Way of Salvation (1365-67, Santa Maria Novella, Florence)

Call for Papers

The Program in Medieval Studies at Princeton University invites submissions for its twenty-third annual graduate conference in Princeton, New Jersey.

Keynote: Alex Novikoff, Fordham University

Topic: Codes of Conduct: How to Behave in the Middle Ages

Wherever humans have formed groups, they have depended upon behavioral norms to structure their societies. Spoken and unspoken, written and unwritten, codes of conduct are essential for the organization of communities –socially, politically, economically, religiously, or otherwise.

In the Middle Ages, a kaleidoscope of communities produced overlapping and sometimes contradictory sets of expectations covering every facet of life from the top to the very bottom of society. On the most exalted level, kings and bishops performed their roles before the eyes of lesser men with sideways glances at their domestic and foreign rivals, and upward glances toward the heavens themselves. Peasants, priests, and burghers jostled for control of their local communities according to traditions that they passed on to posterity. The clergy, both regular and secular, sought to prescribe norms and values, roles and functions, for the proper ordering of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities.

Who determined these expectations? How did people balance conformity and contravention in their strategies of power? How were “codes of conduct” codified, conferred, and controlled? What roles did art –literary, visual, theatrical and musical—play in the conveyance of such prescriptions?

We invite papers that consider the part that codes of conduct played in medieval life. Proposals are welcome from the whole variety of disciplines, time periods, geographical areas, and methodologies that encompass the medieval world. Topics might include, but are not limited to:

  • Prescriptive texts and the relationship between text and reality
  • The norms of sainthood and canonization
  • Catechesis and popular religion in the Christian, Muslim, and Jewish traditions
  • Monastic rules and other rules for religious communities
  • Justice, jurisdiction and law, both secular and ecclesiastical
  • Chivalry as a social ethic and a rulebook for war
  • The court, both actual and imagined
  • Social and political thought in the middle ages
  • Conventions of peace and diplomacy
  • Gender and sex in medieval society
  • Spielregeln: ‘the rules of the game’ in medieval politics and society

In order to support participation by speakers from outside the northeastern United States, we are offering limited subsidies to help offset the cost of travel to Princeton. Financial assistance may not be available for every participant, with funding priority going to those who have the farthest to travel. Every speaker will have the option of staying with a resident graduate student as an alternative to paying for a hotel room.

Interested graduate students should submit abstracts of no more than 500 words to Ian Ward and Jan van Doren at by February 15, 2016.

All applicants will be notified about their submissions by February 24, 2016. Presentations should be no longer than 20 minutes.

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