New Visions of Julian of Norwich
Somerville College, Oxford, 15th-16th July 2022
Organisers: Antje E. Chan (Lincoln College, Oxford), Godelinde Gertrude Perk (Somerville, Oxford), Raphaela Rohrhofer (Somerville, Oxford), Alicia Smith (English Faculty, Oxford)
In May 1373, Julian of Norwich (c. 1343–c.1416) received a series of visions that engage with the mysteries of the divine-human relationship, inspiring the composition of A Vision Showed to a Devout Woman and, decades later, its revision, A Revelation of Love, now recognised as one of the most important texts in the medieval contemplative tradition and Middle English literature. Both have attracted numerous interpretations as visionary as Julian’s work itself, focusing on the significance of anchoritic enclosure, the radical originality of her vernacular theology, the historical and codicological context, as well as potential textual influences. Recent scholarship has explored Julian’s role in the global Middle Ages, her treatment of health, and her ecological poetics. Her texts have also sparked investigations of the role of materiality and provocative encounters between Julian and queer and trans theory.
This international hybrid conference will be the first academic event to focus solely on Julian’s writing, life, contexts, and influence long after her death. It seeks to consider the plurality of approaches towards her work’s interpretation and forge novel pathways of discussing the anchorite both in her own context and in the many scholarly and popular guises of her cultural afterlife. Aimed at established and early-career researchers alike, this interdisciplinary conference will bring together scholars from various fields to map out new and emerging dimensions in Julian scholarship. It will interrogate received assumptions and re-evaluate traditional disciplinary methodologies.
In addition to presenting academic work on Julian’s writing, this conference also seeks to reach out of academe in responding to pastoral and contemplative engagement with her texts, particularly in the light of the pandemic. Two roundtables will bring lived religious practices and critical responses into dialogue. Creative explorations will also help invigorate Julian studies. We look forward to hosting Cindy Oswin’s one-woman play “Cell” about the anchorite as an older woman, and to showing a recording of the 2021 Oxford reconstruction of the medieval rite of enclosure held at St. Mary the Virgin, Iffley.
The opening lecture will be given by Professor Nicholas Watson (Harvard) with responses from Professor Laura Saetveit Miles (Bergen) and Professor Barry Windeatt (Cambridge). Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy (Swansea) will close the conference.
We invite papers from any or multiple disciplines and deploying a wide range of methodologies, focusing on all aspects of Julian’s writing, life, contexts, or afterlife. We especially encourage proposals from graduate students and early-career researchers.
Possible themes include but are not limited to:
Emerging approaches to Julian’s texts
Illness, health, and disability
Visual and material culture
Queer, genderqueer, and trans theory approaches
Julian’s wider intellectual and cultural contexts, e.g., Revelation and Vision in the movements of church reform across Europe, or against the backdrop of continental vernacular literature
Interdisciplinary approaches to Julian
Julian and apocalypse
Vision and Revelation as literary landmarks in medieval and post-medieval literature
Conversations with well- and lesser-known vernacular visionaries and theologians in the British Isles, on the Continent, and beyond
The history of emotions
We also welcome proposals for contributions to the two roundtables. Potential topics include:
Retrieving Julian’s writings to renew contemplative and spiritual practices
Vision and Revelation and the pandemic moment
Creative engagement with Vision and Revelation: poetic, dramatic, visual arts
Julian as a voice for the voiceless
Julian beyond the academy: contemplative practices, popular imagery, political uses
Please submit abstracts (up to 300 words) for a 15-minute paper or 10-minute roundtable contribution accompanied by a short biography to firstname.lastname@example.org by 1 February 2022.
In light of the pandemic, this conference will be a hybrid event combining in-person and online papers, while the conference will be streamed for online attendees. Reduced registration will be offered for postgraduate students and unwaged delegates, while a few bursaries may also be available.
This conference is part of “Women Making Memories: Liturgy and the Remembering Female Body in Medieval Holy Women’s Texts”, Dr Perk’s MSCA-IF project at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 842443.