Blog from CSM President:

In November I had the pleasure of attending a joint conference of the Atlantic Medieval Association and the Atlantic Medieval and Early Modern Group in Sackville, New Brunswick. It started out in an almost-can’t-see-to-drive downpour and ended in a glorious fall day aflame with autumn colours.

The conference is about as small as you can get, and I almost didn’t go this year because – and I’m sure I’m not alone in this – I was swamped with teaching and admin. But small conferences like the AMA are so important. I attended some excellent papers, of course, and actually got the chance to make an astrolabe – Dr.  Samuel Gessner of the University of Lisbon was the keynote speaker, and the “Hands-on History of the Astrolabe” he presented was not a metaphor! (My arts-and-crafts skills are distinctly rusty, I might add.) The real value, though, was in making connections with other medievalists. Increasingly, many of us are the lone medievalists at our universities, and academic societies provide a welcome respite from the isolation and loneliness that can entail.

I was also “pricked” – to use a Middle English word – by a panel responding to the calls to action from Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Hitherto I had felt a bit helpless in the face of the calls: yes, we can do more as institutions to support Indigenous students; yes, we can support calls for Indigenous literatures and histories, and work on making them mainstream – but honestly, I thought, as a medievalist, there’s not much I can do in my field. Saying “Indigenous peoples were around in the Middle Ages too and so we should study Indigenous cultures from 1000-1500” seemed a bit facile, to my way of thinking (never mind that it is imposing colonizing Western European periodization on the world, and risks cultural appropriation as well).

But the panel got me thinking about the ways in which Canadian medievalists can seriously and genuinely respond to the TRC in our scholarship as well as our institutions. We talked about incorporating Indigenous knowledge practices both in our classrooms, rethinking the top-down lecture approach, and in our scholarship, applying Indigenous theories and approaches to canonical texts. We talked about ways to avoid falling into the trap of “empty words” and “rote repetition” in our acknowledgements of the Indigenous territories our universities are built upon. We talked about countering the alt-right appropriation of medieval images and medievalism. And after the conference Lauren Beck compiled and circulated a bibliography of Indigenous literary and historical theory and methods.

In the coming months I will be posting more about these kinds of topics – both ways to counter the alt-right in our classrooms, and ways of thinking about Indigenous theory in our scholarship. I’d also like to know how you are responding to the TRC, not only in your institution but in your scholarship and teaching. And any Indigenous resources you can send me would be great as well.

CFP: Animals and Materiality in the Arthurian Tradition

16 Jul 2018 3:21 PM | CSM Treasurer (Administrator)

Animals and Materiality in the Arthurian Tradition

Proposed session for the 2019 IMC (Leeds)

 Organizers: Melissa Ridley Elmes and Renée Ward

 We seek papers to compose a session of 3 or 4 papers on the subject of “Animals and Materiality in the Arthurian Tradition” for the 2019 International Medieval Congress at Leeds. The Congress theme is “Materialities.”

While the subject of animals in medieval literature is enjoying substantial scholarly focus, especially considerations of animals in medieval French and English encyclopediae, bestiaries, and romances, relatively little critical work exists dealing specifically with animals in the Arthurian legend, particularly so when we look beyond the mythical White Hart, the Questing Beast, and the dragons. Yet, animals real and imagined abound throughout the pages of Arthurian narratives, appear in related artefacts (art, architecture, stained glass, paintings, and tapestries, for example), and are present in the very production of the manuscripts that preserve the legend. Moreover, recent trends in critical animal studies demand that we expand our understandings of such animal appearances to consider them for their animality—for the qualities that make them beings unto themselves rather than as analogies and metaphors for humans and their environs.

 This proposed session seeks to explore animals and materiality within Arthurian traditions, to serve as the beginning of a continued scholarly discussion of the place of animals within the Arthurian realm, especially of their animality or materiality. We are particularly interested in the ways in which animals and their bodies figure as objects of veneration and/or consumption within the legend, or how, as objects themselves, they contribute to the legend’s production, preservation and perpetuation into post-medieval periods. Do animals within Arthuriana have agency beyond their symbolic functions? How might animals be considered a part of the material landscape of the legend both within and outside of the textual narratives? How, where, when, and to what purpose or function are animals found in material Arthurian spaces such as 2- and 3-d artworks, stage, television, and/or film? In what ways have animals carried the Arthurian legend across space and time from the medieval period to the present?

 We invite papers from all disciplines and national traditions, and interdisciplinary projects are especially welcome. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a brief bio to session organizers Melissa Ridley Elmes (MElmes@lindenwood.edu) and Renée Ward (rward@lincoln.ac.uk) by 31 August 2018. Please include your name, title, and affiliation/status on the abstract. Abstracts will be selected, and then a full session proposal will be submitted to the Congress in mid-September 2018.

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