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: Monsters and Materialities

16 Jul 2018 3:24 PM | CSM Treasurer (Administrator)

Monsters and Materialities

Proposed session for the 2019 IMC (Leeds),1-4 July, Leeds, UK

 Organizers: Asa Simon Mittman and Renée Ward

We seek papers to compose a session on the subject of “Monsters and Materialities” for the 2019 International Medieval Congress at Leeds. The Congress theme is “Materialities.” 

Monsters abound in medieval culture, from giants to serpentine women and dog-headed saints. Often, monsters threaten communities through evocative ways; the most terrifying or even edifying monsters are those whose physical form is a mystery. Grendel terrorizes Heorot, but exact details of his physical appearance are unclear despite gestures towards his size, ferocity, and monstrosity. Yet monsters also frequently leave traces that suggest the magnitude of their physical presence. Early archaeological sites such as Maen Ceti (the 14 ft rock Arthur purportedly pulled from his shoe and threw away) speak to the gigantism often associated with Arthur’s figure, while the footprint embedded on the window sill and the trembling of the tower upon which Melusine perches emphasize the sheer weight of her winged and tailed body. In other cases, they leave behind more direct relics, such as the “griffon’s claw” associated with St. Cuthbert, or the many “unicorn horns” owned by European royalty as talismans against poison. Monstrous bodies were thought to exist in time and space; their presence is felt in real and palpable ways. No matter their size, these monsters leave their physical imprint upon the material structures of the world around them. However fantastic, however elusive, monsters exist in material and tangible ways—woven into tapestries, painted into frescoes, and melded into glass.

This panel seeks to examine the material aspect of monstrous beings in medieval culture, to uncover the impact of their presence in the world that imagines them in various forms. We invite papers from all disciplines and national traditions that examine every aspect and avenue this connection evokes. Topics may include: literary representations that emphasize the material nature of monsters; material depictions of monsters in other media such as sculpture, architecture, tapestry, glassworks, frescoes, and paintings; and physical remains or archaeological artefacts associated with monstrous beings and myths and legends.

 

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a brief bio to session organizers Asa Mittman (asmittman@csuchico.edu) or Renée Ward (rward@lincoln.ac.uk) by the 31 August 2018. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. All abstracts will be vetted by the MEARCSTAPA board and the full session will be submitted to the Congress mid-September 2018. Additionally, MEARCSTAPA will provide an award of $500 to the best graduate student/independent/unwaged submission to this or any of its sessions to help offset the costs of travel and lodging for the IMC.

 

Diversity Statement

As an organization dedicated to the study of marginalized communities and entities in the Middle Ages and beyond, MEARCSTAPA affirms its position on diversity, inclusion, and inquiry within all academic discourses. We support and embrace those who have been marginalized, excluded, and othered in medieval studies. We disavow hatred and intolerance. We walk the borders, but do not police them; we welcome your company.

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