Entries open for British Records Association prize

Entries to the British Records Association’s annual Janette Harley Prize close on 30 June. The prize is intended to generate interest in archives, and raise awareness of research and achievements in the world of archives. It is open to anyone, and applications are welcomed from individuals, on their own behalf or on behalf of others, and from representatives of organisations.

The prize of £350 will be awarded for the best / most original piece of work published in a monograph, journal or magazine, or otherwise made publicly available, which has promoted “the preservation, understanding, accessibility or study of archives”. The winning entry will be announced following BRA’s Annual General Meeting and Maurice Bond Memorial Lecture, to be held in London on 13 November 2019.

The joint winners of the 2018 Harley Prize were Julie Halls and Allison Martino, for their article “Cloth, Copyright, and Cultural Exchange: Textile Designs for Export to Africa at The National Archives of the UK”.

Further information about the prize, including details of how to enter, can be found on the BRA web-site: https://www.britishrecordsassociation.org.uk/the-janette-harley-prize/british-records-association-janette-harley-prize/

CFP Will and Consent in Medieval Rape Narratives essay collection

Proposals are invited for contributions to the edited essay collection, Nevertheless, She Resisted: Will and Consent in Medieval Rape Narratives.

As Amy Vines notes, rape in medieval literature often functions as a “chivalric necessity,” a means of articulating masculine identity that elides or ignores questions of female bodily sovereignty and autonomy of will in favor of the male protagonist’s development. Yet we also find instances where texts implicitly or explicitly call attention to the act of rape as a violation of female will—whether in dread of the act, in the face of its perpetration, or in its aftermath—or explore the nature of consent and its often problematic conditions or interpretation.

Building on recent work by scholars such as Vines, Elizabeth Robertson, Christine Rose, Suzanne Edwards, and Carissa Harris, this essay collection seeks chapters of 6000-9000 words exploring narratives of resistance in medieval literary portrayals of rape or coercive sex. In what ways might we see such narratives recentering female will and consent? What different modes of resistance to sexual violence do they articulate? To what extent do they return agency to survivors of sexual violence? In what ways do these narratives arouse or disarm resistance on the part of female readers? How might we make issues of will and consent more legible in these texts? Most importantly, what might it mean to read from the woman’s subject position, resisting the masculinist hermeneutic that has largely dominated medieval studies?

Proposals of 300-500 words should be submitted by e-mail to Alison Langdon at alison.langdon@wku.edu. Deadline for proposals is 31 August 2019. Notification of accepted proposals will be made by 30 September 2019, with complete chapters due by 1 June 2020. The volume has been invited for submission to Medieval Institute Publications for its new Premodern Transgressive Literatures series.

CFP Cambridge Elements: Shakespeare and Pedagogy

The new Cambridge Elements Series on ‘Shakespeare and Pedagogy’ is seeking submissions of innovative scholarship of 20,000-30,000 words for peer-reviewed publication. This collection synthesises theory and practice, with original pieces of research as well as dynamic, practical engagements with learning contexts. It aims to facilitate explorations, interventions and provocations:

  • Explorations deliver extended, research-based analyses and pursuits of ideas, processes and practices.
  • Interventions present practical engagements with learning contexts, may involve teachers or practitioners as collaborators, and will speak in direct terms to real teaching situations.
  • Provocations offer critiques of practice and policy, reimagined or reoriented approaches, propositions of alternatives and urgent manifestoes.

Submissions might fall into one of these categories or represent a blend of them.
More information is on the Shakespeare Reloaded website: http://shakespearereloaded.edu.au/research/cambridge-elements-series

Highlights from the Parergon archives: Grendel’s mother again

We asked members of Parergon‘s Early Career Committee to tell us about a Parergon article that really stood out for them and why they found it valuable for their research. In this post, Emma Knowles reflects on Renée Rebecca Trilling’s ’Beyond Abjection: The Problem with Grendel’s Mother Again’, Parergon 24:1 (2007), pp. 1-20 (DOI 10.1353/pgn.2007.0059)

Renée R. Trilling’s Parergon article ‘Beyond Abjection: The Problem with Grendel’s Mother Again’ is a piece of scholarship that I have found myself returning to on a regular basis since I was an undergraduate at the University of Sydney. In it she tackles the representation of Grendel’s mother in Beowulf in an original and interesting way, despite the large volume of scholarship that already exists dealing with that character. Trilling’s analysis of Grendel’s mother emphasises her ambiguity as a character and builds usefully on the previous work of Paul Acker by tying Julia Kristeva’s theory of the abject to Beowulf and to Grendel’s mother in particular.

To the abject she adds Kristeva’s conception of the semiotic, arguing that it is not just abject or maternal characteristics which define Grendel’s mother; it is also her existence outside the ‘linguistic economy’ (4) of the text. Trilling’s analysis considers key areas of criticism associated with Grendel’s mother’s characterisation, including the role that translation plays in defining her monstrosity and the role that changing pronouns play in representing her gender. She draws these threads together to demonstrate that Grendel’s mother is disruptive in the text ‘at the level of language as well as plot’.

I read this article as an undergraduate while thinking about Grendel’s mother as a character. Trilling’s clear articulation of the relationship between Kristevan concepts and Beowulf was a key moment for me as it developed my understanding of how theory can unlock new ways of thinking about older texts. Her work was especially influential for me as I wrote my master’s thesis. In this research I considered the relevance of Kristeva’s theory of the abject not just for the representation of Grendel’s mother, but also the mere in which she lives. In this way Trilling’s work was a catalyst for my own research, and a key building block for my own thinking about Beowulf and other Anglo-Saxon poems.

Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/

Parergon 36.1 preview: Language and Thought in Hildegard of Bingen

We’ve asked contributors to the current issue of Parergon to give us some additional insights into their research and the inspirations for their articles. In this post, Jeroen de Gussem and Dinah Wouters talk about their piece, ‘Language and Thought in Hildegard of Bingen’s Visionary Trilogy: Close and Distant Readings of a Thinker’s Development’ (doi:10.1353/pgn.2019.0001).

Our article on ‘Language and Thought in Hildegard of Bingen’s Visionary Trilogy’ originated in the discovery that each of us (the authors) had data that could clarify the other’s findings. We are both writing our dissertations at Ghent University in Belgium. Jeroen’s project employs a computational methodology to investigate the issue of medieval authorship and collaborative writing in a variety of texts, ranging from Suger of Saint-Denis to Bernard of Clairvaux and Hildegard of Bingen. Dinah’s project is more focused on the figure of Hildegard and explores how the allegorical form of the vision books functions within its intellectual setting.

One day, Jeroen showed the results of a so-called ‘principal component analysis’ of Hildegard’s three vision books, which demonstrates how they each have such a distinctive stylistic profile that a computer could easily attribute small chunks of randomly chosen texts to one specific vision book. We thought this quite remarkable, given that what is most apparent to the non-digital readers is that the texts share the same prophetic and formulaic style. But Jeroen’s findings corresponded to something Dinah had discovered that same week. While studying Hildegard’s ideas on language, she had noticed that the prophet significantly changes her vocabulary and the semantic contents of words, but also that the changes are implemented as discreetly as possible. We decided to bring these two findings together and to do some collaborative writing of our own.

For the article, we combined the methodologies of distant reading and close reading, while focusing on the level of words. We investigated the frequency of words, their occurrence in relation to other words, and their semantic values. By looking at a number of almost imperceptible changes and patterns, we traced the development of Hildegard’s prophetic style. Our goal was to demonstrate how small developments in the frequency, use and meaning of words are indexical of the way in which a prophetic style, which wants to appear monolithic and unchanging, deals with variation, change, and development. A distant reading of the texts’ lexical patterns reveals subtle changes and developments not apparent at first sight, and a close reading shows that these patterns result from an effort to integrate variation and change into a style that aims to dissociate itself from human writing.

An abiding issue in Hildegard scholarship is the influence of secretaries. To what extent did the prophet’s collaborators contribute to the language and ideas of the texts? Our article makes a contribution to this discussion by highlighting the strong internal motivation behind stylistic variation and change. Regardless of how we should envisage the ‘author’ Hildegard – as a divinely inspired writer, a group effort, or a strong central voice aided by others –, the somewhat curious style of her texts appears as the voice of an unlearned woman only as the result of a stylistic effort that controls even the smallest words. We hope our article can shed light on the way in which Hildegard crafts her words and her style in accordance with her prophetic persona.

Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/


CFP Performing Power in the Premodern World

Submissions are invited for Performing Power in the Premodern World, a one-day, interdisciplinary conference to be held at University of Warwick, 9 November 2019.

Keynote Speaker: Dr Naomi Pullin (University of Warwick)
‘The Power of the Light: Quaker Women’s Negotiations of Power and Authority in the Early Modern British Atlantic’

In Shakespeare’s Henry V, a disguised king mingles with his soldiers at Agincourt. Hearing criticism of his actions, he claims ‘the king is but a man, as I am’. Then, when he is alone, he soliloquises, asking ‘what have kings, that privates have not too, / Save ceremony, save general ceremony?’ These lines acknowledge that power and performance have always been interlinked. Monarchy has always had a performative aspect, and the ruled have responded in kind with their own performances. Whole genres of entertainment and performance, as well as specific discourses and conventions, were devised to allow the performance of power to be beneficial to, and understood by, both the ruler and the ruled. Recent scholarship has begun to expand the dramatic canon to include these genres of performance, and scholars have increasingly focused on the duality of power, emphasising the role of the ruled in perpetuating the ruler’s power. Performing Power in the Premodern World aims to expand this conversation.

Proposals are therefore invited for 20-minute papers that deal with the intersection of power and performance in the premodern world. Topics could include, but are not limited to:

  • Court entertainments, including plays and masques;
  • Royal progresses, pageants, entertainments, and tours;
  • Coronations, royal weddings, royal funerals, and other religio-political events;
  • Methods of counsel;
  • Public speeches by monarchs, politicians, and courtiers (especially those that were later published);
  • Plays that depict power and authority;
  • Publicity, fame, celebrity, and power;
  • Broadside ballads and other forms of popular critique;
  • Print culture, cheap print, newsbooks, and other forms of commentary;
  • Patronage and sponsorship;
  • Royal art, architecture, and costuming/fashion;
  • Medallions, and commemorative souvenirs;
  • Performativity and power.

While our temporal parameters stretch from antiquity to the end of the eighteenth century, we have no geographical limits. We are also interested in modern performances that adapt, or interact with, these premodern examples.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words for presentations of 20 minutes and biographies of no more than 100 words to aidannorrie@gmail.com and sophie.l.shorland@gmail.com by 30 August 2019.

The convenors intend to submit a proposal for a special issue of the Royal Studies Journal on ‘Performing Royal Power’, consisting of papers from the conference that focus on performances of royal and monarchical power (and responses to these).

Download (PDF, 75KB)

CFP SMFS sessions at Southeastern Medieval Association Conference

The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship is seeking abstracts for papers to be delivered in two SMFS-sponsored sessions at the Southeastern Medieval Association Conference, which will convene in Greensboro, North Caroliina 14-16 November, 2019.

Please submit an abstract of 300 words plus a brief bio by 3 June, 2019. (Please note that the sessions are contingent upon conference organizers’ approval, although we have an excellent track record of having our sessions accepted at this conference.)

Contact: Melissa Ridley Elmes, MElmes@lindenwood.edu

Session 1: Sex, Gender, and Violence on the Premodern Stage

This session seeks 15-20 minute papers discussing any aspect of gender and violence as they relate to premodern dramatic texts and/or staging practices. We encourage papers from any discipline and/ or theoretical approach. We are particularly interested in papers examining female/women characters and violence in medieval drama, which is profoundly understudied, but will also happily consider abstracts for papers dealing with masculinities and/or queerness, and papers examining early modern drama.

Session 2: Women and Medicine in the Medieval World

This session seeks 15-20 minute papers on the topic of “women and medicine in the medieval world.” This subject can be construed broadly as women working in a variety of medical practices, or medical practices involving or focused on women, or the writing about and/or theoretical considerations of either, or how women and medicine are depicted in medieval literature, or research on gender and disease, or visual depictions of women and medicine/ medical practices, and similar. We encourage papers from any discipline, and are especially interested in research that engages with the subject of women and medicine, or what we might term “health sciences,” today, from a non-Western or comparative viewpoint although of course any strong proposal will be considered.

Highlights from the Parergon archives

In this new series, we ask members of Parergon‘s Early Career Committee to tell us about a Parergon article that really stood out for them and why they found it valuable for their research. In this post, Dr Keagan Brewer, Honorary Research Associate in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at The University of Sydney, shares his pick.

Lawrence Warner, “Geoffrey of Monmouth and the De-Judaized Crusade”, Parergon, vol. 21, no. 1 (2004), pp. 19–37. (DOI: 10.1353/pgn.2004.0076)

As an undergraduate, I had been aware of Lawrence Warner’s presence at the Medieval and Early Modern Centre at the University of Sydney. His was a face that I had seen around. I knew he specialised in Middle English, which I would have described at the time as ‘not my sort of thing’. Nevertheless, an enthusiastic undergraduate should read papers written by members of their department.

Warner’s paper was my first exposure to Parergon and the paper itself was incredibly interesting because I was a student of the crusades. It offered a completely novel approach to reading Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britanniae. Having not read it at that stage, I had previously considered this text the domain of Anglo-Saxonists. The main thesis of Warner’s article is that the conquest of Britain can be construed as a ‘de-Judaized crusade’, and that this idea may have appealed to Geoffrey of Monmouth’s intended audience in a milieu of crusading and—all too frequently—anti-Jewish sentiment.

Warner notes the reliance on Old-Testament imagery in crusading literature and by Geoffrey of Monmouth, in both of which the protagonists are made to ‘out-do the Israelites’, as Warner puts it. To the undergraduate me, it was a completely novel way of thinking because it combined domains of medieval history that I considered starkly separate: Britain, crusading, Jewish history, and mythology. Warner links crusading to the Exodus, the Aeneid, the Brutus legends, and to Merlin. Britain and the Holy Land, in reality and idea, were more interconnected than I had previously believed, particularly for medieval English readers. I would recommend this piece to anyone interested in crusading, the politics of Arthurian literature, Jewish history, or the reception of Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Parergon can be accessed via Project MUSE (from Volume 1 (1983)), Australian Public Affairs – Full Text (from 1994), and Humanities Full Text (from 2008). For more information on the current issue and on submitting manuscripts for consideration, please visit https://parergon.org/


CFP Histories of Death: An International Symposium

Histories of Death: An International Symposium will take place at the University of Turku, Finland, February 19–21, 2020.

Our understandings of death come with long and complex histories, shaped by culture, place, time, power, and identities. Historical analysis allows us to better understand the paths that have led to the recent move toward “death positivity,” and the popularity of death doulas, “death cafes,” alternative and ecological burial solutions, and new understandings of grief. The interdisciplinary and rapidly growing field of Death Studies raises awareness about how we die and mourn, and the ways social factors – class, migrant background, and gender, among them – can result in unequal access to “good death” in many countries and communities today. This International Symposium seeks to delve into the many varied and interwoven Histories of Death to further explore the traditions, ideologies, and institutions that shape our experiences with death.

Death sets people into action, caring for the dying, the deceased, and the grieving in ways that range from the intimate to the professional. The Histories of Death Symposium invites researchers to share their work and engage in dialogue about the different ways people have approached dying, death, and mourning from everyday, cultural, and structural perspectives. The symposium calls for papers, posters, and creative works that may analyze:

  • the social and everyday histories of death
  • histories of death in the context of migration(s)
  • narratives and/or life writing of death and mourning
  • histories of emotion and mourning
  • sensory and corporeal histories of death and mourning
  • childhood and family histories of death
  • health, gerontological, and palliative care histories
  • art and craftwork in histories of death
  • methods and ethics for the study of death in history

Proposals across times and places are welcome. Though the focus is on death and mourning in historical contexts, the symposium is particularly interested in exploring inter/transdisciplinary approaches, and scholars from all backgrounds are welcome to participate.

Please email abstracts of 250 words, indicating whether you are proposing a paper presentation, poster presentations, or creative work, together with a max. 150-word bio, including name, institutional affiliation and position, and email address, to historiesofdeath@gmail.com by 15 August, 2019.

Information about registration, plenary speakers, travel, and accommodation will be posted shortly on the Symposium website.

The Symposium is hosted by the John Morton Center for North American Studies at the University of Turku’s Department of Philosophy, Political Science, and Contemporary History. The Symposium in funded by the Academy of Finland.

CFP 2020 GMS conference: Gender, Science, and the “Natural World”

The 2020 Gender and Medieval Studies conference, ‘Gender, Science, and the “Natural World”‘ will be held at Swansea University on 6th to 8th January 2020. 

Two contrasting interpretations of human creation – the Aristotelian conception of the ‘natural’ default of life as male, and Hildegard of Bingen’s conception of life as a feminized process of natality and viriditas (‘greening’) – subscribe in different ways to an ancient and medieval worldview that prioritises a God-given schematic order with the human at its centre. For Aristotle (d. 322 BCE), however, ‘Females are weaker and colder in their nature (than males) and we should look upon the female state as being as it were a deformity’ (On the Generation of Animals 4:3); whereas for Hildegard (d. 1179) the natural world presents as a dynamic, God-given revelation of natality in its greenness, unfolding and flourishing: ‘By the secret design of the Supernatural Creator . . . the infant in the maternal womb receives a spirit, and shows by the movements of its body that it lives, just as the earth opens and brings forth the flowers of its use when the dew falls on it’ (Scivias, I.iv). This conference will interrogate such gendered configurations of the ‘natural’ world in the medieval imaginary and the influence of scientific and medical ideas upon understandings of the universe.

We seek papers engaging with such ideas from a range of disciplines and intersectional approaches, encompassing, for example, history, literature, medicine, theology, science, politics, archaeology, medical humanities, music, and art. The conference will explore the diverse ways in which medieval writers, artists and other thinkers respond to apparently hegemonic schemas of ‘science’ and ‘nature’ during the Middle Ages. How is ‘nature’ conceptualised? In what ways are scientific and philosophical systems upheld and subverted? What occurs when such models are inflected by gender, race, differently-abled bodies or queered? What might be figured as unnatural, and how is such a notion connected to gender, power and desire? How is the ‘natural’ world conducive or inconducive to bodily or spiritual health? And how do human and non-human bodies align or jar within this schema? Recently, Donna Haraway has argued that the Greek idea of the Chthulucene – a ‘timeplace’ of the now and new beginnings, but which also imbricates remembrance and the what-might-yet-be – offers understanding of a diachronic entanglement of all earthly existents as deeply connected ‘mixed assemblages’ (‘Making Kin’, 2015). In examining the order and disorder of the medieval world from a range of intersectional perspectives, like Haraway, we will ask what is at stake for our understanding of the earth, the human, in the then and the now.

Proposals for papers might engage with, but are not limited to:

  • Scientific understandings of the natural world
  • Scientific explanations of the gendered human body
  • The relationship between the human and non-human
  • Semioses of the human position in the medieval universe and the ways that people self-conceptualised
  • Order / disorder / queerness / monstrosity
  • Medieval medicine and its connection to the ‘natural’ world
  • The music of the spheres
  • The medieval garden and its heterotopic spaces
  • Discourses of flourishing and atrophy
  • Theologies of ‘nature’ and the ‘natural’
  • The interrelation of medicine and religion

We are now calling for proposals of 300 words, from scholars at any stage of study or career, for:

  • Standard 20-minute papers;
  • Position-paper sessions (90-minutes) with up to 7 participants;
  • Roundtable sessions (90-minutes) with up to 5 participants;
  • Postgraduate research posters for a competition (the winner will receive free GMS registration for the 2021 conference. The poster will be published on the website)

Contributions engaging with a range of theoretical approaches are particularly welcome.

Abstracts should be sent to Laura Kalas Williams (l.e.williams@swansea.ac.uk) by 31 July 2019.