Sunday, September 2, 2018

Call for Papers: Mediocrity: 11th Annual Medievalists @ Penn Conference

We are pleased to announce the call for papers for our annual spring conference, "Mediocrity in the Middle Ages: Finding the Middle Ground," to be held at Penn on February 22, 2019. Our keynote speaker will be Sonja Drimmer (Assistant Professor of Medieval Art and Architecture, UMass Amherst).

Please see below for a shareable PDF and the full text of the CFP.


What makes something “mediocre” in the Middle Ages? We often assume that if a manuscript, literary text, or work of visual or performance art has survived from the medieval period, it is exceptional in some way. Modern scholarship tends to enforce this assumption by either praising a work for its beauty and importance, or arguing for the centrality and exceptionality of something that past scholarship has ignored. But what of things that have survived that are just OK? How can clarifying the boundaries of what modern or medieval critics consider(ed) “good” and “bad” art still leave room for mediocrity? What can this middle ground teach us about form, aesthetics, language, and reception? Resisting the notion that any texts surviving from the Middle Ages are likely exceptional in some way, this conference seeks to examine unexceptional artistic productions in the Middle Ages, to consider what we can learn from medial texts and artifacts, and to critically assess the metrics by which we evaluate quality. We hope that this topic will challenge the spectrum endpoints of what has been labelled “good” or “bad” by searching for the middle ground. 

We invite 15-20 minute papers on this subject from any discipline, including History, Art History, Musicology,  Manuscript Studies, Literary Studies, Religious Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • Non-deluxe manuscript codices and fragments
  • Artists and writers outside conventional canons
  • Medieval theories of artistic quality (or lack thereof)
  • Microhistories of “ordinary” medieval people
  • Average devotional practices; the religious lives of the unsaintly
  • Contemporary and historical reception and criticism
  • Differences in quality between text and image, or text and music
  • Unexceptional examples of common genres, such as romance
  • Translation, adaptation, and/or reproduction of medieval objects
  • Mediality of the “Middle” Ages
Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words as attachments to pennmedieval@gmail.com by December 2, 2018. Submissions should include your name, paper title, email, and institutional and departmental affiliation. Papers will be due February 12, 2019 for distribution to faculty respondents.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Online Resources for Medievalists

Please click the image below (or the link in the sidebar) for the new M@P Online Resources for Medievalists document! Links compiled by Ph.D. Candidate Daniel Davies and other M@P student and faculty members.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Vulnerability: 10th Annual Medievalists @ Penn Graduate Conference


Thanks to all of our presenters, respondents, moderators, and attendees for helping us to put on another great conference. Special mention to our keynote speaker Masha Raskolnikov; to Courtney Rydel, Penn English PhD and one of the earliest organizers of M@P, who returned to us as a respondent; and to the staff of the Kislak Center for their ongoing help and advice. We're also grateful to SIMS graduate intern Oliver Mitchell, who reviewed the conference for the Schoenberg Institute blog.

Click here to visit the conference website: medievul.tumblr.com

Photo of Panel 3 by David Wallace

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Medieval Events in Spring 2018

Please see below for a selection of M@P and related events at Penn this spring. For a more complete listing of events, see the Global Medieval Studies calendar.

Jan 30: M@P Meeting: Discussion of Steven Justice’s “Did the Middle Ages Believe in Their Miracles?”
Feb 7: Med/Ren WIP: Julie Orlemanski
Feb 20: M@P Meeting: Discussion of Wulf and Eadwacer and Sarah Harlan-Haughey's The Ecology of the English Outlaw in Medieval Literature
Feb 27: Irina Dumitrescu lecture: “The Riddle of the Old English Andreas
Mar 17: Vulnerability: 10th Annual Medievalists @ Penn Conference
Mar 23-24: Gothic Arts Conference
Mar 29: Med/Ren WIP: Carolyn Dinshaw
Mar 30-31: Yale/Penn Workshop: Digital Editing and the Medieval Manuscript Roll
Apr 17: M@P Meeting: Discussion of Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages
Apr 25: Med/Ren WIP: Sarah Novacich



Monday, November 6, 2017

M@P Meeting on Nov. 13th: Epistre Othea

Sarah Wilma Watson will lead our meeting next Monday, which will address Christine de Pizan's Epistre Othea (Letter of Othea) and Stephen Scrope's Middle English translation of the Othea. We'll also be looking at the corresponding images in BL Harley MS 4431folios 95r-141v.

Sarah writes: Christine de Pizan's Epistre Othea (Letter of Othea) is a mirror for princes/ chivalric manual/ guide to spiritual development written around 1399. It takes the form of a letter from Othea, the goddess of Prudence, to a young prince Hector of Troy. It has a three-part structure - a poetic 'texte' and a prose 'glose' and 'allegorie.' In some versions it is accompanied by an elaborate series of illustrations. It was translated into Middle English by Stephen Scrope in 1440. 

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Monday, October 16, 2017

Call for Papers: Vulnerability: 10th Annual Medievalists @ Penn Conference

Saturday, March 17th 2018, University of Pennsylvania
Keynote Speaker: Masha Raskolnikov, Cornell University

This conference explores the forms and contexts of vulnerability in the Middle Ages, defining vulnerability as a state of being that precedes but does not necessarily entail violence and as a condition that is temporalized, oriented toward a future that is potentially hazardous. What are the methods by which the Middle Ages constructed and maintained states of vulnerability? If we think of vulnerability as entailing threat, what are the methods by which people or things are constructed as threats? What did it mean for medieval people to be living under threat?


We invite 15-20 minute papers on this subject from any discipline, including History, Art History, Musicology, Literary Studies, Religious Studies, Critical Race Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • The construction of race and alterity
  • Gendered vulnerability and issues of care or protection
  • Ecological threat and disaster
  • Class, resource scarcity, and economic precarity
  • (Dis)Ability and illness
  • Trials, court cases, and legal actions
  • War and political conflict
  • Heresy and threats posed by religious orthodoxy
  • Vulnerable and damaged material texts or objects
  • The positions of medievalists in modern society


Please submit abstracts of no more than 300 words as attachments to pennmedieval@gmail.com by January 15, 2018. Submissions should include your name, paper title, email, and institutional and departmental affiliation. Papers will be due March 10, 2018 for distribution to faculty respondents.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Welcome back to another year at Penn! Our next meeting will be on October 23 at 10:30 AM in 516 Williams Hall. We'll be discussing Kellie Robertson's Nature Speaks: Medieval Literature and Aristotelian Philosophy, published by Penn Press in 2017. All are welcome!