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.
- 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