52nd Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo: Call for Papers

The 52nd Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, will be held from May 11th to 14th, 2017, at Western Michigan University. For 2017, AVISTA is proud to sponsor three topics spanning four sessions.

Buildings, Planning, and Networks of Medieval Cities I-II

Organizers: Professor Mickey Abel, University of North Texas, and Professor Emerita Virginia Jansen, UC Santa Cruz

A modern urban planner considers not only the aesthetic and visual product, but also economic, political, and social implications, not to mention the underlying or over-arching environmental impact of any given plan. While it appears that this sort of broad, multifaceted planning did not take place in the Middle Ages because we do not have left to us the tangible evidence—maps, drawings, reports—recent scholarship employing the methodological lens of cultural geography seems to suggest otherwise.  Monastic historians, archaeologists, and art historians have long demonstrated that monasteries were very much concerned with planning in the rural sense, but how were various aspects of such planning integrated?  In the broader context of the secular built environment, where historians frequently demonstrate the economic and political interaction between monastic leadership and the local or regional authorities, can we detect a specific replication of the integrated concern with materials and aesthetics seen in the monastic complex? Are there textual sources that indicate sensitivity to planning issues such as the correlation between climate, architectural orientation and positive social interaction?   Similarly, where philosophic and religious texts highlight the mirrored nature of heaven and earth, can we find evidence of this theoretical “ordering” being  integrated into the secular world in the same way we can see it in the monastic enclosure?   What can we learn by bringing together the views of the architect, the archaeologist of infrastructure, and the environmental biologist with those scholars of literature, sculptural ornamentation and liturgy?  We invite papers from an interdisciplinary point of view on such issues as the forms that medieval cities took and why, what pre-existing buildings and spolia conveyed to the social network of urban development, and why, as well as how, people moved about and operated within urban contexts. Within an urban setting, structures that might be investigated include city halls and courts, market halls, shops, merchants’ hostelries, entertainment venues, hospitals, and prisons, as well as infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and hydraulic elements, and natural features such as topography, geological phenomena, and environmental impacts, which might question how the rural was integrated and/or maintained as attributes of the urban.  Papers that view specific constructions as part of the whole social fabric are welcome, as are those that consider how political, geographical, economic, and social issues affected the built environment, or were affected by it, during this period when a public sphere was emerging for the first time since the Roman Empire.

New Research on the Medieval Chapter House

Organizers: Professor Susan Ward, RISD, and Professor Kathleen Nolan, Hollins College

The chapter house constituted an essential component of monastic life as a site for administration, discipline, and teaching.  The multivalent functions of the chapter house often led to distinctive architectural forms as well as to complex imagery that aligned with that of the cloister.  Important earlier studies have considered questions such as the central plan of English chapter houses (Stephen Gardner, 1976), the exhortative message of chapter house sculpture (Léon Pressouyre, 1973), the problem of chapter house “portals” (Linda Seidel, 1968; Kathryn Horste, 1992; Heidrun Stein-Kecks, 2004), or have examined a single chapter house from multiple standpoints (Westminster Abbey, Society of Antiquaries of London, 2010).  This session seeks to bring together current research on the meaning and function of the chapter house.  The organizers seek discussions of architecture and figural imagery from a pan-European and multidisciplinary aspect. Possible topics might include the community of users and their gender, the impact of liturgy, patronage, funerary locus, and the reconstruction of lost monuments.  Papers examining both single chapter houses and the general typology are equally encouraged.

Medieval Tools: A Roundtable (co-sponsored with Medica: The Society for the Study of Healing in the Middle Ages, DISTAFF
[Discussion, Interpretation, and Study of Textile Arts, Fabrics, and Fashion], Societas Magica, the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence, and EXARC)

Organizer: Sean Winslow, University of Toronto

This roundtable session provides an opportunity for short presentations, demonstration, and discussion of medieval tools and technology from various realms, including artistic production, agricultural labor, construction, shipbuilding, and household use.

How to Submit a Proposal

To submit a paper or roundtable presentation for consideration, visit WMU’s website for the proposal and personal information forms. Proposals are due by September 15th, 2016, and may be emailed to Sarah Thompson. I will forward them to the appropriate session organizers.

Grants and Prizes

AVISTA is proud to offer several travel grants to assist graduate students or independent scholars with the costs of attendance, as well as the Villard Prize of $500 for the best paper proposed by a graduate student. If you are eligible for such an award and are interested, please indicate in your proposal materials that you would like to be considered.