53rd Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo: Call for Papers

AVISTA invites submissions for the following sessions of papers. Please send an abstract (500 words max) and Participant Information Form to the session organizer(s) by September 15, 2017.

Enchanted Environs: Architecture, Automata, and the Art of Mechanical Performance

Co-Organizers: Zachary Stewart, Texas A&M Univ., zstewart@tamu.edu
Amy Gillette, The Barnes Foundation, agillette@barnesfoundation.org

Medieval spaces were often sites of spectacular performances animated by various kinds of mechanical installations—the most complex of which featured automata or self-operating devices. Some items survive in material form; the most notable examples are the famous mechanical clocks of Central Europe. Other items survive in textual form; examples range from the singing birds in the palace of Caliph al-Muqtadir, the dancing monkeys in the garden of Count Robert II of Artois, and the bowing angel in the coronation pavilion of King Richard II of England to the Throne of Solomon of Middle Byzantine Constantinople, the ritual statues of late medieval Spain, and the liturgical set-pieces of late medieval Italy. This session, enriched by the work of scholars such as Jean Gimpel and, more recently, Scott Lightsey and Elly Truitt, seeks to revisit the issue of mechanical installations as it relates to the history of the built environment— an area of academic research in which studies of human performance are many but studies of non-human performance are few. The working conceit of the session will be that of the Wunderkammer. Participants will deliver a series of shorter papers in order to facilitate a wide-ranging exploration of mechanical invention in the medieval world: Latin, Byzantine, and Islamic. Possible topics of inquiry may include individual case studies, modes of production and/or reception, and larger questions of historical evidence (physical, textual, and visual) and/or historical significance (political, social, and economic). Especially desirable are contributions involving technical reconstructions (analog or digital), theoretical speculations (phenomenological or ontological), and, in keeping with the mission of AVISTA, investigations of famous polymaths such as Ismail al-Jazari, Villard d’Honnecourt, and Leonardo da Vinci.

Experimental Archaeology (co-sponsored with ExArc)

Organizer: Sean Winslow, Univ. of Toronto, sean.winslow@utoronto.ca

One of the founding principles of AVISTA is the recreation of medieval scientific and technological processes: experimentation and recreation plays an important part in establishing baseline expectations from which to proceed, and can approach but not definitively recover the knowledge that would have been possessed by the original artisans (“tacit” knowledge) as modern experimenters have only what was documented (“explicit” knowledge) to work with in creating a reconstruction. Working with the surface, “explicit,” aspects of the tradition creates an incomplete (and sometimes, incoherent) picture that experimentation looks to fill out. In this session, we will invite speakers to present on experiments that they have done in order to create and contextualize knowledge about medieval science, technology, and art, as well as discuss the specific ways that the theories of Experimental Archaeology fits into the field of medieval studies. 

AVISTA Villard de Honnecourt Award and Travel Grants

AVISTA is pleased to offer the annual, merit-based Villard de Honnecourt Award for the outstanding paper by a graduate student in an AVISTA session at the ICMS at Kalamazoo. It is based on evaluation of the candidate’s abstract and CV. This award, which comes with a $500 honorarium, is intended to further young talent in the study of medieval technology, science, and art. The Society is also pleased to offer up to two $500 grants-in-aid to graduate students or independent scholars to defray costs of attending the ICMS at Kalamazoo. Application for one of these grants consists of a 300-word statement of need and CV, which should be submitted to the session organizer(s) by September 15, 2017, together with the paper abstract and PIF form.

In addition to the paper sessions listed above, AVISTA will also sponsor the following roundtable and demonstration:

Experiential Pedagogy (co-sponsored with TEAMS) (Roundtable)

Organizer: Sean Winslow, Univ. of Toronto

Students learn in different ways and take ownership when they have to solve problems on their own. Experiential pedagogy, which provides hands-on experiences, has been shown to increase student engagement and deepen their understanding of course material. In this roundtable, panelists from a range of disciplines in medieval studies will discuss specific experiential learning activities (i.e. performance, hands-on activities, making) and best practices for using experiential pedagogy to make the Middle Ages come alive in the classroom.

Learning in Action: Geometry and Cathedral Design (Demonstration)

Organizer: Jennifer M. Feltman, Univ. of Alabama

The beauty and grandeur of medieval cathedrals lies not only in their vast scale, but also in their harmonious proportions, created by the use of ancient principles of geometry, such as √2 rectangles and the Golden Section. In this experiential learning demo, AVISTA members will show how cathedral plans were laid-out ad quadratum, from the square, using simple tools such as stakes, string and a measuring rod.