Session Title

Rethinking "Medieval" for the Twenty-First Century

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Univ. of Missouri-Columbia

Organizer Name

Emma Lipton

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Missouri-Columbia

Presider Name

Rabia Gregory

Presider Affiliation

Univ. of Missouri-Columbia

Paper Title 1

Medieval/New

Presenter 1 Name

Patricia Clare Ingham

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-Bloomington

Paper Title 2

What to Do with the "Middle" in the Middle Ages

Presenter 2 Name

Katie Little

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Univ. of Colorado-Boulder

Paper Title 3

Vox Clamantis: The Voice of Medieval Authority in Shakespeare's Pericles

Presenter 3 Name

Kurt Schreyer

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Missouri-St. Louis

Start Date

9-5-2014 3:30 PM

Session Location

Valley III Stinson Lounge

Description

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MARS) program at the University of Missouri invites proposals for 15 to 20 minute papers reconsidering what “medieval” means and where “the medieval” is located in a global context. We especially hope that centers and programs broadly involved in Medieval Studies will be interested in engaging with these topics. This session invites medievalists to reclaim “medieval” itself, seeking new strategies for periodization which may account for regional differences and defend against contemporary institutional concerns.

“Medieval” was invented in the 15th century to distinguish the cultural production of humanists in western Europe from their immediate historical predecessors and has since been applied haphazardly to other global civilizations with social hierarchies analogous to feudalism and to contemporary acts of brutal violence. Despite this negative, post-medieval connotation, and although we acknowledge its Eurocentric anachronism, scholars have embraced “medieval” as an interdisciplinary humanistic field, and “medievalist” as an identity. As Paul Oskar Kristeller warned the Medieval Academy in his 1976 presidential address, medieval studies has flourished “ever since the Middle Ages,” yet the boundaries of “medieval” shift according to region and the subject of study. Then, Centers of Medieval and Renaissance Studies were establishing themselves as venues for interdisciplinary research, albeit focused primarily on Western culture. Now, the study of the medieval past, and the medieval heritage of modern university education, are increasingly viewed as outmoded, in need of reform if not removal. In his divisive 2009 New York Times editorial “End the University as We know It,” Columbia's Mark C. Taylor cited a dissertation "on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations" as emblematic of narrow scholarship produced within a still-medieval education system in need of reform. As Rémi Brague writes, "'we are modern' in fact states, 'We are no longer of the Middle Ages.' The Middle Ages are thus the mirror in which we see ourselves." Even as medievalists strive to engage with modernity through critical theory, interdisciplinary work, and the digital humanities, “medieval” remains tainted by a perception of backwards provincialism. Boundaries for “medieval” remain contested, and differ according to whether one is studying religion, art, philosophy, economic history, or vernacular literature. Our period is an interim between “classical” and “modern,” a yawning span of ten centuries or more, across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Can medievalists retain the “medieval” and the related metaphors of conduit and mirror to better explain what medieval studies does and why it matters? Redefining the vocabulary of our discipline is a central aspect of academic discovery. Papers might consider the relationship between a "medieval" era and colonial occupation, religious reform, or technological innovation. Comparative papers addressing similarities and differences in “medieval” periods across geographic regions, reflections and critiques on classical works of periodization such as those by Huizinga and Burckhardt, papers interrogating the role of “medieval and renaissance studies” programs at the University level, and theoretical papers which seek to reclaim “medieval” as a hermeneutic for humanistic work are especially welcome.

Emma Lipton

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May 9th, 3:30 PM

Rethinking "Medieval" for the Twenty-First Century

Valley III Stinson Lounge

The Medieval and Renaissance Studies (MARS) program at the University of Missouri invites proposals for 15 to 20 minute papers reconsidering what “medieval” means and where “the medieval” is located in a global context. We especially hope that centers and programs broadly involved in Medieval Studies will be interested in engaging with these topics. This session invites medievalists to reclaim “medieval” itself, seeking new strategies for periodization which may account for regional differences and defend against contemporary institutional concerns.

“Medieval” was invented in the 15th century to distinguish the cultural production of humanists in western Europe from their immediate historical predecessors and has since been applied haphazardly to other global civilizations with social hierarchies analogous to feudalism and to contemporary acts of brutal violence. Despite this negative, post-medieval connotation, and although we acknowledge its Eurocentric anachronism, scholars have embraced “medieval” as an interdisciplinary humanistic field, and “medievalist” as an identity. As Paul Oskar Kristeller warned the Medieval Academy in his 1976 presidential address, medieval studies has flourished “ever since the Middle Ages,” yet the boundaries of “medieval” shift according to region and the subject of study. Then, Centers of Medieval and Renaissance Studies were establishing themselves as venues for interdisciplinary research, albeit focused primarily on Western culture. Now, the study of the medieval past, and the medieval heritage of modern university education, are increasingly viewed as outmoded, in need of reform if not removal. In his divisive 2009 New York Times editorial “End the University as We know It,” Columbia's Mark C. Taylor cited a dissertation "on how the medieval theologian Duns Scotus used citations" as emblematic of narrow scholarship produced within a still-medieval education system in need of reform. As Rémi Brague writes, "'we are modern' in fact states, 'We are no longer of the Middle Ages.' The Middle Ages are thus the mirror in which we see ourselves." Even as medievalists strive to engage with modernity through critical theory, interdisciplinary work, and the digital humanities, “medieval” remains tainted by a perception of backwards provincialism. Boundaries for “medieval” remain contested, and differ according to whether one is studying religion, art, philosophy, economic history, or vernacular literature. Our period is an interim between “classical” and “modern,” a yawning span of ten centuries or more, across Europe, Africa, and Asia. Can medievalists retain the “medieval” and the related metaphors of conduit and mirror to better explain what medieval studies does and why it matters? Redefining the vocabulary of our discipline is a central aspect of academic discovery. Papers might consider the relationship between a "medieval" era and colonial occupation, religious reform, or technological innovation. Comparative papers addressing similarities and differences in “medieval” periods across geographic regions, reflections and critiques on classical works of periodization such as those by Huizinga and Burckhardt, papers interrogating the role of “medieval and renaissance studies” programs at the University level, and theoretical papers which seek to reclaim “medieval” as a hermeneutic for humanistic work are especially welcome.

Emma Lipton