Session Title

Medieval History and Marxist Thought

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Luke Fidler

Organizer Affiliation

Univ. of Chicago

Presider Name

Luke Fidler

Paper Title 1

Reading Transitions? Historical Feudalism and Middle English Poetry

Presenter 1 Name

Jack Dragu

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Univ. of Chicago

Paper Title 2

"Mit dem Kreidestift und Farben": Revolutionizing Grünewald in the German Democratic Republic

Presenter 2 Name

Tamara Golan

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Johns Hopkins Univ.

Paper Title 3

Hell’s Proletariat: Depictions of Demon Labor in Late Medieval Northern Europe

Presenter 3 Name

Layla Seale

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Rice Univ.

Paper Title 4

Preserving Relations: Christian Support for Control of Land and Labor in Early Medieval England

Presenter 4 Name

Mark Alan Singer

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Minot State Univ.

Paper Title 5

Respondent

Presenter 5 Name

Ethan Knapp

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Ohio State Univ.

Start Date

10-5-2018 10:00 AM

Session Location

Schneider 1120

Description

The discipline of medieval studies has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Marxist analysis. Marx and Engels themselves devoted much attention to medieval economies. Historians—notably those of the Annales School—drew on methodologies derived, in part, from Marxist thought. Marxist analyses of ‘feudalism’ contributed significantly to postcolonial thought, as evidenced by the work of the Subaltern Studies Group. A series of medieval art historians (e.g. Meyer Schapiro, O.K. Werckmeister, Jane Welch Williams) have helpfully drawn attention to problems of class, labor, and resistance in the production and reception of medieval objects.

But damning critiques have also been mounted against the utility of Marxist analysis for the medieval period. Is it anachronistic to use heuristics like ‘class-consciousness’ in, say, twelfth-century Saxony? Do medieval practices of gift-giving and sacralization destabilize fundamental Marxist notions of commodification and property? Didn’t Marx and Engels simply misconstrue the medieval world in their theorization of feudalism? This session will therefore query the degree to which Marxist thought has informed/deformed our understanding of the medieval world as well as asking how medieval subjects and objects can reconfigure the tenets of Marxist theory.

Luke A. Fidler

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May 10th, 10:00 AM

Medieval History and Marxist Thought

Schneider 1120

The discipline of medieval studies has long enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Marxist analysis. Marx and Engels themselves devoted much attention to medieval economies. Historians—notably those of the Annales School—drew on methodologies derived, in part, from Marxist thought. Marxist analyses of ‘feudalism’ contributed significantly to postcolonial thought, as evidenced by the work of the Subaltern Studies Group. A series of medieval art historians (e.g. Meyer Schapiro, O.K. Werckmeister, Jane Welch Williams) have helpfully drawn attention to problems of class, labor, and resistance in the production and reception of medieval objects.

But damning critiques have also been mounted against the utility of Marxist analysis for the medieval period. Is it anachronistic to use heuristics like ‘class-consciousness’ in, say, twelfth-century Saxony? Do medieval practices of gift-giving and sacralization destabilize fundamental Marxist notions of commodification and property? Didn’t Marx and Engels simply misconstrue the medieval world in their theorization of feudalism? This session will therefore query the degree to which Marxist thought has informed/deformed our understanding of the medieval world as well as asking how medieval subjects and objects can reconfigure the tenets of Marxist theory.

Luke A. Fidler