Monday, September 14, 2009

Sights, sounds, and species

CALL FOR PAPERS
International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan
13-16 May 2010

Sights, sounds, and species:
Performance, Performativity and Alfonso X’s Cantigas de Santa Maria

Over twenty years have passed since Ana Domínguez suggested that iconographic evidence from the thirteenth-century Cantigas de Santa Maria points to Alfonso X’s own theatrical participation in the songs of praise. Responding to Domínguez in 1991, John Keller writes, “Alfonso… seems to have arranged for portrayals of drama, ritual, and incipient opera to be painted in many of the miniatures....” Despite these observations, and the fact that the collection of 427 Marian devotional songs derived from Iberian and French troubadour performance traditions, the corpus of criticism on the theatrical and performative aspects of the songs is slight. This session proposes to rekindle interest in these issues by encouraging submissions that follow one of two related methodological approaches. First, papers may consider elements of historical staging, instrumentation, embodied behavior and gesture, and audience reception of the songs. Second, papers may employ critical tools from performance and manuscript studies to investigate processes of readerly engagements with the verse, music, and illuminations of the manuscripts themselves; this following Pamela Sheingorn’s definition of “performative reading,” which “constitutes the reader-viewer as a practitioner of affective devotion,” and casts him/her in the role of creative participant in the production of spiritual and social values.

Research questions might include (but are not limited to):

* How might the multimedia aspects of the manuscripts have contributed to a performative reading? Did the combination of musical, textual, and pictorial elements in the manuscripts contribute to a devotional or political practice for its readers?
* Can medieval theories of the senses help us understand how the Marian narratives may have been received by manuscript readers and/or audiences to a staging of the Cantigas?
* Can we draw from our knowledge of thirteenth-century poetic-musical forms, like the zajal, muwashshah, or virelai, to help us understand performance methods, such as musical rhythm and duration?
* How have contemporary early music ensembles used images of instruments from the MS illuminations, or other medieval evidence, to interpret the songs?
* What might performances of the Cantigas in the Cathedral of Seville have looked and sounded like? Can we use evidence from the manuscript to draw conclusions about performance, or do we need to look at the broader Galician-Portuguese performance culture?

E-mail an abstract of no more than 300 words by 1 October 2009 to Christopher Swift (cswift@gc.cuny.edu) or Anne Stone (astone@gc.cuny.edu).

The Medieval Studies Certificate Program
The Graduate Center of the City University of New York
365 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10016

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