Monday, December 14, 2009

The Foreign, the Familiar, and the Fantastic in the Middle Ages

22nd Annual Medieval Studies Symposium
March 26-27, 2010
Indiana University, Bloomington

*Abstracts due February 2nd, 2010*

The Foreign, the Familiar, and the Fantastic in the Middle Ages

Traditional notions of the Middle Ages conceive of its peoples as
insular and close-minded, as living in a period of willful ignorance
that lies in stark contrast to the cosmopolitanism and
inquisitiveness that characterizes the Renaissance. This conception
of medieval peoples as being ignorant of other cultures has recently
been challenged by scholars who point to moments of contact with the
foreign. The fact remains, however, that in the Middle Ages there
existed a tenuous relationship between the familiar and the foreign.

The presence of the fantastic complicates the dichotomy of the
foreign and the familiar. Many instances of contact between foreign
peoples and ideas were occasioned, e.g., by religious convictions.
The most obvious example of this dynamic is the Crusades, but
numerous other cases exist where the fantastic - the divine, the
supernatural, etc. - is intimately bound up in navigating the tension
between the foreign and the familiar.
But scholars do not have to look only at the meetings of foreign
peoples to uncover a concern about foreignness-the foreign can also
be found at home. Here, too, in the realm of the familiar, religion
provided a conceptual framework for thinking about foreign ideas,
peoples, and phenomena. In such examples as demonic possession,
saints' miracles, and the romance tradition, among many others,
medieval peoples expressed concern with otherness and found ways to
bring it into dialogue with their own familiar worldview.

We welcome papers that interrogate notions of the foreign, the
familiar, and the fantastic in the Middle Ages. We seek papers from
both faculty and graduate students in any medieval field of study,
East or West. Topics may include, but are not limited to, those
related to spirituality, philosophy, history, science and learning,
art and architecture, music and literature, politics, influential
figures, law, commerce, ideology and belief, or language.

For examples, papers might address one of the following:
-- Contact between the East and West
-- Confrontations between different cultures during the Crusades
-- Relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims
-- Notions of the human and the divine
-- Understanding/defining the categories "natural," "supernatural,"
and "unnatural"
-- Controversies of heresy and orthodoxy
-- Conceptions of the self and the other
-- Any other topics that examine notions of familiarity, foreignness,
and fantasy

Medievalists of all disciplines are encouraged to participate.
Please submit one-page abstracts by February 1, 2009, to the
following website:

Click on the link for "The Foreign, the Familiar, and the Fantastic
in the Middle Ages" and then the link to "Submit an Abstract." You
will be led to a page where you can create an account for the
symposium and submit your abstract to the conference committee. If
you have any questions, please send an e-mail to

Feel free to pass this CFP along to any other medieval listservs.


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