Thursday, September 2, 2010

Desire (and Its Malcontents) in Late Medieval England

This is a call for papers for Kalamazoo in May 2011, for a session
called "Desire (and Its Malcontents) in Late Medieval England."

Desire--for another, for some object, or for some objective--is
fairly universal among people, but as a strong emotion it can either
overcome rational control or be brutally suppressed, at either
extreme. Most of us control it and act with reason to fulfill our
desires or deny them, depending on the socially acceptable means of
obtaining them and on circumstances regarding the objects themselves.

Late medieval England witnessed a burgeoning of lay interest in
literature and piety in ways not previously documented closely; that
is, the growth of a literate middle class produced a growth of written
and other materials that reflected their interests, even as these
materials pandered to those interests. It also produced a large and
growing body of vernacular literature, increasingly secular in nature.

This session intends to bring together historical, literary,
pastoral, devotional, artistic, and other studies that investigate the
emotion of desire, whether through its depiction as a natural feature
of human existence, as a feature to be suppressed and inhibited, as
one to be sublimated in other directions, or as one to be viewed in
some other fashion.

Comparisons with our own attitudes will be unavoidable, but the
papers should focus on late-medieval attitudes as revealed through
physical remains. At the same time, the remains should be allowed to
speak for themselves as contemporaries would have intended and
understood them, not as modern theories would prefer to interpret them
in ahistorical ways.

Since this is not a pre-organized session with empty slots, 3 or 4
papers (which will be limited to 20 or 15 minutes' speaking time,
respectively) are welcome. Please send abstracts by September 15th to
me privately (not to the list) by e-mail ( or or s-mail, as below. Please be sure to supply
the other documentation the Medieval Congress requires:

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