Medieval Association of the Midwest

Call for Papers

MAM-Sponsored Sessions at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies 2019 (May 9-12)

The Medieval Association of the Midwest is pleased to sponsor six sessions at the 2019 International Congress on Medieval Studies. Calls for papers are below; please contact session organizers with submissions or questions.

The Medieval “Canon” in the Early British Literature Survey (A Roundtable)

Editors and publishers of British literary survey textbooks wield tremendous power in the explicit determination of what is and is not medieval canonical literature and what should be taught in the early British literature survey. This roundtable seeks short papers that explore ways in which instructors have moved beyond the traditional canon that publishers of these anthologies have created. Specifically, we welcome presentations that examine texts situated outside of the traditional/publisher-sanctioned medieval canon, the ways in which so-called non-canonical texts can be incorporated into the time period and the course, and how instructors address aspects of canonicity within the early survey. Please submit an abstract for an 8- to 10-minute presentation to Alex Kaufman at

The Medieval in Children's Literature

Although the presence of medieval elements in children's literature has long been acknowledged, this session invites papers that explore how recent children's literature authors extend their treatment of the medieval beyond the conventional heroes of Britain, and Europe in general. Authors retell tales of Beowulf, Robin Hood, and King Arthurs with female and non-binary protagonists, filling in gaps of traditional narratives, and creating new characters to engage with these older themes. This session particularly seeks papers that address issues of diversity in race, gender and sexuality, religion, and/or geography in children's literature that treats of the medieval, both Western and non-Western. Please submit an abstract for a 15- to 20-minute presentation to Kristin Bovaird-Abbo at

Queyntes, Cuckolds, and Handsy Clerks: Toxic Masculinity and Medieval Bro Culture 

One of the most popular of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is without a doubt The Miller’s Tale—but why?  While the physical comedy of hende Nicholas grabbing the miller’s wife Alisoun by the queynte and getting a hot colter in the nethers after a fart joke is rollicking fun in the classroom, Nicholas’ behaviors and sexual morĂ©s grate against the culture of informed consent and equality we foster as educators.  Nor is Nicholas’ behavior uncharacteristic from a medieval perspective:  From the homosocial bragging rights and cuckoldry of chivalric romance to the real life drunken profligacy of the scholarly class inspiring Chaucer’s satirical portrayal of Nicholas, representations of medieval masculinity ape many of the same reductive stereotypes that we seek to confront in our current discourses on sex and power. This panel seeks papers that will explore these manifestations of sexual license and gender-essentializing behavior in medieval history and literature in order to inform our current debates about toxic masculinity in our own media and politics.  If we are to understand our role in educating future generations about consent and gender, we must first engage with the enduring legacy of male homosocial narratives that marginalize women’s agency and excuse men’s objectification of women.  In other words, we need to develop a critical appraisal of the roots of medieval “bro” culture and their continued relevance for our present-day social realities of consent and exploitation. Please submit an abstract for a 15- to 20-minute presentation to Matthew O’Donnell at

Lawless Justice or Lawful Injustice?

Starting with Plato and Aristotle, western culture has venerated justice as the foundation of a moral society. From Augustine through to the onset of the early modern period, questions of secular law and justice could not be separated from Christian morality. This session proposes to examine literary, historical, theological, philosophical, and artistic representations of the complex relationship between justice and law, as this relationship is envisioned in political, social, natural, and supernatural contexts. Are the cities of justice and law irreconcilable, as Augustine thought, or intermeshed as in Dante's Commedia, and what kind of continuum could connect what Foucault called the "blood that has dried on the [law] codes" with the blood of martyrs? Especially welcome are interdisciplinary approaches to this question. Please submit an abstract for a 15- to 20-minute presentation to Toy-Fung Tung at

Interpretative Impasses and the Pearl Poet

Complex, multivalent poems like "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" capture the imagination of audiences, but it seems the more assertively critics declare a "problem solved" regarding such complex moments as "the viability of Gawain's first confession scene," "the symbolic nature of the exchange of kisses," or even something as fundamental as the dates of the poems, the more evident it becomes that other interpretations are possible.  Do we declare an impasse?  Do we suggest as teachers and critics that multiple readings were intended by the poet, or at the very least, must be respected, despite the fact that our publishing criteria and our students demand the "right" interpretations?  This panel will invite critical readings of any of the Pearl poet's poems with an aim to explore what multiple readings of "quagmire moments" in the text both reveal and muddy for readers. Please submit an abstract for a 15- to 20-minute presentation to Mickey Sweeney at

Nevertheless, She Resisted: Centering Female Will and Consent in Medieval Literature

As Amy Vines notes, rape in medieval literature often functions as a “chivalric necessity,” a means of articulating masculine identity that elides or ignores questions of female bodily sovereignty and autonomy of will in favor of the male protagonist’s development. Yet we also find instances where texts implicitly or explicitly call attention to the act of rape as a violation of female will, either in dread of the act, in the face of its perpetration, or its aftermath. Building on recent work by Vines, Elizabeth Robertson, Christine Rose, Suzanne Edwards, and Carissa Harris, this session seeks papers of 15-20 minutes exploring narratives of resistance in medieval literary portrayals of rape. In what ways do such narratives recenter female will and consent? What different modes of resistance to sexual violence do they articulate? To what extent do they return agency to survivors of sexual violence? Please submit an abstract for a 15- to 20-minute presentation to Alison Langdon at

Submissions should be accompanied by a Participant Information Form ( Those who are not currently members of the Medieval Association of the Midwest are welcome to submit to sessions sponsored by MAM but are expected to join ($25) upon acceptance. Proposals that are not accepted for the session will be forwarded to the Congress Committee to consider for inclusion in one of the General Sessions.

The Medieval Association of the Midwest (MAM) is a non-profit association of scholars devoted to the study of the Middle Ages. For more information, contact the website editor, Matthew Heintzelman.

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