Showing posts with label medievalisms. Show all posts
Showing posts with label medievalisms. Show all posts

Thursday, 3 April 2014

CFP: 'To Die Would be an Awfully Big Adventure': The Glory and the Gore of Death and Horror Through the Ages

Bangor University, UK
Friday 6 June 2014

Abstracts are now being invited for the 10th annual Medievalism Transformed conference at Bangor University, a one-day interdisciplinary event sponsored by the School of English Literature. We will be convening to explore the medieval world and its sustained impact on subsequent culture and thought.

Papers are welcome from all disciplines related to medieval studies as well as modern expressions of medievalism. All topics within the general scope of the conference will be considered, including:

• Preparing for death
• Dying well
• Limbo / Purgatory
• Underworld
• Disease / Black Death / Medicine
• Ghosts
• The Occult / Cults
• The grotesque
• Apocalypse
• Saints / Martyrdom
• Theme of horror in medieval literature

Your proposal for a 20-minute paper should be no longer than 300 words. Please make submissions electronically to the conference convenors by 18 April. Proposals should be accompanied by your name, institutional affiliation, email address, and contact information. Please also specify any audio / visual requirements.

Letters of acceptance will be sent via email unless a hard copy is requested.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

CFP: Fons Luminis: Using and Creating Digital Medievalia

Fons Luminis, a peer-reviewed interdisciplinary journal edited and produced annually by graduate students at the Centre for Medieval Studies in the University of Toronto, provides a forum in which to address, challenge, and explore the content and methodologies of our various home disciplines. We invite current graduate students to submit papers relating in some way to the 2015 journal theme, “Using and Creating Digital Medievalia.”

Since the mid-twentieth century, computing has been and continues to be a major factor in the medievalist’s research. From Father Busa’s creation of the Index Thomasticus in the 1940’s to current library and archival digitization projects, computational methods are essential aspects of the medievalist’s occupation. Papers are encouraged to address: medievalist use of digitally stored information; social scientists and librarians as creators and/or curators of knowledge about the Middle Ages; future directions of digital humanities; the importance of digital humanities to work in paleography, codicology, diplomatics, and text editing.

Articles may also focus on topics including (but not limited to) mapping and space, the impact of digitization on concepts of the archive, and digital tools in teaching.

Contributions may take the form of a scholarly essay or focus on the study of a particular manuscript. Articles must be written in English, follow the 16th edition (2010) of The Chicago Manual of Style, and be at least 4,000 words in length, including footnotes. Quotations in the main text in languages other than English should appear along with their English translation.

As usual, we continue to accept other submissions on any aspect of medieval studies and welcome longer review articles (approximately 1,500 words) on recent or seminal works in medieval studies.

Submissions must be received by July 1, 2014 in order to be considered for publication.

Inquiries and submissions (as a Word document attachment) should be sent to the editors.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

CFP: Old and Middle English Studies: Texts and Sources

3-5 September 2014
Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London
A joint international conference with Keio University, Tokyo

Call for Papers

The study of Old and Middle English sources is critical for an understanding of medieval language and literature in the British Isles. This joint conference aims to open up and explore new ways for intellectual exchange and collaboration between scholars working in any aspect of medieval English, in London and Japan especially. The theme for the 2014 conference is ‘Texts and Sources’. Papers will be selected for their ability to link various branches of learning that touch upon Old and Middle English studies, including such topics as history, language, literature, philology, to name just a few. The conference will be accompanied by a special exhibit of manuscripts from medieval and early modern times curated with a view to illustrating the central theme of the proceedings.

Conference organizers, Keio University (Tokyo) and the Institute of English Studies (London), invite scholars to submit abstracts of up to 250 words directly to ieskeio.conference@gmail.com, not later than 1st December 2013.

Papers on the following topics with special emphasis on Japanese and/or British research will be encouraged, although papers with wider scope will not be excluded:

- Digital humanities and virtual libraries
- Interconnections between Old and Middle English scholarship
- Manuscript studies
- Medievalism
- Teaching Old and Middle English
- Translating Old and Middle English into modern languages

Other general topics might include:

- Multiculturalism/multilingualism in the Middle Ages
- Old and Middle English literature and literary culture
- Old and Middle English philology: texts and contexts
- Old and Middle English: synchronic and diachronic studies
- Old and Middle English translations and their sources
- Sources for Old and Middle English culture

The School of Advanced Study is part of the central University of London. The School takes its responsibility to visitors with special needs very seriously and will endeavour to make reasonable adjustments to its facilities in order to accommodate the needs of such visitors. If you have a particular requirement, please feel free to discuss it confidentially with the organiser in advance of the event taking place.

Enquiries: Events Officer, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU; tel +44 (0) 207 664 4859; email.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Review: Stephen Morris, Come Hell or High Water (Part One: Wellspring) (2012)



Come Hell or High Water is a self-published supernatural/fantasy trilogy written by debut novelist Stephen Morris and set in Prague. Part One: Wellspring and Part Two: Rising came out in 2012. Part Three: Deluge will be out later in 2013. I’ll be reviewing Rising soon, but today’s post is about the first book of the series, Wellspring.

Wellspring has two parallel narratives. The first takes place in 1356 and tells of the unauthorized execution of a woman, Fen’ka, for witchcraft – ‘unauthorized’ because, as the narrative explains, no witches were officially burnt in late medieval Prague. As she dies, Fen’ka utters a series of curses, calling destruction down on her enemies – but also on the city itself.

The second narrative follows the story of Magdalena, a lonely young woman from Prague who becomes obsessed with the occult following a tarot reading. After a startling encounter with Fen’ka (and an otherworldly guide), Magdalena embarks on the task of clearing the witch’s name. With the help of the spirit of Madame de Thebes, a fortune-teller who was tortured, killed and cursed by the Nazis, and two mysterious visitors to the city, Magdalena begins to acquire the knowledge and skills she will need to succeed in her quest.

From the opening chapter, Morris reveals a keen eye for historical detail – particularly as regards late medieval beliefs about witchcraft and the treatment of witches. While the scene of Fen’ka’s condemnation includes many ‘standard’ features of this sort of story, it also contains several unusual and precise historical details. For example, the binding of Fen’ka is described thus:
‘Pulling her to her feet, they next pushed her head and shoulders down and tied her left wrist to her right ankle and her right wrist to her left ankle. In this traditional position, not only was the woman’s body made into an X, a version of St. Andrew’s Cross (and therefore her body itself was a prayer-made-flesh that God’s truth would be manifest), but it was also that much more difficult for her to swim and exonerate herself by propelling herself along the bottom of the river.’
Similarly, the later fourteenth-century chapters, which outline the punishments resulting from Fen’ka’s all-purpose curse, weave historical detail, characterization and Czech folklore together with a rather light touch. Each of the subsequent historical chapters reads almost like a standalone short story, and I found them all engaging and compelling tales.

But Wellspring is not simply a historical fantasy, it’s an ‘urban-historical fantasy’, and half of the chapters take place in modern-day Prague (well, Prague in 2002). These also contain elements of Bohemian legend and folklore, as well as reference to the unique history of the city. Following the protagonist Magdalena as she puts together pieces of the historical/supernatural puzzle, learns about the occult arts and works as an administrator at the Charles University, these chapters comprise the main narrative arc of the novel, ending on a cliffhanger that points to the events to come in the subsequent books in the series.

The 2002 chapters have a different feel to the fourteenth-century ones, but make use of the same mix of action, characterization and exposition. Occasionally, the exposition is somewhat heavy, but the subject matter is interesting enough to carry this. I enjoyed the way the historical and contemporary chapters worked together. While they are, essentially, discrete narratives, the overall picture builds as the reader switches from one to the other and back again.

Unfortunately, I found the contemporary chapters a bit flatter than the medieval ones. This is mostly due to the presentation of the protagonist. I found Magdalena to be a bit of an unengaging heroine, a far cry from the diverse and feisty female characters in the medieval chapters. Magdalena’s lack of interaction with other characters is probably the main issue. She has, to all intents and purposes, no friends. The one character who is ostensibly supposed to perform this role is dismissed and ignored on numerous occasions, and there are very few conversations between the two women. The result of this is that the narrative is almost entirely presented through Magdalena’s internal dialogue and commentary, and this is not always very compelling. In places, the heroine’s self-explanation (occasionally accompanied by a few too many exclamation marks) was a little hard to believe.

One particularly frustrating example is near the beginning of the book. Magdalena travels to New York (on her own) for a holiday. There, she pays for a tarot card reading from a woman with a Central European accent who claims to be a ‘gypsy’. Magdalena is overwhelmed by the excitement of this: ‘A professional gypsy telling her fortune seemed too good to be true.’ She exclaims: ‘This is the highlight of my trip to New York!’ Her reaction seems utterly out of proportion to the rather average events of the card reading. (As a side note, I would say that Magdalena’s response didn’t ring true as a European response to seeing someone reading fortunes and claiming Romany blood – Europe is hardly known for its warm relationship to the Romany people, and I think every fortune-teller I’ve ever seen has the word ‘gypsy’ on their signage somewhere.)

The backdrop to Magdalena’s quest to exonerate Fen’ka interested me – and had a lot to offer. The protagonist works as a secretary to an academic at Charles University; she is asked to assist with the organization of two visiting conferences – one on Evil and the other on Monsters. I must admit to some personal interest here. These conferences are based on long-running conferences run by Inter-disciplinary.net, and I have attended both on numerous occasions. Magdalena’s dabbling in the world of the occult leads her to believe that two powerful allies in her fight will be arriving in the guise of conference delegates.

However, this backdrop was marred a little by the presentation of Magdalena. Her wide-eyed enthusiasm for conference organization was a little grating, and not wholly plausible. I am yet to meet someone who works in university admin who is that excited at the prospect of a group of visiting academics, particularly a group who do not speak the local language and know little of the local area. That’s a headache, not an honour. By the time the conference delegates arrive, Magdalena’s enthusiasm has tipped over into near-sycophancy: for instance, she describes the accent of one English academic as sounding ‘so elegant, so refined […] that she imagined she were being addressed by the royalty of the academic world’.

Nevertheless, the arrival of the conference delegates allows for more interaction between Magdalena and the somewhat larger-than-life visitors. As far as I know, Rising will pick up where the events of Wellspring left off, and I’m looking forward to seeing things develop with the expanded cast list. There is real promise in the final chapter of the book, which suggests exciting and compelling developments in the next instalment. I hope that the new arrivals will bring out a stronger side to Magdalena’s character, as well as continuing the intense and climactic consequences of Fen’ka’s curse.

Overall, I enjoyed Wellspring. As a piece of historical fantasy set in one of my favourite cities it worked very well. Morris’s writing is strong and the plot is gripping. My concerns about characterization in the contemporary chapters perhaps go some way to revealing where the author’s strengths lie – I believe Morris’s heart is in the Middle Ages, and this is no bad thing at all. The wealth of knowledge, research and affection shown for the fourteenth century (and for Prague) are enough on their own to recommend the sequels to me. And if Magdalena is a little weak and na├»ve for my tastes… well, there’s always Fen’ka…

For more information about the Come Hell or High Water trilogy, visit Stephen Morris's website.

Monday, 18 June 2012

CFP: The Middle Ages in the Modern World

University of St Andrews, UK
25-28 June, 2013

Preliminary Call for Papers

A multidisciplinary conference on the uses and abuses of the Middle Ages from the Renaissance to the 21st century

Provisional Keynotes

Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University): The Green Man and the Modern World
Patrick Geary (Princeton): European ethnicity: Does Europe have too much past?
Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prize-winning Poet): Translating medieval poetry
Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia): The politics of medievalism
Felicitas Hoppe (Author and Translator): Adapting medieval romance
Terry Jones (Author and Broadcaster): Columbus, America and the flat earth

Medievalism – the reception and adaptation of the politics, history, art and literature of the Middle Ages – has burgeoned over the past decade, and is now coming of age as a subject of serious academic enquiry. This conference aims to take stock and develop directions for the future. We hope to address questions such as:

- Why and how do the Middle Ages continue to shape the world we inhabit?
- Did the Middle Ages ever end?
- Did the Middle Ages ever happen?
- Is there a difference between medievalism and medieval studies?
- Does the medieval past hold the key to understanding modern nations?
- What does “medieval” mean to non-medievalists?
- How has medievalism developed over the past 600 years?
Medievalists and modernists in all areas of the sciences and humanities, librarians, artists, curators are invited to submit proposals for papers, panels, public talks, exhibits, posters, concerts etc. The conference will be held during the climactic period of the University of St Andrews’s 600th anniversary celebrations.

Possible topics include (but are not limited to):

- the reception of the Middle Ages in literature, art, architecture, music, film, politics, economics, theology, popular culture, universities, sciences;
- periodization and the invention of the Middle Ages;
- modern misconceptions of the Middle Ages;
- the politicization of the Middle Ages and neo-medievalism;
- twenty-first century medievalisms;
- revivalism and re-enactment;
- medievalism, science fiction, fantasy and cyberspace;
- translating medieval texts;
- the legacy and influence of the University of St Andrews and other medieval institutions
- a special celebratory 600th anniversary session on the reception and representation of St Andrew himself.

Early bird proposals are welcome now to the conference convenors to assist planning, anytime before 31 August 2012.

Organisers: Dr Chris Jones, School of English and Dr Bettina Bildhauer, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews.