Friday, 15 July 2011

Review: K.A. Laity, 'Vironsusi'

I'm suddenly aware that it's been a while since I recommended a good werewolf story. And given my interest in werewolves, that seems a little odd. So to put that right, today I recommend the short story 'Vironsusi' by K.A. Laity.

'Vironsusi' is found in Laity's 2009 collection, Unikirja: Dream Book (published by Aino Press). The stories in this collection draw on Finnish myth and legend, retelling old stories in a fresh and original way.

I won't go into too much detail about 'Vironsusi', as it is a short piece and to discuss the specifics would spoil it for first time readers. Rather, what I will say is that, as an English writer, researcher and reader of werewolves, it is all to easy to focus one's attention on the Western European (and North American) werewolf tradition. If you're not careful, it's easy to imagine the history of the werewolf as beginning in Latin literature, and moving steadily through medieval romance, early modern witchhunts and Victorian poetry, before arriving comfortably in Hollywood.

Amongst the many things that are lost, if one adheres to this neat little lycanthropic timeline, are the 'other' werewolf traditions - though perhaps 'werewolf' is not quite the right word here - the other rich traditions (from Scandinavia and the Baltic, for example) of human/wolf shapeshifters. And it is in some of these often over-looked legends that Laity's work is based.

'Vironsusi' is a charming example of the way in which Laity retells the old tales of Finland in Unikirja. It is, on the surface, a rather simple story of a... well, let's say 'werewolf' for the sake of brevity. Yet the story bubbles under the surface with unspoken desire, longing and sadness. There is something very sympathetic about the central character, though they are far removed from the 'sympathetic werewolf' of cinema and urban fantasy.

As I said, I'll not go into too many details and risk giving away too much. But I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed this story, and the particular take on shapeshifting it offered. It is a well-written and evocative story, based firmly in the fascinating folktales of Finland. I highly recommend 'Vironsusi' - and the other stories in the collection, of course!

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

CFP: Shield Maidens and Sacred Mothers: Medieval Women in Truth and Legend

Cardiff University
October 7, 2011

Call for Papers

This forthcoming interdisciplinary international conference seeks to examine images and representations of medieval women. Our aim is to promote new scholarship and innovative approaches to the study of this figure within the wider context of literary and historical studies. Our purpose is to foster an interdisciplinary discussion of the ways in which the medieval female is depicted within myth, folklore, legend and historiography.

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Roberta Lynn Staples, Sacred Heart University, Connecticut, USA.
Author of The Company of Camelot. Arthurian characters in Romance and Fantasy (with Charlotte Spivack)

Abstracts of not more than 250 words are invited for individual 20-minute papers on the theme of the conference (interpreted in literary or historical terms, or both). Abstracts should be emailed to the conference convenors.

Deadline for receipt of abstracts: August 31, 2011

The Conference will take place at Cardiff University’s main campus

General Enquiries:
Conference Organisers
Nicole Thomas
Sarah Williams

Please visit our Facebook page: Shield Maidens and Sacred Mothers.

CFP: 10th Medieval English Studies Symposium

19-20 November 2011
Poznań, Poland

The 10th Medieval English Studies Symposium, organised by the School of English, Adam Mickiewicz University, will be held in Poznan from 19-20 November, 2011. MESS10 will have as its aim bringing together specialists in the areas of medieval English literature and linguistics. Two plenary lectures, at least two parallel sessions and over twenty section meetings are planned.

Literature Section at MESS10

Princes and Paupers: Class, Money and (social and physical) Otherness in medieval and medievalist literature in English

The main aim of the literary section is that class and wealth and their literary representations appear in the form of endorsements as well as admonitions. Princes and Paupers feature in secular literature of advice as well as in religious works on sins and transgressions, both types offering insight into the nature of medieval social life. Early medieval penitentials outline not only ideas on penance (exile which meant social exclusion being one of the most frequently prescribed punishments), but first and foremost demonstrate how crimes were punished differently according to the social class of the perpetrators. Mess10 welcomes all papers dealing with the above mentioned aspects of medieval literature but we will also try to accommodate other papers, if need arises.

500-word abstracts
should be submitted by the end of August 2011, preferably by email, in the .rtf or .doc format. As the number of paper slots is limited, all proposals will be reviewed by the organising committee and the authors will be notified about acceptance by mid-September 2011. Participants without papers are also welcome.


The conference will be held at Collegium Iuridicum Novum building, officially inaugurated in December 2010 to house the AMU Faculty of Law and Administration (Polish: Wydział Prawa i Administracji).

All the rooms offer audio and video equipment, including data projectors.


New registration forms will soon be available on the conference website.

All enquiries concerning the Symposium should be addressed to the organisers, preferably by e-mail.

For more information, see the main website here.