Showing posts with label Anglo-Saxon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Anglo-Saxon. Show all posts

Saturday, 26 July 2014

CFP: Manhood in Anglo-Saxon England

Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies (MANCASS)
Easter Conference 2015

Hulme Hall, University of Manchester, UK
7-9 April 2015

Proposals for 20 minute papers on this topic are invited. Topics that the conference will include, but are not limited to:

• Male identities and constructions of masculinity
• Literary presentations and representations of manhood
• Laws and Penitentials
• Male sexualities
• Manhood and Archaeology
• Representations of masculinity in art

We are looking for submissions (approx. 300 words) on these and related subjects to reach us by 30th November 2014. Please send submissions, and direct enquiries to the conference director, Dr Charles Insley, Department of History, University of Manchester.

Monday, 19 May 2014

CFP: Seventeenth Biennial Meeting of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists

University of Glasgow, 3–7 August 2015 (post-conference excursion to Iona, 8–9 August 2015)

Call for Papers

The conference theme is “The Daily Life of the Anglo-Saxons”. Ordinary Anglo-Saxons are often less visible to us than the key political and religious figures, but their lives shaped and were shaped by the wider events of the early medieval period. The theme encompasses all aspects of life, whether mundane or glamorous, covering activities such as farming and cooking, trade and craftsmanship, child-rearing and education, as well as government and administration, religion and devotional practices, travel and communication, medicine, art and leisure. The theme is a broad one by design to accommodate not only archaeological and historical investigations, but also explorations of the language, literature and place-names of the period. Papers on open topics are also welcome.

Proposals will be evaluated “blind” by members of the ISAS Advisory Board. Decisions regarding which proposals are accepted will be announced by January 2015.

Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length, and will be grouped into 3-paper sessions of one hour and 30 minutes in length so as to leave time for questions and discussion. Proposals are welcome for individual papers or for complete sessions. Abstracts, whether for papers or for sessions, should be no more than 500 words in length (including bibliography). Abstracts are also required for individual papers within a proposed session.

Proposals are also welcome for project reports, which should be no more than 10 minutes in length and will be grouped into 5-report sessions of one hour so as to leave a short time for factual questions. Abstracts for project reports should be no more than 250 words in length (including bibliography).

All sessions will be held in a room that is fully equipped with audiovisual and computer equipment. Abstracts can be submitted from 15 June 2014 to 15 October 2014 via the submission site (note: this link will not be active beforehand). There you will receive instructions as to how to submit your proposal. To submit an abstract within the permitted amount of time online, you might wish to prepare it first as a word-processing document, then copy and paste it in. Please note that the deadline of 15 October is necessary to allow time for the reviewing process, and will not be extended.

Please note that in order to present at ISAS Glasgow, it is necessary to be a current member of ISAS. Information on joining ISAS or updating membership can be found on the ISAS website.

Questions or problems relating to the submission of proposals may be directed either to the conference host, current ISAS President Carole Hough or to Executive Director Martin Foys.

Friday, 21 October 2011

CFP: MANCASS Postgraduate Conference: Domestic Life and Lifestyle

Manchester Anglo-Saxon Society Post Graduate Student Conference

John Rylands Library, Deansgate, Manchester, UK
March 5-6, 2012

Domestic Life and Lifestyle

What did the simple folk do? We are looking for papers on the average daily life of Anglo-Saxon people. Topics may include, but are certainly not limited to textiles, making of pottery, domestic architecture, farming, animal husbandry, wood carving, cooking, glass making, and metal working. If your topic is secular and related to the Anglo-Saxon world, it will be considered. Send abstracts to Christina Petty by 1 Jan 2012.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

She-Wolf of the Mere vs. She-Wolf in the Closet

When I first decided to start researching female werewolves, I christened my project 'She-Wolf', as I enjoy the many resonances of this term. At the time I came up with the idea, Shakira was making waves with her lycanthropy-inspired 'She-Wolf':

As a bit of Shakira fan, I'll admit that I enjoyed the way my conference and book caused a lot of my friends and colleagues to have that song running through their heads on a regular basis.

But when I pitched the idea to my department, one of my colleagues in medieval studies, Professor Gale Owen-Crocker, was more insistent that I gave some consideration to Grendel's mother in Beowulf. After all, Professor Owen-Crocker said, she is the 'She-Wolf of the mere'.

This was not that long after Robert Zemeckis' performance capture version of Beowulf hit the big screens, which featured a truly memorable performance by Angelina Jolie as Grendel's mother:

Watching those two videos, the parallels between Shakira's 'She-Wolf in your closet' and Jolie's 'She-Wolf of the mere' are striking. Lithe, nude, contorting female flesh both demands and threatens the male gaze. Hints of violence are offered and diffused by sexual, vibrant femininity. I think it's no coincidence that these visual depictions of the 'She-Wolf' appeared within a year or so of one another, and signalled the start of an onslaught of 'She-Wolf' imagery in popular culture.

However, today's blog post is less concerned with Jolie's depiction of Grendel's mother - interesting though it is - than with the parallels between Shakira's 'She-Wolf' and the depiction of Grendel's mother in the poem Beowulf. These texts are created near enough 1000 years apart (depending on the date we give for the composition of Beowulf), and yet there are some striking similarities in the way the 'She-Wolf' is portrayed.

While Grendel's mother is never actually described as a female werewolf, her association with the wolf is underlined at several points in the poem. She is the 'brimwylf [water-wolf]' (l. 1506) who lives in a 'wulfhleothu [wolf-haunted]' land (l. 1358), with her monstrous son. The multiplicity of the threat this wolf-like creature poses to the heroic male is made clear in her initial introduction: 'Grendles modor,/ ides, aglaecwif [Grendel's mother, woman, she-monster]' (ll. 1258-59). The repetition of 'ides' and 'wif', both Old English words for '[human] woman', along side terminology of the monster, is telling; the constant focus on her maternity is also significant. Wolf - woman - mother - outcast - enemy. This imagery is resonant with the presentation of female werewolves from the Victorian era to the present day. Indeed, Shakira's video makes references to this connection between the female werewolf and monstrous maternity by having the singer dance around in a red-lined cave-like set, which is highly suggestive of a womb (see. 1:39-1:49, for example).

In her influential 1980 article, 'The Structual Unity of Beowulf: The Problem of Grendel's Mother', Jane Chance hints at a way of reading the monstrousness of Grendel's mother as a specifically sexual threat to the hero. Certainly if one takes a Freudian view of the poem, it is hard to ignore the fact that when Beowulf attacks the 'brimwylf', 'sweord aer gemealt,/ forbarn brodenmael [the sword melted, its blade burned away]' (ll. 1615-6). So, here is a woman that can liquidize the ultimate token of masculinity. This is an image that is played out to the extreme in Zemeckis' 2007 film.

But is this enough to connect Shakira's 'She-Wolf' to Grendel's mother? I'd suggest not. In fact, the parallels between the two millenium-separated she-wolves lies in a different, though not wholly unrelated, aspect of their presentation.

Consider the opening lines to Shakira's song: 'A domesticated girl, that's all you ask of me./ Darling it's no joke, this is lycanthropy.' Thus, 'domestication' stands in sharp contrast to 'lycanthropy'. The video plays on this; the 'domesticated' (may I say, 'wifely'?) woman, lying in a pristine white double bed with her unaware male partner, rises and enters the closet. This unleashes a side of the woman which stands in stark distinction to the 'homely'. The song continues: 'I've been devoting myself to you Monday to Monday, Friday to Friday./ Not getting enough retribution or incentives to keep me at it.' The frame of reference here is the workplace, underlined by the female voice likening herself to a 'coffee machine' that has been 'abused'. So, 'lycanthropy' is an alternative to the patriarchal control of both 'domesticity' (literally, 'the home') and the contemporary workplace.

Grendel's mother also represents a threat to patriarchal structures. Her attack on 'Heorot' (literally, 'the deer hall'), the symbolic centre of the Danish comitatus, hits heroic masculinity right where it hurts, so to speak. Her decapitation of Aeschere is a feminine assault on the warrior world. Elsewhere in the poem, women are the tools by which the masculine realm functions; Wealtheow and Hildeburgh are devices to lubricate the wheels of the male domain (much like abused coffee machines, if you will). Grendel's mother bursts into this, and literally slices it to pieces.

The 'brimwylf' also challenges hegemony by dint of her position as 'mother'. She is a 'wyf', but of no man; she is a 'modor', but there is no father. Grendel's heritage is presented as purely matrilineal, which stands at a threatening remove to the patrilineal world of the rest of the poem. Even the reference to his biblical forebear, Cain, is dangerously feminine. 'Cain's kin' is likely a reference to Genesis 6:4, and the mating of the 'Sons of God' with the 'Daughters of Man'. Cain's kin, in the medieval world, carried with it the understanding that it was Cain's daughters than begot the race of giants. In the world of Beowulf, remnants of this female line were powerful enough to even, apparently, survive the flood sent by God to destroy them.

So, to return to my comparison with Shakira's 'She-Wolf', both texts present a dangerous and predatory female. In Shakira's song, this potential for violence is played out in a 'closet' fantasy; for Grendel's mother, it manifests in physical acts of revenge. Nevertheless, both attack the 'home' (be it domesticity or the mead hall) and the 'work-place' (whether the office or the comitatus). The smooth-running of the masculine world is disrupted by the intrusion of the She-Wolf: claws, teeth, sexuality, monstrosity, maternity, corporeality.

In the end, though, Shakira's She-Wolf leaves the closet. She writhes and fantasizes, but eventually comes home. At the close of the video, she returns to the clean white sheets of the marital bed and forgets her lycanthropy. Grendel's mother, on the other hand, is ultimately slain by Beowulf. Again, we see parallels. Both she-wolves are, eventually, 'put to bed'; they cease to threaten and are brought back into the hegemonic scheme of masculine control.

And yet, the transgressive potential of the lycanthropic woman remains. Beowulf's sword melts; Shakira's she-wolf gives a knowing full-moon-framed glance to the camera. Whatever opportunities are offered for feminine destruction of male-centred hegemonic structures are curtailed by the reinstating of the warrior's sword and the husband's bed - but these opportunities can not be truly forgotten.

One thousand year apart, and yet the She-Wolf of the Mere and the She-Wolf in the Closet bear striking similarities. Neither one fully delivers on her promise, but the threat to domesticity, the family and patriarchy is there. As Shakira says, the She-Wolf is 'coming out, coming out, coming out'. What does she does when she gets there still remains to be seen.

Quotes from Beowulf are taken from Michael Swanton's edition (Manchester University Press, 1997). Due to the limitations of, I've modernized orthography.

Monday, 10 January 2011

CFP: Before Man and God: Sin, Confession, Forgiveness and Redemption in the Anglo-Saxon World

Sixth Annual Postgraduate Conference
March 7-8, 2011
John Rylands Library, Deansgate
University of Manchester

Before Man and God
Sin, Confession, Forgiveness and Redemption in the Anglo-Saxon World

In Anglo-Saxon England, the priest was expected to teach both from the Bible and his Scriftboc (handbook of penance). He was to educate his flock in matters of sin, make judgements on the size of tariffs for penance, and show the sinner how to atone for his misdeeds. Sinners were urged to confess with humility all their sins, whatever their nature. Better to feel shame before a man now than to do so before God on Judgement Day!

This conference aims to draw together evidence for the practice of private confession throughout the Anglo-Saxon period and to situate it within the history of confession up to and including the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when the Church stipulated an annual requirement for confession. In doing this, it also aims to explore the Anglo-Saxon world through its understanding of sin, confession, penance, forgiveness and redemption. It will ask questions such as: How did the theology of confession influence Anglo-Saxon society more broadly? What was the impact on law? How are sin and confession represented in literature, art and architecture? Can the evidence from penitential literature be understood as social commentary?

Postgraduate and early-career researchers are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words for 20-minute papers that engage with the conference's themes. The following list of topics for consideration is not exhaustive:

  • Anglo-Saxon penitential literature: the relationship of vernacular texts to Latin sources; the relationship between penitentials and law codes; penance tariffs
  • Anglo-Saxon confessional literature within the history of private and/or public confession: comparative analysis of Irish and continental penitentials; comparative analysis of later confessional literature (twelfth- and thirteenth-century)
  • Sin as (theological) discourse: e.g. the meaning of sin, including guilt and shame
  • The priest and his scriftboc: pastoral care and education
  • Confession/penance and types of sin: e.g. sexual sins, theft, manslaughter
  • Fasting, almsgiving and singing psalms
  • Penitential/confessional dialogue
  • Confession and gender; confession and status
  • Anglo-Saxon readings of original sin
  • Confession as poetic motif
  • The confessional 'self'
  • Sin/the sinner/confession/penance in Anglo-Sexon art and sculpture
  • Judgement Day: the sinner before God in literature and/or art

A keynote address and masterclass will be delivered by Dr. Catherine Cubitt (York)

Submissions by January 28th, 2011 and registration enquiries to Christopher Monk.

Conference supported by SAGE, SAHC and John Rylands Library, Deansgate