49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo (May 8-11 2014)

Sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Medieval and Renaissance Studies ProgramContacts: Ryan McDermott ( rjm95@pitt.edu ) and Jennifer Waldron ( jwaldron@pitt.edu )

“Call for Papers At the Shakespeare Association of America conference in 2013, University of Pittsburgh colleagues Jennifer Waldron, an early modernist, and Ryan McDermott, a medievalist, sponsored a seminartitled, “Shakespeare, Phenomenology, and Periodization.” Our goal was to use the emerging fields of historical phenomenology and phenomenology of the senses to better understand the periodizationof medieval and early modern English literature, and to take drama especially as a point of convergence for these emerging fields. The seminar yielded exciting results, including a shared desirefor more dialogue between medievalists and early modernists. 

This session aims to rethink narratives of cultural change across the late medieval and early modernperiods by bringing together several strands of scholarship that fall under the banner of “phenomenology” but are not usually engaged in direct dialogue. Broadly speaking, those interestedin historical phenomenology and in embodied cognition have had little to say to those working inthe philosophy of religion, political theology, and ethics. This is in part due to a disagreement aboutthe status of historicism: is the point of phenomenological inquiry to reveal historical differencesamong medieval, early modern, and modern experiences? Or does phenomenology’s call toinvestigate structures of consciousness from the first–person point of view allow us to transcendparticular confessional identifications and material contexts, tackling problems of theology andethics that apply more universally? For example, those arguing for a “religious turn” in early modernstudies (Jackson & Marotti, 2004) were strongly influenced by the “theological turn” inphenomenology (Janicaud, 1991, trans. 2000). By contrast, scholars such as Bruce Smith have turnedthe philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty in a more experimental direction,studying Shakespearean theater in light of early modern sensory environments as well ascontemporary developments in cognitive neuroscience. How can recent explorations of themedieval sensorium and devotional performance (Nichols & Kablitz, ed. 2008), especially thoseinformed by cognitive science (Gertsman, ed., 2008; Stevenson, 2010), shed light on the culturalreformations that played out in dramatic and religious performances? Our objective is to bring these various approaches together in order to open up new perspectives on periodization and toreexamine early drama’s role in narratives of secularization and modernization. 

We invite papers that take a phenomenological approach (broadly defined) to the moralities andcycle plays, particularly their contested role as both the quintessence and the end of medieval drama,as well as their relationship to the drama of the long sixteenth century. Papers might considersecularization and pluralization, embodied cognition, historical phenomenology, political theology,the history of the senses, and/or the “religious turn” in phenomenology, as exemplified in the work of Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, Robert Sokolowski, and Jean-Yves Lacoste. 

This year at Kalamazoo, we envision a seminar modeled on those at SAA: a conversation orientedaround precirculated papers, made accessible to a wider audience by the seminar leaders’introductions and by abstracts circulated during the session. We especially encourage proposals forco-authored papers.”

Deadline for abstracts: Sept. 15, 2013


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