Skip to content Skip to navigation

CFP: Reading (in) the Middle Ages

Jul 23 2018

The Stanford University Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMEMS) is pleased to announce that we will sponsor three sessions at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 9-12, 2019). Among these are two linked panel sessions entitled "Reading (in) the Middle Ages". The first considers how medieval texts were read by their intended contemporary audiences, while the second considers developments in the way that we, as scholars, approach medieval texts.

We invite proposals for each of these sessions, and will consider all those received by September 15th. Proposals should consist of a short abstract (300 words max) and a completed participant information form. General submission guidelines are available here, but please get in touch if you have any questions! As per ICMS rules, any proposals not accepted for our sessions will be forwarded to the Congress Committee to be considered for inclusion in the General Sessions.


Reading in the Middle Ages

Organizer: Björn Buschbeck, Stanford University

Please send enquiries and submissions to

This panel will focus on how medieval texts were read by their intended contemporary audiences. As the outpouring of recent scholarship demonstrates, this theme can be approached from multiple disciplinary and methodological approaches; this panel will offer a forum to discuss how a critical synthesis of these approaches might produce new insights into medieval reading practices. Textual criticism, for example, offers insights into how a specific text was assessed, treated and altered by its copying readers. Studies in paleography, codicology and history of the book shed light on material techniques of producing legibility. Literary studies reveal the poetic strategies used to produce aesthetic effects or stimulate imagination. Historical approaches explore the spread of literacy in the Middle Ages, the politics of (mis)understanding texts, and the emergence of different types of ‘reading institutions’. Theological and philosophical studies help to reconstruct medieval theories of reading, while art historical perspectives offer fresh insights into the relation of text and image. In light of the panel’s interdisciplinary aims, we explicitly welcome papers that combine or compare different methods and disciplines.


Reading the Middle Ages

Organizer: Mae Lyons-Penner, Stanford University

Please send enquiries and submissions to

Inspired by the upcoming tenth anniversary of Representations’ special issue, “The Way We Read Now”, this panel seeks to reflect on how the critical and technical innovations of the last ten years have shaped the way we read medieval texts. In their 2009 introduction to “The Way We Read Now”, Sharon Marcus and Stephen Best noted a declining enthusiasm among scholars in “text-based disciplines” for reading texts symptomatically in order to expose their underlying ideological priorities. They argued that literal readings should no longer be dismissed out of hand and called for renewed attention to the material and formal properties of texts, as well as to the cognitive processes of reading. As medievalists, the methodological challenges of critical reading are intensified, yet also clarified, by the inescapable temporal, cultural and linguistic estrangement from our objects of study. In the last decade, surface reading, distant reading, algorithmic text analysis, new formalism, new sociology and various kinds of phenomenological engagement have all been touted as superior ways of attending to the particularities of literary objects. How has the step-back from ideological demystification affected the kinds of claims we make, and the research we pursue? How have new technologies changed the possibilities for reading medieval sources? How has the fusion of book history into literary criticism affected the status of both disciplines? We invite submissions of proposals for fifteen-minute papers on scholars’ own experiences exploring and implementing critical modes of reading.