To make sure all aspects of medieval research are covered as evenly as possible, the IMC divides its programming into 39 strands.
Each session is allocated to at least one strand, but most are listed in two or more strands depending on their content.
Every Programming Committee member has special responsibilities for a strand within their area of expertise. Their role includes identifying research areas and groups with interests relevant to that strand and promoting interest in the IMC in those areas.
The strand co-ordinator shapes the format, structure, and dynamics of the strand. Their aim is to provide a platform for innovative research, incorporating new perspectives, methodologies, approaches and technologies, as well as reflecting on current and past trends in research. The IMC’s unique size and scope allows comparative and in-depth research to be considered side by side.
The 39 regular strands allow ideas to be developed over multiple years. Each year, the IMC also chooses a special thematic strand. This is intended to complement the other strands without replacing them.
If you are a member of the IMC Programming Committee, access the Programming Committee website here.
Co-ordinator: Catherine A. M. Clarke, University of London
This strand aims to incorporate work on all aspects of Anglo-Saxon culture in its broadest sense. Papers and sessions in this strand can consider any point of time from the first arrival of Anglo-Saxons in the British Isles up to the Norman Conquest and beyond, including medievalist re-interpretations of the Anglo-Saxon period in modern cultures. The geographical spread of the strand includes Anglo-Saxon England, the kingdoms which border it, and the regions overseas with which it had connections.
In terms of topics and approaches, the strand is designed to accommodate work within and beyond the disciplines. This includes single-disciplinary work from the full range of relevant disciplines, including social, ecclesiastical, economic, and political history, Old English and Anglo-Latin literature, theology, linguistics, art history, architecture, archaeology and material culture, codicology, and palaeography. Interdisciplinary work which cuts across and synthesises more than one disciplinary approach is especially welcome, as is work on broad themes current in Anglo-Saxon scholarship, such as identities, space, cultural transmission and connections.
Anglo-Saxonists are welcome to submit papers and sessions on the special thematic focus for each year’s IMC, but are always encouraged to submit on topics unrelated to the year’s special focus too. Work on newly-emerging themes as well as linked sessions on a single theme are always particularly welcome.
Co-ordinator: Sam Turner, Newcastle University
This strand includes the whole range of medieval archaeology, and embraces sub-disciplines such as numismatics and sculpture studies. Archaeology is fundamental to our understanding of the medieval period, and continues to provide new forms of evidence. For some periods and places it may be the only form of evidence, and always it tends to illuminate areas of human activity not represented in documentary and literary sources. Studies of individual sites have given way to studies of whole medieval landscapes, incorporating both urban and rural settlement, and town-hinterland relations. Studies of medieval burial have enabled research into diet, disease and demographics, whilst new scientific approaches are allowing the identification of population migration. Meanwhile material culture is now seen as an important component in the formation of medieval cultural identities.
Alongside all these areas this strand aims to encourage papers and sessions on all aspects of archaeological sciences including the application of emerging technologies as well as heritage management and rescue archaeology.
Art and Architecture
Co-ordinator: Julian Gardner, University of Warwick
This strand includes all areas of research into religious and/or secular art and architecture of the Middle Ages, in and beyond the European continent.
The areas of art and architecture overlap in many fields including archaeology, material and techniques, provenance, workshop practices, patronage, iconography, reception, and historiography. However, both art and architecture are freestanding areas with their own specific issues and questions. These include connoisseurship, preservation, literature, philosophy, liturgy, anthropology, ecclesiastical history, natural/practical/theoretical sciences, gender studies, and socio-political considerations. This strand encourages interdisciplinary proposals, bringing together art and architecture scholars with medievalists from other disciplines to consider contextual and comparative examples.
Co-ordinator: Shaun Tougher, Cardiff University
The study of the history and culture of the Byzantine empire is vital for the appreciation of the medieval world. Spanning the fourth to fifteenth centuries, and centred on the city of Constantinople, the empire was in a real sense the continuation of the Roman empire in the East, its inhabitants considering themselves to be Romans. It witnessed, and was directly involved in, some of the major events of the medieval world: the Christianisation of the Roman empire, the fall of the western Roman empire, the birth of Islam and the rise of the Arab empire, the emergence of alternative emperors in the West, the conversion and rise of the Rus, the birth and development of the crusading movement, the division between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and the establishment of the Ottoman empire. Culturally, the empire is famed for its art, such as the icon, and its preservation of classical literature, although it has a rich literary heritage of its own.
Research trends include increasing interdisciplinary approaches, a particular interest in prosopographical study, and the development of gender studies. Subject areas covered by the strand include, Byzantine art and architecture, daily life, ecclesiastical history, gender studies, hagiography, historiography, language and literature, law, monasticism, numismatics, politics and diplomacy, rhetoric, sexuality, social history, theology, and women’s studies.
Co-ordinator: Helen Fulton, University of Bristol
Research on the medieval Celtic world focuses on the languages, their primary sources, and the diverse interactions between these and other medieval languages and cultures, including vernacular and Christian-Latin traditions, insular and continental evidence, and textual and material sources.
The strand provides a forum for further debate and analysis over a broad interdisciplinary spectrum, encompassing language, literature, history, theology, archaeology, art history, and manuscript studies. The strand encourages both single-discipline and multi-disciplinary proposals on the significance, influence, and reception of the Celtic-language regions and their interactions with the wider medieval world.
Central and Eastern European Studies
Co-ordinator: Jarosław Wenta, Uniwersytet Mikolaja Kopernika, Torun
This strand is an interdisciplinary strand by definition, focusing on the different cultural territories located between the Baltic and the Black Sea, and between the Holy Roman Empire and the Finno-Ugric World in Eastern Europe. As each of these territories have their own backgrounds and identities, so each requires their own distinctive methods of investigation. Research into the Central and Eastern European Middle Ages has tended to be interdisciplinary in focus and internationalist in outlook.
The strand welcomes proposals for full sessions or single papers which reflect the history of the territories of medieval Poland, Hungary, Bohemia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Lithuania, the Romanian principalities, the Teutonic Knights of Prussia and Livonia, and the Kievan Rus. Areas of interest include interactions between the societies and cultures of Central and Eastern Europe and other regions like Western Europe, the territories of Byzantium, Islam, and Central Asia. The strand is keen to encourage research into the medieval origins of the region’s modern characteristics, and particularly into the medieval roots of ‘true’ and imaginary stereotypes and national prejudices.
Church History and Canon Law
Co-ordinator: Brenda Bolton, University of London
This strand welcomes proposals on the broadest possible range of activities undertaken by the Western Church from Late Antiquity to the end of the medieval period. Organized sessions or individual papers are equally encouraged and may address any aspect of Church history-the papacy and the Curia, the activities of individual popes, anti-popes and cardinals; papal offices such as the Chamber, Chancery or Chapel, general, legatine and local councils of the Church, and the impact of ecclesiastical legislation throughout Christendom. A profitable local focus of recent years has been directed towards bishops and parish priests, to pastoral care or diocesan politics, to founders and benefactors.
An ever-expanding field of interest is that of Canon Law, by which the public obligation of the laity to each other and to the Church was defined, most commonly in disputes involving marriage or tithe payments. Of considerable concern to the Church was its regulation of clerical behaviour and recent sessions have tended to concentrate on evidence from the newly opened penitentiary records in the Vatican Archive.
This strand, perhaps more than any other, given the over-arching influence of the Church throughout medieval society, overlaps with many other fields, monasticism, religious life, liturgy, music, theology and art, and strong interdisciplinary links are encouraged.
Co-ordinator: Kurt Villads Jensen, Stockholms Universitet
Crusading and religious warfare was a fundamental part of medieval daily life and the medieval mental outlook. It formed modern attitudes to wars and theories about wars, and it still provides material for modern political discussions about the clash of civilisations. Past generations of historians have widened the definition of crusading considerably, to approach crusading as an integral part of medieval societies more generally.
The Crusades and Latin East strand therefore welcomes papers handling any aspect of the crusading movement in its broadest definition, i.e. including crusades in The Middle East, Iberia, North Africa, the Baltic, and the remainder of medieval Europe, and in the high as well as in the later Middle Ages. Papers dealing with the processes of settlement and militarisation in the areas that were conquered by crusaders, and the many religious groups involved are also welcome, as are those that look at the economic, social, and ideological impact of crusading on medieval society.
Culture and Society
Co-ordinator: Dolores Jørgensen, Universitetet i Stavanger
This strand includes all aspects of cultural traditions and social relationships, and provides a field in which abstract concepts such as ‘mentalities’, ‘memory’, ’emotions’, ‘feelings’, ‘identity’, ‘boundaries’, ‘love’ etc. can be applied and discussed.
The strand welcomes contributions on patterns and traditions of thought (mentalités), rituals, gestures and ceremonies, family life (including the treatment of children) and households, marriage and the creation of sexual norms and control (through, for example, the definition of adultery, incest and illegitimacy), marginal social groups (such as outsiders, widows and the aged), as well as other forms of relationships, affinities, and friendships, and non-legal aspects of violence and crime.
Co-ordinator: Gerhard Jaritz, Central European University, Budapest
Daily Life is the repetitive, routinised, and ordinary areas of human existence. The strand concentrates on comparative and context-bound approaches towards the quotidian patterns of different social groups, in various domains of material and non-material culture.
The strand welcomes sessions and individual papers focusing on any of the following areas of interest, mentality, behaviour patterns and habitus, living conditions and standards of living, environment, husbandry, youth and age, health and disease, prevention and care, work and leisure, food, dress, and housing.
We welcome contributions that are based on interdisciplinary research, making use of written texts, as well as of images and archaeological evidence.
Co-ordinator: Cora Dietl, Universität Giessen
This strand links most areas of Medieval Studies, not only literature, music, dance, and the visual arts, but also theology, material culture, economic and social history and historiography. While it is often seen to be firmly within the literary field, even if it is the least determined by language, its scope is much more all encompassing.
Its main objective is dialogue. Dialogue between better known or even canonical, and lesser known dramatic traditions; dialogue between the strict field of drama and that of all sorts of para-dramatical events, between a ‘real’ theatre and the threshold of the stage; dialogue between the theatre in performance and all arts that somehow contribute to its realization. Interdisciplinary by nature, this strand aims to identify and challenge its own limits and to redefine itself in a dynamic exchange between languages, disciplines and fields of research.
Gender and Sexuality
Co-ordinator: Diane Watt, University of Surrey
This strand fosters transdisciplinary debate about gender and/or sexuality (interpreting these terms as widely as possible) in relation to medieval culture. Individual papers may be primarily theoretical, empirical, or textual, or they may adopt a more eclectic approach. Sessions or papers may consider issues such as the status, experiences, or representation of cisgender, transgender and intersex in the Middle Ages, and the construction of masculinities and femininities, or they may investigate topics that include the ideologies and realities of marriage and love, chastity and virginity, and homosocial bonds and same-sex desire.
Research in newly-developing areas is particularly encouraged. We encourage scholars working in the above mentioned fields to organize a number of linked sessions on a theme which can be run sequentially at the IMC. In recent years, there have been round tables on aspects of Women’s Studies and Feminist and Queer Theory. These have proved extremely popular and we would encourage organisers of a session or series of sessions to submit a proposal in these areas in particular.
Geography and Settlement Studies
Co-ordinator: Chris Lewis, University of London
The strand covers all aspects of urban and rural settlement and human geography in the Middle Ages, employing evidence from standing buildings, plan analysis, archaeology (buildings, artefacts, environmental remains, and burials), written sources, and place-names. We are keen to include papers and sessions on all parts of Europe, especially in comparative sessions. The strand aims to include research from across the full range of geography and settlement studies, including (but not limited to) settlement patterns and development, cultural transmission, social, ethnic, religious, and political identities, trade and exchange, and travel.
Papers and sessions on topics unrelated to the year’s special theme are welcome, whether in an established part of the discipline or a newly emerging area. Interdisciplinary sessions are strongly encouraged. Linked sessions on a single theme can be scheduled to run in sequence at the IMC, and are a good way in which a research group or a local, regional, or national body can present its work to the wider scholarly community at Leeds and make new contacts. The strand co-ordinator is happy to advise intending participants on putting together one or more sessions.
Global Middle Ages
Government, Law and Institutions
Co-ordinator: Charles Insley, University of Manchester
This strand includes non-religious (including secular functions of religious bodies) functions and institutions and extends beyond institutional history to include the culture of government, especially in a comparative perspective and political history.
The strand welcomes contributions on all aspects of the field such as, the governing of countries and units, the function of rulers, succession and legitimacy, culture and trappings of power, political machinery, networks and public relations, planning, and the institutional structures and organisations of the penal, education and healthcare systems, law enforcement, and the army. This includes sources such as documents, charters, rolls, seals, government and institutional buildings, and the physical representations and manifestations of power.
If you have any queries on matters relating to this strand, please contact Charles Insley, who will be more than willing to assist you, e.g. with proposals for sessions and individual papers.
Hagiography and Religious Writing
Co-ordinator: Anne-Marie Helvétius, Université de Paris VIII
The strand is based, not on a particular topic, but on a particular type of source material. It aims to study more and more thoroughly, and from a critical point of view, all of the sources known as Hagiography and Religious Writing. So prominent in number and diversity, these sources impact upon every area of medieval studies.
The strand uses a broad definition of hagiography that includes vitae and other writings about saints, miracles, relics, and shrines; visual images and iconography of saints; case histories of canonisation (whether successful or not); the various means by which saints’ cults were promoted, and the manifold purposes they served. This strand also welcomes sessions and papers on most other kinds of medieval texts, in any language or combination of languages, that were written for ostensibly religious ends: sermons, preaching aids and handbooks, prayers and meditations, mystical writings, pilgrimage narratives, spiritual biographies and autobiographies, manuals of basic religious instruction, and so on. Some religious genres are covered in other strands. These are: music and liturgy; theology and biblical studies.
Health and Medicine
Co-ordinator: Elma Brenner, Wellcome Library, London
Co-ordinator: Nadia Altschul, University of Glasgow
The strand includes the study of all kinds of medieval narrative texts dealing with what their authors understand as factual events in the past, such as chronicles of various kinds, sagas and lives. The genre of hagiography forms an exception, as there is a separate strand on this. The main focus will be on the historiographical texts as texts, i.e. on the question of genre, interpretation, world view, ideology or understanding of history and human nature, not on their use as sources for factual historical information, which are dealt with in various other strands. There will, however, be some overlapping here, as well as with literary and linguistic studies or studies of various cultures or areas (Byzantine, Jewish or Scandinavian studies).
Co-ordinator: Jo van Steenbergen, Universiteit Gent
The ‘Islamic World’ represents a transcultural and transdisciplinary strand that focuses on the central medieval Afro-Eurasian space that connected both east and west and north and south in myriad and dynamic ways from the Late Antique movement of the Arabian expansion in the 7th century CE onwards. This world stretches from the West African and Iberian coasts of the Atlantic Ocean to beyond the Hindukush and the Indian Ocean in the East, and from the Inner Asian steppes in the North to Sub-Saharan Africa in the South. This historical space is mostly characterized by an enormous diversity, both in its geographical and ecological characteristics, as well as its peoples, cultures and economies. It is nevertheless not incorrect to consider this enormously vast space as a historical continuum as well, with clearly recognisable Islamic formations, closely connected with (but not limited to) the appearance of Islam as a hegemonic monotheistic world religion, and of Arabic as a lingua franca, emerging there, and participating actively, in an endless dialogue with that local diversity, in the political, social, cultural and economic histories of these regions.
Within this broad remit of Late Antique to Early Modern political, intellectual, cultural, social and economic continuities and changes, this strand welcomes papers on a broad range of subjects within and beyond the annual thematic strand. Areas of interest include the histories of power, people and their interaction; the circulation of ideas, goods and technologies; networking, communication and language; knowledge and knowledge practices; meaning making, identity formation and representation; exchange and competition etc; The strand is especially keen to encourage research that promotes awareness of the centrality and complexity of the Islamic world in (medieval) history.
Co-ordinator: Alexandra F. C. Cuffel, Ruhr-Universität Bochum
This strand welcomes submissions from medievalists working in all disciplines and all areas of medieval Jewish culture and Jewish-Christian and Jewish-Muslim relations. To all medievalists it offers the opportunity to interrogate the temporal, geographic, and cultural boundaries of what we call ‘medieval’ in relation to Jewish studies and Jewish-Christian/Jewish-Muslim relations. It is a strand that, just like the IMC as a whole, invites comparative encounters across many disciplines. Such disciplines may include Bible studies, religious law and other rabbinic texts, religious thought, inter-religious and intra-religious polemic, liturgy, Hebrew, Judeo-Arabic, Judeo-Spanish/Ladino, Judeo-Italian, Yiddish and other Jewish literatures and languages, social history, economic history, history of mentalities, music, art history, archaeology, material culture, paleography and printing history, historiography, non-rabbinic forms of Judaism, such as Karaites, Bete Israel, among others.
The strand seeks to offer a meeting ground for mature and for young scholars, and thus contributes to research training in this increasingly complex and interdisciplinary field. The strand welcomes the presentation of new research projects and findings; it encourages methodological innovation and theoretical reflection. Ideas for sessions or strings of sessions, and of publishable groups of papers, are always particularly welcome.
Language and Literature (Comparative)
Language and Literature (Germanic)
Co-ordinator: Sieglinde Hartmann, Universität Würzburg
There are especially four major fields of general interest for medievalists: the ‘Origins of Courtliness’ and the flowering of courtly literature, the ‘Nibelungen Tradition’, mystics’ lives and writings, and literary expressions towards the Reformation.
Current research trends in German studies of general interest for medievalists include, relations between text and image; means of symbolic communication in medieval life and literature; development and application of narrative theories to medieval epics; the creation of new interdisciplinary approaches to medieval literature by combining methods developed in the fields of gender studies, mental history or natural history e.g. with textual analysis; to make accessible hitherto unknown or neglected works of German literature especially of the Late Middle Ages; to develop new means of evaluating the processes of textual transmission and, in consequence, to elaborate methods of editing medieval literature.
In addition to presentations of current research trends, the strand particularly welcomes paper and session proposals on anniversaries of famous authors; medieval translations and translating the Middle Ages; medieval myths and their modern reception; travel and pilgrim literature; Non-Germanic authors or themes and their reception in Germanic art, music, and literature (such as Petrarch); approaches to language and literary history; recently discovered authors (i.e. Oswald von Wolkenstein) or wider European literary genres (i.e. Jewish literary culture or the Teutonic Order); introduction to the use of modern encyclopaedias or electronic tools such as the Lexikon des Mittelalters, Die deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters, Verfasserlexikon, the Mittelhochdeutsche Begriffsdatenbank (MHDBDB, Salzburg), or Repertorium der Sangsprüche und Meisterlieder des 12. bis 18. Jahrhunderts.
The strand aims to provide interdisciplinary debate, bringing together specialists of Germanic Language and Literature with medievalists from other disciplines.
Language and Literature (Middle English)
Co-ordinator: Andrew Galloway, Cornell University
Middle English studies (covering, chronologically, language and literature from the immediate post-Conquest to the late-medieval period) are increasingly wide-ranging. Increasingly there is a heightened consciousness of the linguistic situation in the British Isles, where Latin, English, Anglo-Norman, Anglo-French, continental French, and Celtic co-exist and variously inter-relate, on the historical specificity of textual production, and on the means of its dissemination and a focus on how this needs to be taken into account in any assessment of the impact of writing in Middle English. These include Middle English’s function in relation to society (as entertainment, polemic, religious instruction, philosophical tool. . .), its status and its audiences, and its claims to authoritativeness. Recent research has focused on how Middle English as a vernacular ‘authorizes’ itself, in relation to other languages, and as a medium for the transmission of technical (for example, medical) and religious and philosophical ideas.
These emphases bring a new urgency to questions about translation and authorization, gender and culture, power relations, the relations between clerical and lay devotional and religious writings, and discourses of the self, as well as to investigations of the use of English in scientific and other specialist registers. A renewed awareness of Middle English’s place in a highly complex literary and linguistic cultural dynamic also forces a reconsideration of the cultural placing of ‘canonical’ authors, as well as of lesser-known texts.
The Leeds International Medieval Congress attracts contributors with a wide diversity of critical approaches and disciplinary skills, especially in the area of material culture, and their expertise offers Middle English language and literature specialists some exciting opportunities to exchange ideas productively and to view their own work from innovative perspectives. We would especially welcome submissions from historical linguists, and from those working on the inter-relation of Middle English language and literature, and from those who would like to use the congress as a space to experiment with and discuss new research, with other language and literature scholars and with specialists from other disciplines alike.
Language and Literature (Romance Vernacular)
Co-ordinator: Emma Campbell, University of Warwick
This strand covers the full range of medieval vernacular texts and their historical, social, cultural and linguistic contexts, in French, in Occitan, in Italian, and in the Iberian languages.
It welcomes papers from all critical approaches, on individual authors, on all genres (lyric and epic poetry, verse and prose romances, historiography, religious, moral, didactic, and allegorical texts), and on all themes. Sessions and paper proposals are welcome in any of the major European languages.
Late Antique and Early Medieval Studies
Co-ordinator: Yaniv Fox, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan
The Late Antique/Early Medieval Strand incorporates two research areas from the late third to the early eleventh century. The chronological span of both overlaps, and so may suggestions of topics, which can also look beyond this specified period. The geographical focus is on Latin Europe with its ‘barbarian’ periphery, looking out to the Eastern Mediterranean and other parts of the world.
The strand welcomes contributions in all relevant fields of study on Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, including the following: the transformation of the Roman World and the ‘Fall of Rome’; Christianisation and cultural change; the integration of barbarians and formation of new identities opening up to comparison with the rest of the world; the post-Roman regna; the Carolingian World; trade and communication; war and peace; states and missions in Northern Europe; the transfer of culture and the transmission of texts; Church organisation and Christian ways of life; the transformation of European societies in post-Carolingian Europe. Discussion-oriented sessions or round tables are very welcome. This strand regards past societies as a whole, and sees its elements as interrelated, for instance texts and identity formation, or states and (political) culture. It also invites interdisciplinary participation, among others, from archaeologists, art historians, social anthropologists, and historians of religion.
Co-ordinator: Danuta Shanzer, Universität Wien
During the Middle Ages a Latin-writing intelligentsia was to be found in most of Europe, so that it has become customary to speak of a ‘Latin West’. Within this area, Latin was or came in time to be the primary language of learning, liturgy, law, and record; it was also a major language of imaginative literature and a lingua franca permitting communication across national and linguistic boundaries. People wrote in it with varying degrees of skill and effectiveness on virtually all topics from the trivial to the highly serious and from the mundane to the sublime. The study of the ways in which writers expressed themselves in this important but usually acquired tongue (and even in the very early Middle Ages when Latin was still a native language in parts of Europe and North Africa, its literary forms had to be learned and mastered) is the chief focus of the Latin Writing strand.
This strand welcomes scholarly contributions on philological, linguistic or literary aspects of Latin-language texts created during the period c.300 – c.1500. Also covered are the medieval study and teaching of Latin and of Latin-based rhetoric and poetics; socio-linguistic aspects of the use of Latin during this period; significant influence or reception of Latin-language texts in writings in other languages; post-medieval attitudes to or appropriations of medieval Latin writing; and the modern study and teaching of medieval Latin language and literature.
There is no restriction by critical approach or by genre: work on rhetorical, compositional, stylistic, or contextual features of ‘popular’ or utilitarian writing (e.g. charms, prophecies, travel literature, chronicles, learned commentary, handbooks and encyclopaedias) is just as welcome as that on forms traditionally considered ‘literary’. Successful sessions have dealt with Latin writings of particular times or places, with the work of individual writers, with writing on particular themes, and with widely practised genres (e.g. letters and letter-collections). Within a session, a mix of disciplinary viewpoints is often advantageous, and we welcome papers with clearly enunciated critical methodologies. Submissions on newly emerging areas of interest and re-assessments of the state of knowledge in long-standing ones are encouraged.
What differentiates this strand from others is its emphasis on the linguistic vehicle itself: how thoughts were understood and expressed in Latin, how that language was regarded by its writers and their audiences, and how knowledge of this tongue was transmitted to others.
Literacy and Communication
Co-ordinator: Marco Mostert, Universiteit Utrecht
One of the most important developments in European history took place in the field of communication. A transition is clearly visible from illiterate societies to societies in which most members are active users of the written word. This complex process, which started in Antiquity and which is still not complete, gained momentum during the Middle Ages. Many disciplines have recently made contributions to our understanding of the history of medieval communication: codicologists and historians of the book, anthropologists and psychologists, but also philosophers, sociologists, literary historians, classicists, theologians, economists, art historians, and historians. Interest in the subject is now widespread within the worldwide community of medieval studies, and more and more scholars are becoming convinced of the potential of studying the tensions between ‘oral’ and ‘literate’ modes of thought.
This strand is intended to provide for sessions and papers on the history of non-verbal, oral, and written communication in the Middle Ages. There is obviously much overlap with other strands, not least because the discourse of communication has by now become part of mainstream medieval studies. Broadly speaking, the emphasis in this strand is more on the uses of (written) texts and other instruments of medieval communication than on their content – even if it will be clear that content will always have a bearing on use. Sessions will be considered addressing one or more of the following topics: the theory of literacy and (written) communication in the Middle Ages (including anthropological, sociological, and psychological contributions to the debate); the debate on orality versus the culture of the written word in the Middle Ages; forms of non-verbal communication (smells, colours, gestures, symbolic objects, clothes, the visual arts, the relationship between visual images and texts, music); ritual (e.g. political ritual and ceremony); oral communication (silence, language, the problem of Latin, the problem of the vernaculars); oral and written memory (e.g. lieux de mémoire, the past in primarily oral societies, oral tradition); teaching literacy skills; the production and use of written texts (script and script forms, book production and use, reading and the reception of texts, the relationship between manuscript culture and print culture); the preservation of written texts; correspondence; mandarin literacy; the uses of writing by the various social groups (clergy and laymen, atistocrats, peasants, town dwellers, women); the uses of writing in government, management and trade (e.g. legislation, charters, jurisdiction and dispute settlement); literature as a form of communication (e.g. ‘oral’ literature, the composition of ‘oral’ literature, performance); religion and writing (including the magic of the written word); the symbolism of the book; the development of ‘literate mentalities’ and a concomitant (dis)trust in writing.
If you have any queries on matters relating to this strand, please contact its coordinator, Marco Mostert, who will be more than willing to assist you, e.g. with proposals for sessions and individual papers.
Co-ordinator: Dominque Stutzmann, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris
Co-ordinator: Annemarieke Willemsen, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden
Material culture provides the background to medieval life and economy. It is concerned with the materials available such as metal, stone, clay, wood, textiles, vegetable fibres, and animal parts (bone, leather, ivory, fur, wool), the way in which they were processed and the craftsmanship used to transform them into the finished object. Material culture also includes the ways in which objects were decorated. This ranges from very simple ornament to complex decoration including inscriptions and iconography. The use of objects, the social occasions during which they were used, and the social status of the objects are all important aspects of the theme.
This strand includes (not exclusively) the way in which archaeological finds through their context can illustrate the social use of objects, the changes in consumption in the Middle Ages, and the meaning of ornament on objects. The subject areas covered by the strand are archaeology and finds, costume and dress including textiles, coinage, weights trade and economy, art and devices on objects, methods of production and the culture of consumption.
Medievalism and the Reception of the Middle Ages
Co-ordinator: Bettina Bildhauer, University of St Andrews
The study of what could be called the Afterlife of the Middle Ages has been increasingly productive in the past three decades, whether under the title of ‘medievalism’, ‘reception of the Middle Ages’, ‘neo-medievalism’ or Mittelalterrezeption. Scholars increasingly recognise that alongside research into medieval texts and artefacts themselves, the study of the ways in which the Middle Ages have been constructed and reinvented in the post-medieval centuries is crucial to an understanding of the medieval period. All eras are subject to reinvention – there are neo-Victorianisms as well as neo-classicisms and neo-medievalisms. But it can be argued that the reinvention of the Middle Ages has been culturally more significant in the past two centuries (at least) than that of any other period. The positioning of the Middle Ages as the despised ‘other’ in the sixteenth century, followed by the period’s refashioning as a time of pastoral innocence in the era of industrialism, has meant that we inherit today a complex but conflicted and contradictory notion of the medieval.
This strand is open to papers on all aspects of this process. These can focus on popular or cultural manifestations (social media, graphic novels, games, film, television, the arts, social practice etc.), or on political uses of medieval precedents, or on the history and development of medieval studies. Global, non-European approaches to medievalism are particularly encouraged.
Co-ordinator: Dolores López Pérez, Universitat de Barcelona
Monasticism and Religious Life
Co-ordinator: Gert Melville, Technische Universität Dresden
This strand refers to all forms of life which involve a vow to live according to the evangelical counsels (consilia evangelica) of obedience, chastity and poverty. This includes monks, hermits, canons and mendicants as well as the so-called ‘semi-religious’, such as beghines, in all their organisational forms – with a focus on both individual monasteries and convents and on the orders as a whole. We are looking for proposals for sessions and indvidual papers on all aspects of these forms of life: spiritual practices (such as liturgy, ascetic practices, the cure of souls, missions and preaching), organisation and administrative norms (such as rules, customs, statutes, visitations), economic and social realities as well as religious art and literature (such as hagiography, didactic writings and hagiography).
Alongside the usual emphasis on the historical circumstances of individual orders, it is our particular priority to stress the need for comparative studies, and to overcome the lack of communication between scholars of the different orders and religious movements. Any discussion of aspects such as charismatic rule, individuality and community, or poverty would seem to be particularly welcome in this regard.
Music and Liturgy
Co-ordinator: Daniel DiCenso, College of the Holy Cross, Massachussetts
This strand encompasses three areas: research on music, research on liturgy, and research on music and the liturgy.
Since musical practices connected to public worship constitutes by far the largest part of the preserved – written – music of the Middle Ages, the combination of the two overlapping areas into one strand is sensible. The combination of ‘music’ and ‘liturgy’ hints at the possibility for, and strongly encourages, the use of interdisciplinary approaches to public devotion, musical practices, and public medieval culture. Such approaches have become more important in later years as general studies of the musical life in individual cities or ecclesiastical institutions have shown. In addition, new anthropological and historiographical approaches in recent years have developed and extended the study of medieval music as well as of medieval liturgy, questioning traditional definitions and methods.
The component of the strand specific to ‘music’ includes research on musical instruments, notations, and musicians, as well as the analysis and history of specific musical practices and individual works, musical manuscripts, musical iconography, and the theory and aesthetics of music in the Middle Ages. Session and papers on all aspects of music are welcome.
The ‘liturgy’ component of the strand includes, but is not limited to, research on liturgical rites, texts and services; liturgical theology; liturgical manuscripts; calendars; liturgical vestments and implements; liturgy and the arts (including architecture, manuscript illumination, and the so-called liturgical arts); specific liturgical genres such as prayers, readings, chants (e.g. hymns, sequences, tropes, and other chants of the Mass and Office), as well as ‘liturgical drama’ and other public devotional representations. Also pertinent to the strand are considerations of broader issues such as liturgy and politics, liturgical reform, or questions of methodology, such as critiques of anthropological or historical constructions of notions and phenomena subsumed under the terms medieval ‘liturgy’ and medieval ‘ritual’. Sessions and papers on all aspects of the study of liturgy are welcome.
Philosophy and Political Thought
Co-ordinator: Cary J. Nederman, Texas A&M University, College Station
Philosophy (philosophia) had in the Middle Ages a very broad meaning. Besides the universally accepted definition of ‘love of wisdom’, traditional and widespread definitions of philosophy included topics such as ‘demonstrative knowledge of divine and human beings’, ‘knowledge of beings as beings’, ‘assimilation to God’, ‘contemplation of death’, ‘foundation of all sciences’, ‘help in good living’. Monastic forms of living were also interpreted as ‘true philosophy’ (‘vera philosophia’), and the hermit Arsenius was praised in the 14th century as ‘summus philosophus’.
Philosophy in its historical, medieval understanding was as ‘spiritual exercise’ and well reflected motivation to praxis, as founded knowledge deriving from reflection in search for truth. This approach concerned theoretical, ethical and methodological issues on the Divine, man, nature and society, and was developed along a standing discussion with the positions of the classical philosophical tradition. The object of this strand is therefore the way in which the thinker in the Middle Ages formulated their questions on the topics they recognised as being ‘philosophical’, the discussions they had about, and the answers they gave to them.
This strand includes studies in the philosophical discussions in Latin, Greek, Arabic, Hebrew, and in the Vernacular between 500 and 1500. It includes areas such as history of logic, dialectic, ethics, metaphysics, cosmology, philosophy of nature, liberal arts. Moreover, this strand includes studies of political thought, broadly conceived to include such areas as thought about the nature of human society; laws; relations between and definitions of religious and lay authority in the Islamic and Christian traditions; and treatises on political life and conduct.
Co-ordinator: Åslaug Ommundsen, Universitetet i Bergen
This strand is positioned purposefully widely to enable and encourage contributions from scholars working on all areas of medieval Scandinavian culture/society, history, literature, archaeology, linguistics, philology, anthropology and folklore (although this list is by no means prescriptive). Contributions may be suggested in the form of individual papers or themed sessions and are particularly welcomed from individuals working from an interdisciplinary perspective.
The strand has attracted an increasingly healthy series of contributions over the period during which the IMC has been running, with widely ranging sessions working on Old Icelandic and mainland Scandinavian topics. There has, perhaps, been less development of linguistic themes during these sessions and it would be encouraging to see this strand developing further in future years. Plans are in development to publish a series of papers within the area from the first ten years of the IMC and the co-ordinator would welcome proposals from scholars who have previously contributed to the strand.
Science, Technology and Military History
Co-ordinator: Steven A. Walton, Michigan Technological University
This strand includes all aspects of medieval craft, science and technology including the knowledge, skills, organization and economics of the various craft trades. The definition of science and technology is kept as broad as possible and welcomes proposals on topics from magic and alchemy to engineering and the harnessing of natural resources and power.
The strand also covers all aspects of military history, beyond the science and technology involved, and including cause and effect, tactics, strategy, arms and equipment, logistics, recruitment, organization and finance, land and sea warfare, and all conflicts, battles, and sieges, from minor armed civil disturbances to major dynastic and international wars as well as the theories and rules of war.
Social and Economic History
Co-ordinator: Flocel Sabaté i Curull, Universitat de Lleida
This strand covers the wider impact of life in the Middle Ages. This includes trade, commercial, and social networks, the impact of demographical developments, the impact of wealth and poverty, public works, charity, financial models and structures, discovering, exploiting, and developing resources, the interaction between man and nature (clearances, pollution, environment, water management), patterns of production and consumption, industry, commerce and trade, occupations, specialisation and organisation, inclusion and exclusion, social care and social cohesion, the impact of healthcare and health, as well as marriage and kinship patterns, social and economic origins of popular movements, crime, law and order, and sexuality.
Sources and Resources
Co-ordinator: Simon Forde, Arc Humanities Press, Leeds
Research into the medieval world is based on textual, material, and other physical evidence, much of which is analyzed systematically. Textual studies have benefited hugely from long-standing projects, such as the Monumenta Germaniae Historica, or the Corpus Christianorum series. More recently material evidence has gained greater attention. Developing, conserving, and making available primary research material involves scholars working alongside curators, librarians, archaeologists, and public bodies.
This strand aims to profile research into primary source collections (works or artefacts, often by type), how these objects are preserved or restored (including digital tools), and ways in which they can be presented today (including topics such as virtual museums, collection development, conservation practice and policy, outreach, and the role of such material in cultural heritage, tourism, and historical memory).
The strand also examines the role of publishers and other forms of dissemination, as well as demonstrations of the uses of primary resources in teaching, learning, and in research, as well as presentations of team-based research projects on classes of primary sources.
Theology and Bible Studies
Co-ordinator: Pavel Blažek, Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic, Praha
Theology, either as a systematic discipline, or as a discursive reflection on sacred texts, was seen as the queen of medieval learning, both in the monastic context and in the medieval universities. The bulk of medieval intellectual and learned literature was produced either in the field of medieval theology or biblical commentary. Furthermore, the Bible was arguably the most influential book in the Christian Middle Ages. It deeply influenced spiritual and intellectual life, popular devotion, historiography and theology, political structures, art and architecture.
While the study of medieval theology (often centring around famous theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and others) has a venerable pedigree, recent scholarship has also seen new appreciation for alternative sources of theological insight, such as mystical texts, the role women played in medieval theology (often making use of ‘unofficial’ channels outside the male-dominated world of medieval schools and universities), the role the Bible played in medieval society, and the role of biblical scholarship in medieval intellectual life. Medieval sermons, for instance, have been approached as a window into medieval culture, while biblical commentaries and mystical texts have been interpreted as a source for medieval anthropology, literary theory, and intellectual discourse, in addition to scholastic quaestiones and theological summae. In addition, scholars have started to pay more attention to cross-cultural and inter-religious issues in medieval theological literature and biblical commentary.
This strand includes studies in the Christian theological tradition, including systematic theology; development of Christian doctrine; ecclesiology; as well as Jewish, Christian, and Islamic inter-religious dialogue; mysticism, spiritual and meditative literature; and biblical studies, broadly conceived to include the transmission, reception, and interpretation of biblical texts; biblical exegesis, glosses, and commentary.