Theme: Lives and Afterlives

The Forty-Fifth Annual Sewanee Medieval Colloquium 
April 12-13, 2019
The University of the South, Sewanee, TN

Call for Papers:

The Sewanee Medieval Colloquium also invites proposals for individual papers engaging with any aspect of our theme, Lives and Afterlives, including to one of the subthemes shown below. Papers should be twenty minutes in length, and commentary is traditionally provided for each paper presented. We invite papers from all disciplines, and encourage contributions from medievalists working on any geographic area. A seminar will also seek contributions; please look for its separate CFP soon. Participants in the Colloquium are generally limited to holders of a Ph.D. and those currently in a Ph.D. program.

Please submit an abstract (approx. 250 words) and brief c.v., via our website (, no later than 26 October 2018. If you wish to propose a session, please submit abstracts and vitae for all participants in the session. Completed papers, including notes, will be due to commenters no later than 12 March 2019. 

For more information, contact:

Dr. Matthew W. Irvin
Director, Sewanee Medieval Colloquium

Follow us on Twitter @SewaneeMedieval


Applicants are invited to apply to the general call or to specific sub-themes. To apply to a specific sub-theme, please apply through the website or via e-mail, noting in your application the sub-theme to which you are applying. If your paper is not taken up for a sub-theme, it will be returned into the general call pool. Sub-themes are open to scholars of all disciplines. 


Afterlives of Assault: Medieval Traumas in the Modern Imagination

Organizers: Sarah Baechle (University of Mississippi) and Carissa Harris (Temple University)

Medieval documents—historical, legal, literary—speak partial truths to modern scholars, offering only bare details of the complex, multifaceted realities they record.  This is particularly true of the textual remnants of sexual assault and trauma, which endure in the subjectivities of those who experience them in ways that are difficult if not impossible to document. 

This sub-theme invites paper proposals that explore modern critical treatment of historical acts of assault and trauma.  We invite papers which consider any of the following questions:   How do we interpret the subjective experiences of the past?  What are ethical best practices for attempting to reconstruct historical moments of trauma and recovering the voices of survivors?  Proposals might address historical figures accused of assault; respond to scholarship that minimizes literary depictions of violence; or consider how legal records and historical texts represent the complexity of the experience of trauma.


Calculating the Past

Organizers: Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria) and Myra Seaman (College of Charleston)

These interdisciplinary panels will explore the qualities of medieval quantities by investigating the historically emergent conditions under which things such as number, ratio, interval, intensity, value, area, and scale developed meaning. We seek presentations that analyze quantitative thinking performed with geometry, astronomy, alchemy, or medicine, and investigate the myriad ways medieval measures signify within broader cultural contexts. Questions to consider might include: what kinds of quantitative practices had speculative or aesthetic dimensions? were quantitative disciplines sometimes sites of cultural and cross-species exchange? what attitude do particular authors or genres take towards enumeration? can we find among such texts precursors to what might be called an anti-numerical prejudice in the humanities? how might medieval measures motivate critiques of modern educational metrics or online predictive algorithms? finally, if counting is one among other unavoidable obligations, how could that history help us calculate more carefully?


Medieval Afterlives of Antiquity

Organizer: Andrew Kraebel (Trinity University)

The enduring influence of Latin antiquity can be seen across medieval culture, from basic classroom pedagogy, to literary and artistic styles, to royal self-fashioning. Though considered particularly authoritative, however, the legacy of ancient Rome was also quite malleable, open to many different reinventions, reinterpretations, and reapplications, to meet any number of perceived needs. This subtheme therefore seeks papers dealing with any aspect of the medieval engagement with the inheritance of antiquity, including, though not limited to: literary and artistic neoclassicism, the influence of specific ancient texts, authors, or ideas, the rediscovery of Aristotle, the stories of Troy and Thebes, medieval imaginings of ancient Rome (or pre-Christian life more generally), the status of Latin relative to European vernaculars, the status of pagan authors in medieval Christian schooling, comparison of ideas of the pre-Christian West with those of the contemporary (medieval) non-Christian East, etc. The topic is intentionally broad, and it is hoped that a variety of papers will be able to spark conversation across current disciplinary boundaries. 


New Comparative Literatures

Organizer: Emily Houlik-Ritchey (Rice University)

Recent years have seen calls for new (or newly invigorated) comparative work. For instance, Sharon Kinoshita and Peregrine Horden take a geographic and historicist approach to comparison in the context of Mediterranean Studies to redress the narrowness of traditional national, linguistic, and disciplinary knowledge formations; meanwhile George Edmondson and Kenneth Reinhard have looked to the theoretical concept of neighboring as a methodology that would situate textual relations laterally and asychronously, rather than hierarchically along direct lines of influence. These very different approaches nonetheless share a conviction that comparison should look beyond source and influence. What possibilities, implications, and complications arise as medievalists envision such “new” comparative literatures?

This panel sub-theme solicits papers that engage with new trends in comparative study. Papers may foreground the practice of comparison or its theory and methodology. The panel welcomes paper submissions on any period or discipline of medieval studies. Special consideration will be given to work that thinks across disciplines and/or languages.


Performance and/or Performativity?: Lives, Drama, and Afterlives

Organizer: Jeffrey Stoyanoff (Spring Hill College)

In medieval literary studies, performance and performativity have more often been determined by texts’ afterlives than their lives. In recent years, critics of medieval literature and drama have begun to reclaim these texts as they “lived” --- as they were performed and/or how they might have been understood as performative. Additionally, the advent of new materialism and Object-Oriented Ontology in our field has even led us to question how texts as objects --- manuscripts, books, etc. --- might be agent and, then, how this alters an audience’s relationship with them. This panel seeks to engage the following questions: How have these texts’ afterlives potentially skewed their lives? How did medieval authors and audiences understand the relationships between performance and performativity? We seek, in particular, papers addressing this intersection of performativity and performance in saints’ lives, hagiography, and drama, but papers querying this intersection in any genre of medieval literature are welcome.


Sanctifying Violence

Organizers: Elizabeth Maffetone and Joseph Morgan (Indiana University, Bloomington)

This panel invites papers exploring accounts of the lives, deaths, and afterlives of medieval holy figures, with particular attention to the complex relationship between violence and sanctity. In what ways is violence employed to test or reify sanctity? To what extent is such violence inflected by gender? Papers might, for instance, elucidate the sanctifying violence against bodies found in narratives ranging from hagiography to exempla; explore the temporal inversions of the martyr tale, where the validating starting point is, in many ways, the end of the tale; or seek to clarify the vexed relationship between the martyr’s voice of protest, dissent and authority.