The Lollard Society will sponsor the following three sessions at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (May 10-13, 2018):
1) Unmystical Rolle
The early fourteenth-century Yorkshire hermit, Richard Rolle, has long been known as one of the premier mystical writers of the English Middle Ages. He was positioned at the beginning of “the brilliant procession of English mystics” by Evelyn Underhill (1911), a reputation supported by the early publication of Incendium Amoris, the most substantial account of his mystical experiences, by Margaret Deanesly (1915). This view of Rolle as primarily a mystical author is supported, more recently, in Nicholas Watson’s influential literary biography, Richard Rolle and the Invention of Authority (1991), where his less obviously mystical works are positioned early in Rolle’s career, thereby made explicable as juvenilia beyond which the mystic quickly moved. This session aims to balance this longstanding emphasis by attending instead to what might be called, roughly, Rolle’s unmystical works (in English and in Latin)––derivative pieces, dull tracts, boring bits of exegesis, rigidly programmatic writings, etc. How might devoting more sustained attention to these works change our understanding of this important English author, of his appeal to medieval readers, and perhaps even of the chronology of his writings that Watson proposed? Papers should focus on individual writings or groups of writings by (or attributed to) Rolle, on case studies of manuscripts containing his works, or perhaps on uses of Rolle’s texts in other late medieval literature.
2) Constructing the Wycliffite Bible
With the immanent publication of a critical edition of the Glossed Wycliffite Psalter, together with ongoing work on a new edition of the Wycliffite Bible at Oxford, we are in the midst of a new wave of textual-critical and other theoretical assessments of Wycliffite textual activity. This work will facilitate a more subtle analysis of the Wycliffite Bible in all its variants, and of how its intricate apparatus and companion texts were instrumental in its subsequent circulation. What’s especially topical about the Wycliffite Bible is how the medieval experience of its texts occurred within a wide variety of specific material circumstances even as a sense of scripture’s broader unity and coherence persisted. A “constructed” document is always both reducible and irreducible in this way; yet the scope and transmission of the Wycliffite Bible also vividly illustrates the significance of these alternatives. Panelists might consider the reducibility of the Wycliffite Bible in relation to approaches focused on specific books and manuscript traditions or on local patterns of production, use, and circulation. At the same time, its irreducibility as a “constructed” text—that is, its abstract expressive power, its surplus value as symbol or artifact—seems equally urgent, and might suggest that we take more theoretically oriented approaches to its materiality.
3) Social Justice in the Piers Plowman tradition (co-sponsored with the International Piers Plowman Society)
“Social Justice” is generally understood as the quest for empowerment, equality, and equity in all matters of civics, law, and labor, and extending as well to nature and the environment. Many universities are focusing their curricula on 21st century themes of social justice due to the rising demand placed on academia to help make sense of the rapid pace of social change in the modern world. Following on recent Kalamazoo panels, of the last three years in particular, that have looked to medieval literature as a site to explore issues of contemporary urgency such as rape culture, misogyny, and ableism, this panel investigates how the great 14th-century poem Piers Plowman both treats issues of social justice in its own time and invites, in pedagogy, dynamic engagement with issues relevant to today’ world. One particular site inviting such engagement between the medieval and the modern is labor. Piers Plowman asks questions about sustainability, gainful employment, disability as it relates to labor and access, the role of institutions (e.g., governmental or ecclesiastical) and charity as it pertains to work, the integrity of labor, and a host of other issues. The session also welcomes broader constructions of the Piers Plowman tradition and social justice issues that mediate the medieval and the modern, such as: the rhetorics of patient poverty; the visibility of disability, reimagining class distinctions; the ethics of animal-human labor; and the ongoing relation between humankind and the natural world.
To propose a paper, please send an abstract to Michael Van Dussen (michael[dot]vandussen[at]mcgill[dot]ca) no later than September 15, 2017.