Saturday, October 24, 2009

CFP: Bring Out Your Dead!

“Bring Out Your Dead”: Memento Mori and the Work of Remembrance in the Middle Ages

Keynote Speaker: D. Vance Smith, Princeton University

The Medievalists @ Penn Group (M@P) invites submissions for their second annual graduate conference in Medieval Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, February 5-6, 2010. All abstracts (max. 300 words) must be received by December 4th 2009. Please send all submissions electronically to

The Middle Ages is often characterized by that defining calamity, the Black Death. As Boccaccio makes clear in the opening of his Decameron, set during the plague in Florence, death can be both a disruption of social norms and daily practice as well as a regenerative, narrative force. Always anticipating that messianic moment to come, the medieval mindset is often characterized by a preoccupation with death and dying. This infectious motif pervades cultural expressions, from religious thought to the production of visual and textual artwork, as well as works in music, philosophy, historiography and beyond. This year's theme, memento mori, also asks us to consider how we can reconceptualize the ideas of beginning and ending, and the cycles of production, repetition, and memory that characterize our period. What can we “bring out” of this long-ranging topos that will help illuminate the vibrancy of medieval culture and provide new directions for our ever-changing field?

Our conference invites submissions concerning one or more formulations of the idea of memento mori. Proposals might look straightforwardly to death and its accoutrements during the medieval period or begin to interrogate and theorize the function of death, dying, and memory as it comes to bear on our field. As per our group's mission, we seek to assemble a plurality of perspectives from across all fields of study in recognition of the profound interdisciplinarity of our common object of inquiry: the Middle Ages.

Topics might include, but are not limited to:

- Graves, tombs, and relics
- Plague
- Translatio imperii, death of temporal realms
- Chanceries and requiems
- Eulogies and laments, both literary and musical
- Medieval memoria
- Histories, chronicles and Fall of Princes
- War, Crusade, and genocide
- Wills, bequests, and other documents of the dead
- Execution, excommunication and legal death
- Periodization and the Medieval-Renaissance divide
- Medievalism and the “undead” Middle Ages

Mission Statement: Medievalists @ Penn (M@P) is a reading group run by graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania. The group is comprised of members from departments across the School of Arts and Sciences (French, Music, Spanish, English, German, and Art History among others). Readings consist of primary and secondary texts chosen from among our various experiences and expertise, agreed upon each semester by the current participants. Our purpose is to foster discussion and interaction among students and scholars of all aspects of the Middle Ages and to provide mutual support for the development of a broad interdisciplinary understanding of Medieval culture.

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