2016-17 Calendar of Events

The GW Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (GW MEMSI) was founded in 2008 by faculty and students in the departments of English, History, Political Science, Spanish, Italian and French. We have quickly grown to include twenty-three professors and numerous students in seven departments, making us the largest humanities initiative at GW. Our mission is to bring fresh critical perspectives to the study of the literature and culture of early Europe within a global perspective, connecting the past to the present.

The following is our calendar for the next academic year. 

Please save the days and join us in Foggy Bottom. All events are free and welcome anyone who would like to attend.

September 9 2016
Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Lecture: Katherine Rowe

Virtual Globe Theatres (Playgoing in a Networked World)
Katherine Rowe (Provost and Dean of Faculty, Smith College) delivers the annual Dean's Scholars in Shakespeare Lecture. Complete information here.

From Patience Agbabi, "The Refugee Tales Walk"
October 28 2016


a symposium

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Room [Gelman Library 702]  
3 PM
A wide-ranging conversation on global migration, refugees, crisis, pedagogy, performance, and home -- medieval to early modern to contemporary. Featuring:

‘I thought I forget in this life but I never forget’
Modeled on The Canterbury TalesThe Refugee Tales (Comma Press, 2016) is an anthology of poems and stories based on recorded interviews with refugees, asylum seekers and those who support them. Patience Agbabi is celebrated for her own retelling of Chaucer’s original, Telling Tales (Canongate, 2014). She will read ‘The Refugee’s Tale’, in which a woman is forced to leave her native Sudan to forge a new life in the UK. Agbabi views her work as a collaboration, a crown of sonnets incorporating many phrases from the original interview, privileging the voice of the refugee.

Pamela L. Troyer
At What Cost? -- Contemporary Analogues to a Medieval Tale
Non-medievalists do not always understand how relevant medieval studies is to immigrant and refugee students working to get a college education. They assume that this period is perversely arcane to students who are not of European descent and who do not have English as a first language. To test this assumption, I have introduced Chaucer's Man of Law's Tale to a number of unexpected and unsuspecting readers. So far I have found that the experiences of the displaced and marginalized in my community are directly analogous to the traumas that affected people in the Middle Ages. Refugee and immigrant students find Custance's peripatetic suffering plausible and accessible. Professionals find analogies to Custance's story in the Immigration and Nationality Act, Pulitzer-prize-winning journalism, and immigration art. Nonetheless, when I submitted an article on the project to a journal, one blind reviewer wrote that these reader experiences are "counter-educational" and "all about getting people to talk -- whatever the cost." I'm not sure what the cost is. And to whom or to what?

Motion Sickness
Movement disorients bodies. When shaken, bodies seek stable refuge – whether the bodies in question comprise shipwrecked sailors, strife-torn nations, dislocated asylum-seekers, or confused students. Three experimental revisions of classical literature – Caroline Bergvall’s Drift (2014), which mashes up “The Seafarer” with the Left-to-Die boat of Algerian refugees; David Hadbawnik’s new translation of Virgil’s Aeneid (2015); and Stephen Collis’s “The Lawyer’s Tale” (2016) revision of Chaucer – show stories responding to unsettling movement. Motion sickness results from the conflict between a body’s need for refuge and the sea’s disorienting flux.

Jonathan Hsy
Storytelling Ethics: The Refugee Crisis in Words and Images
How are academics activists, and how are activists academic? This talk explores how academic and para-academic communities use art to respond to the global refugee crisis. How do artists, academics, and activists come together to tell migration stories and to build empathy with people whose life experiences seem entirely alien? I consider the collaborative, mobile Refugee Tales Project (based in the UK), JE SUIS AVEC EUX / I AM WITH THEM (a “photo manifesto for refugees” by Paris-based photographer Anne A-R), and online podcasts associated with the historical database "England’s Immigrants 1330-1550.”


November 10 2016
Perspectives on European Migration: 

England's Medieval Immigrants 
National Churchill Library and Center, Gelman Library 1st Floor
4 PM
W. Mark Ormrod and Sarah Rees Jones (History, University of York) 

Between 1330 and 1550 the record-keeping habits of English royal government preserved the names, nationalities and other personal information about over 65,000 aliens living with the kingdom. Those people came from all parts of Europe, and occasionally from beyond. They were received with varying degrees of warmth, appreciation, suspicion and hostility. Sometimes they were given special rights; other times, they were subjection to close regulation. Throughout, they fulfilled a very wide range of functions in the economy and society. You were probably never more than ten miles from an alien in late medieval England. In this presentation and discussion, Mark Ormrod and Sarah Rees Jones will share the capabilities of a new database, www.englandsimmigrants.com, as well as exploring some of the wider research that has been enabled by the new resource. The implications are never more timely than now, with 'Brexit' dominating the political agenda in the United Kingdom and debates about immigration raging in many countries across the western world. Participants are actively encouraged to bring other time periods, and their own perspectives, to this debate, and thus to appreciate the deep and multiple historical reverberations of a 'problem' too often assumed to be only a contemporary phenomenon.

February 4 2017
The GW Digital Humanities Institute sponsors a symposium on Chaucer and Shakespeare in a digital global world. Details forthcoming.

February 17 2017
Futures of the Past

International Brotherhood of Teamsters Room [Gelman Library 702, GW Foggy Bottom Campus]
10 AM - 5 PM (includes lunch and a reception)
An all day symposium featuring important new books (some in progress, some just published) in medieval and early modern studies. Please join us for some energetic conversation!
  • Kathy Lavezzo (Associate Professor of English, University of Iowa)
  • Surekha Davies (Department of History and Non-Western Cultures, Western Connecticut State University)
  • Pablo Gómez (Assistant Professor of Medical History and History of Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison)
  • Allison Bigelow (Assistant Professor Spanish, University of Virginia)
  • Tom Prendergast (Professor of English and Chair of Comparative Literature, College of Wooster)
  • Lowell Duckert (Assistant Professor of English, University of West Virginia)

March 2 2017
Toward an Enviro-Philology
Vin Nardizzi, University of British Columbia
4 PM
National Churchill Library & Center (Gelman Library 1st Floor)

Professor Nardizzi is a renowned pioneer of early modern ecocriticism. His work focused upon English Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare, and bridges ecotheory, plant studies, queer studies, and disability studies.

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