[UPDATE] CFP: Fools on the Premodern Page and Stage (Kalamazoo, May 12–15, 2016)

full name / name of organization: 
Angela Heetderks, Oberlin College
contact email: 

"Fools on the Premodern Page and Stage" (Kalamazoo, May 12–15, 2016)
Organizer: Angela Heetderks
Presider: Joel Benabu

Near the end of the Middle English romance Robert of Cisyle, the eponymous king—who has been punished for his pride by being made to serve as his own court's fool—acknowledges the error of his former ways: "For he ys a fole [. . .] / That turneth hys wytt unto folye" (CUL Ff. 2. 38, ll. 398–9). Such condemnations of fools and folly—in Robert of Cisyle, underwritten by the pope and an angel—in no way served to stem the tide of medieval interest in fools and folly. Literary evidence shows that many premodern writers and their audiences "turn[ed their] wytt vn to folye": fools filled the medieval stage and page, pervading multiple literary genres.

Recently, scholars have begun to renew their interest in fools and folly in premodern European literature: books by Ralph Lerner (2009), Ruth von Bernuth (2009), Robert H. Bell (2011), Tim Prentki (2011), and Richard Preiss (2014) have all turned a new critical lens on the figure of the fool. The preponderance of this previous work has examined fools in early modern literature, particularly drama. This session seeks to enlarge the scope of current scholarship on fools and folly by eliciting new work on specifically medieval literatures. The session will take up such questions as: How is the fool portrayed across multiple medieval literary genres—poetry, prose, and drama? How would an enlarged understanding of the fool in poetry and prose enrich traditional critical accounts of the relationship of the Vice in medieval morality plays to the fools in early modern drama? How do literary characterizations of the fool influence religious and secular discourses on folly? What new accounts need to be given of how literary fool traditions across Europe inform and disagree with each other? How is the relationship between folly and madness variously delineated in medieval literary portrayals? How do contemporary critical theories of disability, class, and gender now inform our scholarly understanding of the fool, and what work needs to be done to expand our analytical vocabulary for discussing fools and folly?

This session will enhance scholarly understanding of the rich tradition of medieval fooling. Its investigation of multi-generic accounts of fools and folly will bring crucial new insights to an area of medieval literature that is ripe for new exploration.

Please submit an abstract of up to 250 words and a completed Participant Information Form to Angela Heetderks (aheetder@oberlin.edu) by September 25, 2016. The Participant Information Form is available at: http://wmich.edu/medieval/congress/submissions/index.html - PIF.