Loneliness and Solitude in Late Medieval England (Kalamazoo 2017)
Call for Papers: Kalamazoo Medieval Congress 2017
Special Session: Loneliness and Solitude in Late Medieval England
This panel invites the close examination of medieval loneliness, solitude, isolation, and seclusion. Does loneliness register as an affect in medieval English writing? How and where does the medieval text reveal the effects of seclusion on its subjects? Under what conditions might solitude have been sought, desired, or coveted; and conversely, what were the discourses that marked isolation as fraught? The medieval anchorite might have aspired to the solitude permitting a more perfect communion with God, while Geoffrey Chaucer’s introduction of Criseyde in Troilus and Criseyde marks her social isolation within Troy as particularly precarious. Papers exploring the discourses organizing these differences are welcomed. But we also ask whether the anchorite or Criseyde could be characterized as lonely at all. If so, how might that loneliness be articulated, and what historical, political, and aesthetic status did it have?
We invite papers using a number of approaches. On the one hand, we invite papers that will offer a historically nuanced and sensitive account of loneliness. What did it mean to be lonely before modernity? How did medieval loneliness intersect with historically-specific understandings of gender, class, race, sexuality, profession, or religious vocation? And how do distinct discourses (literary, philosophical, devotional, and/or political) register loneliness?
On the other hand, we also encourage broader reflections on the ways that loneliness might transcend historical specificity. Recent work in affect studies, the history of emotions, and cultural studies has raised provocative questions about the meaning and the status of affects and emotions across historical time and cultural discourses. To that end, we welcome papers that aim to make broad theoretical contributions to affect studies. Just as Sianne Ngai articulates the “ugly feelings” of envy, paranoia, irritation, animatedness, and stuplimity; Lauren Berlant maps the operations of cruel optimism; and Kathleen Stewart explores the pressures of ordinary affects, we seek to explore, map, and articulate the status of loneliness in late medieval England––asking not only how loneliness might have been articulated in the Middle Ages, but also how medieval loneliness might contribute to our thinking about affect across time. Work on anachronism, transhistorical connection, and the loneliness of scholarship is particularly welcome.