(Kalamazoo 2019) Returning and Not Returning from War: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Loss of Self and Others in Medieval Depictions of Conflict
Warriors in medieval epic and chivalric romance often seem to return whole from battle even if they lose body parts or family members. They grieve deeply and vocally on the battlefield and then return to their homes or cities, seemingly ready to continue battle in the name of lost kin. Charlemagne is devastated by pain over Roland’s death in Roncevaux, demonstrated with tears and swooning. Others, like William “Short-Nose” of Orange, become famous for their lost parts, which, in absence, may even become emblematic of such warrior heroes. But do these warriors exhibit symptoms of trauma stemming from their constant exposure to violence? Does the literal exposure to the interiors of their comrades’ bodies cut into their wholeness and expose their own interiority, as they witness flayed and gutted friends agonizing on the field? Do their own lost limbs flex with phantom pains?
Can Yvain’s extended invisibility and hiding in the castle of the man he has just brutally killed imply a fear to reemerge? Can we understand William of Orange’s fits of rage at the court, his screamed epithets at his own sister and his threats of violence to his kin, as problems of anger management? If contemplation of the wounds of Christ and the saints begets sympathetic pain in beholders, does the same apply for warriors witnessing casualties on the battlefield?
This panel seeks papers that apply approaches from psychology, trauma studies, medicine, hagiography, and any other relevant fields to analyze the aftereffects of war on knights’ minds and bodies in medieval narratives. Société Rencesvals also invites papers on romance epic as well as other genres.
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a completed Participant Information Form to session organizers Stefanie Goyette (firstname.lastname@example.org) by September 15. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. All abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions, as per Congress regulations.