(Kalamazoo 2019) Making Time in Medieval Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Kaylin O'Dell (Suffolk University); Hannah Byland (Univ. of Pennsylvania)
contact email: 

Making Time in Medieval Literature 

Our experience of medieval literature and culture is founded in time. Even the way we measure the temporal parameters of the Middle Ages itself shifts for those working at the boundaries. Time can be an external, measurable thing, but many medieval narratives treat time as unbounded by text and inseparable from the mind. In Book XI of the Confessions, for example, Augustine comes to the revelation that “time is nothing but extendedness.” He goes on to muse: “extendedness of what I do not know. This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself.” Augustine here identifies an explicit relationship between the mind and time, so that the perception of time is not found in the object, but in the subject. In essence, we make time in (or with-in) our memories.

But what happens when time becomes less legible and less personal? What occurs within the reader’s mind when time slips or fragments, and a narrative becomes nonlinear? How can the reader use such a text to construct a self when human experience is subject to the forward march of time? Indeed, what of the atemporality that is inherently embedded in the act of reading, itself both fixed and unfixed in time?

These questions are especially productive for medieval scholarship on performance, affect, and devotion. Medieval narratives constantly ask readers to accept unstable constructions of time and to immerse themselves in texts that do not progress linearly. Such texts are often comfortable with non-linearity in a way that can be foreign to modern audiences.

This session explores the representation, effects, and contexts of non-linear or atemporal time in medieval literature. We are particularly interested in papers that examine medieval reactions to non-linear time so that we may better understand the use of this trope in the Middle Ages. We welcome proposals from scholars working in all areas of medieval literature, and across the global Middle Ages. Potential paper topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Time and place in visions.
  • Immersive performance and narratives that 'lack' time.
  • Collapsed, fragmented, or blurred time in narrative. 
  • Anachronism or archaism in medieval literature.
  • Narratives of shared pasts between eastern and western medieval cultures. 
  • Temporality in non-European literatures. 
  • Questing and queer time in romance literature. 

Please send any queries and/or abstracts of no more than 250 words to Kaylin O'Dell (kodell@suffolk.edu) by September 15th.