ICMS Kalamazoo 2020: Middle Grounds: The Politics and Aesthetics of Medieval Mediocrity

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo; May 7-10, 2020. Medievalists @ Penn Sponsored Session.
contact email: 

What can we learn from unexceptional texts and artifacts in the Middle Ages? How can we critically assess the metrics by which we evaluate quality? How can medieval studies reconcile, or recover from, the history of Orientalism in its estimation of non-European medieval traditions? This panel builds on conversations during the 2019 Medievalists @ Penn Conference on Mediocrity (https://middling-ages.tumblr.com), which we seek to carry in more explicitly transcultural directions. By revisiting definitions of “middleness,” we hope to foster a rigorous approach to challenging the literary and artistic canons of the Western Middle Ages, to explore organic connections between politics and art within and across European and non-European traditions, and to consider how developing an aesthetics of mediocrity invites new discussions about the ethics of criticism.

We invite 15- to 20-minute papers on this subject from any discipline, and particularly encourage comparative methodologies, as well as research that challenges regional divisions by using global/universal/planetary models of medieval studies. We believe that mediocrity is a useful framework for thinking cross-culturally as well as analyzing the limitations of global approaches, allowing us to explore different aesthetic models and to expose the processes of canon formation within academic institutions. Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Unexceptional examples of common genres, such as romance
  • Translation, adaptation, and/or reproduction of medieval objects
  • Mediality of the Middle Ages
  • Orientalism and the mediality of Middle East/East/non-European traditions
  • Non-deluxe manuscripts, mundane objects, ordinary subjects
  • Artists and writers outside conventional canons
  • Medieval theories of artistic quality
  • Quotidian devotional practices; the religious lives of the unsaintly
  • Contemporary and historical reception and criticism
  • Differences in quality between text and image, or text and music

Please send queries or abstracts (200-300 words), along with the Participant Information Form (available at https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress/submissions), to Rawad Wehbe (rzwehbe@sas.upenn.edu) or Aylin Malcolm (malcolma@sas.upenn.edu) by September 15th, 2019.