CFP: [Medieval] Teaching off the Grid: The Promise and Perils of Using Non-Canonical Texts in the Classroom

full name / name of organization: 
Nathanial B. Smith
contact email: 

44th International Congress on Medieval Studies
May 7-10, 2009
Western Michigan University
Kalamazoo, MI

Teaching off the Grid: The Promise and Perils of Using Non-Canonical
Texts in the Classroom

Canonicity is an increasingly embattled concept, and the lists of what
texts are considered canonical for the medieval and early modern period
are constantly growing. Despite this, every medievalist and early
modernist can name at least three (and probably more) interesting or
important texts that are considered non-canonical. This is not
surprising. However open the canon seems, it is, by nature, exclusive and
necessarily omits some texts. Many texts that have long been known to
exist have, for one reason or another, simply not received the study that
inclusion in the canon seems to require. Recently found texts, however
significant they might be, face a similar obscurity and lack of

Texts that, for one reason or another, are left out of what is currently
considered the canon are often promising for use in the classroom.
However, practical difficulties including departmental requirements, a
lack of suitable editions, and the absence of pedagogical discussion
about these texts often hampers their inclusion in our classes.
This session will attempt to remedy this dearth of discussion by
exploring the pedagogical issues surrounding non-canonical texts of the
medieval and early modern periods. Short (10-15 min.) papers will
discuss the benefits and drawbacks of teaching non-canonical texts;
approaches to teaching specific non-canonical texts; what unique insights
non-canonical texts offer students; student reactions to non-canonical
works; what we might lose by introducing non-canonical texts into our
classrooms; and other topics with a pedagogical focus. The session will
attempt to avoid papers which debate the canonicity of any particular

A respondent will address such larger questions as "what counts as non-
canonical anymore?" and "what determines canonicity?" and speak to issues
raised in the session's papers.

Please send proposals of no more than 300 words to Gina Brandolino
( or Nate Smith ( by Sept.
15. Kindly send along with your proposal a completed Participant
Information Form, which can be found at

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Received on Mon Aug 04 2008 - 19:22:51 EDT