Incorporating Theory in Medieval Courses; Proposals Sept. 1, 2009; 45th Int. Congress on Med. Studies (K'zoo), May 13-16, 2010

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Elam, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Saint Louis University
contact email:

With the increasing prominence of medievalist groups interested in the application of theory to the study of medieval subjects, groups such as The BABEL Working Group and MEARCSTAPA, the usefulness of theoretical approaches to studying the Middle Ages has become increasingly apparent. There is, however, some ambivalence amongst medievalists as to the extent to which such approaches can, or indeed should, be applied. On one hand, some see the application of modern theory as a potential distraction from the basic tools of medieval study (e.g. language study, paleography, codicology, etc.); others see applying theory as a necessary tool in itself, one which potentially opens up medieval material to wider interpretive possibilities.

Although the debate may not be settled, this session, to be held at the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies in 2010, seeks to offer practical insights for introducing elements of theory in courses focused on the Middle Ages to medievalists that are inclined to but uncertain about doing so. The focus of the session is pedagogical and aims to address teachers with little or no experience using theory in the classroom, undergraduate or graduate, as well as those interested in broadening their own pedagogical use of theory.

Topics may include, but are by no means limited to, the problems of applying theory to medieval subjects (in all areas of the humanities—or even beyond), student/colleague resistance to using theory, theoretical apologetics, bewilderment in the face of theoretical approaches, practical insights for those relatively inexperienced in using theory in or out of the classroom, the emerging importance of preparing students to engage with theory, different approaches to theory for undergraduate or graduate courses, etc.

Brief proposals, about a page or so in length, should be sent to by September 1, 2009.

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