Kzoo 2011: CFP: Writing in a Material World: Cultural Practices and Literary Narratives

full name / name of organization: 
Janice McCoy, University of Virginia
contact email: 

The Center for Medieval Studies at Fordham University is sponsoring a session on the subject of "Writing in a Material World" at the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, 12-15 May 2011 at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

In asserting that "writing is language made spatial," Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe described a still-influential conceptualization of the relationship between texts and the physical world. Recent work, like that of Seeta Chaganti on the poetics of reliquaries, Emily Steiner, and the collective authors of _Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century_, has expanded this focus to incorporate new directions in the study of material and literary culture. This panel aims to build on this scholarship by addressing the often complex and frequently fascinating relationship between material culture and literary narrative. While we often turn to literature for insight on the workings of material culture, this panel invites critics to consider the reverse, how practices of medieval culture—from feasts to gardens to art and music—can be a shaping principle of narrative. Can the parts of a story unfold like a triptych? How might the layout of a garden provide the organizational form of a poem? In what ways can the text be clothed like a body, inviting dressing and undressing? What are the possibilities, and what are the limits, in the ability of cultural practices to shape narrative? How can our recognition of material culture and cultural practices inform our understanding of medieval literature?

One-page proposals (250-300 words) from scholars of all levels are sought, and they may be sent along with a completed participant information form (found at to Janice McCoy at by September 15, 2010.