Medieval Quest Narratives (9/15; Kalamazoo, 5/12-5/15, 2011)

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46th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo, May 12-15, 2011)
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Kalamazoo 2011 Special Session

Panel Title: Medieval Quest Narratives

The questing knight is iconically "medieval" in the popular imagination -- and yet medieval quest narratives have not received much recent scholarly attention. Perhaps the tired images of dragon-slayers and damsels in distress and Holy Grails, endlessly recycled in TV, film and now video games, have turned even scholars of the Middle Ages away from serious consideration of medieval quests as sites of intellectual stimulation. This session invites participants to reconsider the role of journeying in medieval literature and culture by examining "quest" broadly conceived -- literal and metaphorical, physical and spiritual. To what extent are quests quintessentially medieval? To what extent are they part of a universal human search for meaning and purpose? How do quests relate to personal or cultural identity? Possible topics include:

- the "way of penitence" in penitential literature
- travel narratives and transcultural quest
- archetypal interpretations of quest (Campbell, Jung, etc.)
- new directions in Grail scholarship
- the relationship between quest and reputation in chivalric culture
- spiritual quest (meditation, prayer, pilgrimage)
- literary vs. historical quest
- quests for knowledge
- quests of self-discovery (Le Bel Inconnu tales, Perceval, Yvain)
- representations of medieval quest in popular culture

Abstracts of 200-250 words for 15-minute papers will be accepted until 15 September 2010. Please include a CV or 50-word biographical note.

Contact: Rob Stretter, Providence College, Department of English,