Berkeley Graduate Medieval Conference 2011

full name / name of organization: 
Graduate Medievalists at Berkeley
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The Graduate Medievalists at Berkley
invite submissions for the
UC Berkeley conference on the practice of reading in the Middle Ages (abstracts due November 11)

25-27 March 2011
UC Berkeley

Keynote Address by
Rita Copeland
Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn
Endowed Term Professor in the Humanities
at the University of Pennsylvania

Our knowledge of late antique and medieval culture derives primarily from the way in which we read today the manuscripts, images, and artifacts that were created and read in the past. The various intersecting and discrete social strata spanning the Middle Ages each practiced radically different methods of reading, in the broadest possible sense of the term. From the monasteries where the writings and stories of the classical period were transmitted and preserved, to the stained glass windows greeting worshipers of even the lowest social classes, each reading practice provides us with invaluable information about what the people we study may have valued as well as how they lived and communicated with one another.

This conference will take up the variety of reading practices at play in the Middle Ages as the cornerstone to an exploration of medieval culture. However, proposals are encouraged to push our modern conceptions of reading into new territory, finding medieval reading practiced in ways we would not expect, challenging the way in which we read now, and asking questions of our relationship to medieval texts. Above all, we invite papers from a wide range of disciplines, especially ones that do not limit themselves to a treatment of literary or textual reading, but instead reach beyond the scope of the manuscript page to archeology and the reading of time through physical remains, art and the reading of images, et cetera.

We look forward to welcoming you to our beautiful campus for what promises to be an exciting and intellectually stimulating weekend.

Please send 300-word abstracts for twenty-minute papers to Graduate Medievalists at Berkeley ( by Friday, 12 November 2010.

For more information on the conference and GMB, please visit

Lauren Chiarulli, R.D. Perry, and Benjamin Saltzman
GMB Co-chairs
Conference Organizing Committee

Call for Papers
25-27 March 2011
UC Berkeley

Postscript: Brief thoughts on the topic

We invite creative approaches to the topic and encourage proposals that extend beyond these initial ideas:

• Sociological studies of reading practices - What were different groups reading in the Middle Ages? How did texts circulate through communities? And how were those communities defined by these texts?
• The act of reading - How did medieval readers read? What and when was reading conducted silently? And, for that matter, aloud? How can these practices inform our understanding of literacy?
• The science of reading - How can we apply contemporary cognitive theories of reading to medieval evidence?
• Reading as a response - How did medieval readers react to their reading? What can glosses tell us about the relationship between reader and text?
• Reading tradition - How do medieval authors respond to their precursors? What does this response tell us about such issues as anonymity, influence, canon formation? What do medieval readers do with classical texts?
• The intellectual position of the reader - What are the differences between distinct orientations of reading? Are there, for example, differences between orthodox and the various heterodox reading practices? Are there similarities?
• The textual community - What did medieval textual communities look like? How are reading practices altered by the space in which they are conducted (monasteries, guilds, poetic coteries, etc.)?
• Reading the vernacular - What is one to make of the various historical alterations and emendations to the supposed “rise of the vernacular”? Who was reading vernacular writing and in what vernacular? How did one mediate between various kinds of vernacularity? How do vernacular or secular reading practices differ from religious or Latin reading practices? How are they similar?
• Codicology, paleography, and other material evidences of reading – What can we learn from marginal annotations, manicules, glosses, and the shape of a manuscript?
• More materialities of reading – How does reading stone differ from reading flesh or wood? To what extent were images the “books for the unlettered”? And, to what extent can culture or humans be “read”?
• Post-reading - How do later periods read the Middle Ages? What does the early modern period, for instance, do with medieval texts? How does the nineteenth century read those same texts? And, lastly, what do we do with them now?

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