Fame! Exploring Reputation, Rumor, and Historical Legacy in the Middle Ages: Kalamazoo Medieval Studies Conference Panel

full name / name of organization: 
Cornell Medieval Studies Student Colloquium
contact email: 

Influenced by Max Weber's theories of social "enchantment" the theater historian Joseph Roach suggests that, through a process of "re-enchantment," the affects and emotions associated with saints and other religious figures get mapped onto actors and other stars of stage and screen beginning in late seventeenth century Restoration theater. And so the modern notion of celebrity was born. This conference will explore the historical backdrops and preconditions for Roach's claim, examining the ways that the reputations of saints, heretics, kings, poets, and other medieval "celebrities" were formed. We aim to concentrate particularly on the relationships between fame and the circulation of rumor, gossip, and popular opinion. The seminal work of Mary Carruthers has drawn attention to the social constitution of memory in a way that implicitly points out how local micro-narratives such as gossip and rumor might inform broader social consciousness and the construction of history. In exploring these issues, this conference will investigate the indistinct boundaries that exist between different modes of telling stories, in particular how storytelling informs both the private and informal intimacies of gossip and the formal public institutions of literature and history. Examples of potential paper topics may include, but are no means limited to:

• Ancient Roman conceptions of fama and their medieval afterlives
• Fama as a legal category
• The construction of sanctity by the circulation of rumors
• Collective memory
• Vox populi
• Orality and literacy
• Discursive circulation and exchange
• Gossip as a tool for social control
• Marginalia as textual orality
• Visual notoriety and recognition
• Iconography
• Confession
• Architectures of intimacy/ intimacy as spatial practice
We invite graduate students from Cornell and other universities to share papers on their current research in any area of medieval studies. Papers may address any topic with a focus on Late Antiquity, the Middle Ages, or the Early Modern period in Western Europe and beyond. We are seeking submissions in all disciplines, including (but not limited to) archaeology, art history, history, linguistics, literature, musicology, paleography, philosophy, and theology. We especially encourage interdisciplinarity. Undergraduate abstracts and abstracts on topics unrelated to our theme will be considered, but preference will be given to graduate papers with some thematic affinity.