CFP: Kalamazoo 2013 "The Spectacle of Punishment in Late Medieval and Early Modern Literature"

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Jeffrey B. Griswold, University of Virginia
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From Medieval saints' lives to Renaissance tragedies, much early English literature portrays public displays of punishment. While the structures of these scenes may seem similar, the rhetorical aims of these bloody episodes have been as diverse as the genres in which they are found. How do these texts represent the consequences (intended and unintended) of watching such horrors? What are the differences between the effects on the spectators within the text and the implied audience without? The multi-period approach to this panel should prove especially fruitful. For instance, how does Jeff Dolven's work on punishment's failure to shape individuals in The Faerie Queene reveal fresh approaches to medieval depictions of similarly forceful fashioning? In the same way, how can James Simpson's work on torture suggest new responses to old questions in Renaissance studies? This diverse panel will explore the effects of seeing violence in a body of literature that spans a fascinating historical shift concerning the role of the state and its efforts to shape the human beings living within its boundaries. Furthermore, this topic illustrates the relevance of the seemingly irrelevant humanities. As historians Cecil Chazelle and Amy G. Remensnyder have recently shown, understanding the gruesome practices of the past is crucial to forming a more just future.

This panel welcomes one-page proposals (250-300 words) from scholars of all levels. They may be sent along with a completed participant information form (found at to Jeffrey B. Griswold ( by September 15, 2012. Feel free to contact Jeffrey with questions about the session. For general information about the 2013 Medieval Congress, visit

48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan
University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May 9-12, 2013