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Speech, Performance, and Authority in Later Medieval Religious Literature
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special session, 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 8-11 May 2014
This session will explore the use of speech, voice, and dialogue in later medieval religious literature, including texts produced during the high and late Middle Ages (c. 1000-1500). The session will engage with current scholarly discourse from a number of disciplinary angles, including studies of the performativity and rhetoric of medieval religious texts as well as the study of the history of dialogue. The papers in the session will seek to expand upon J.L. Austin’s historic studies of performative speech and also to converse with newer criticism, such as Mary Hayes’s 2011 book, “Divine Ventriloquism in Medieval English Literature: Power, Anxiety, and Subversion.” Such scholarship on religious literature is burgeoning, as evidenced by the large audience for a similar session at the 2013 Congress, entitled “Voice, Dialogue, and Conversation in Later Medieval Religious Literature.” While limiting itself to religious literature in particular, the session will allow a number of scholars to engage with questions of voice and speech from various perspectives. Scholars of visionary literature may contribute by exploring God’s voice and the mystic’s authorial and visionary “I”. Because this session does not limit itself to the religious literature of a particular language, a paper might engage with the fascinating linguistic and theological question of whether or not God speaks in the vernacular or in Latin. Other presenters may explore the medieval Christian’s voice in prayer and his or her engagement in dialogue with the divine. Later medieval religious writings provide a nearly exclusive avenue through which the typically politically voiceless – namely the laity and women – are able to speak. By engaging with the question of voice, medieval literary scholars will gain the opportunity to enhance their engagement with the performative aspects of religious literature and address questions of listening, speaking, and conversing in the historically-significant genre of religious dialogue literature.
Contact: Jenny C. Bledsoe, Emory University, firstname.lastname@example.org