Drama, Phenomenology, Periodization - Kalamazoo, ICMS, May 8-11, 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Ryan McDermott / University of Pittsburgh Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program
contact email: 

Drama, Phenomenology, Periodization
49th International Congress on Medieval Studies
Kalamazoo, MI, May 2014

Sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program
Contacts: Ryan McDermott (rjm95@pitt.edu) and Jennifer Waldron (jwaldron@pitt.edu)

Call for Papers

At the Shakespeare Association of America conference in 2013, University of Pittsburgh colleagues Jennifer Waldron, an early modernist, and Ryan McDermott, a medievalist, sponsored a seminar titled, "Shakespeare, Phenomenology, and Periodization." Our goal was to use the emerging fields of historical phenomenology and phenomenology of the senses to better understand the periodization of medieval and early modern English literature, and to take drama especially as a point of convergence for these emerging fields. The seminar yielded exciting results, including a shared desire for more dialogue between medievalists and early modernists.

This session aims to rethink narratives of cultural change across the late medieval and early modern periods by bringing together several strands of scholarship that fall under the banner of "phenomenology" but are not usually engaged in direct dialogue. Broadly speaking, those interested in historical phenomenology and in embodied cognition have had little to say to those working in the philosophy of religion, political theology, and ethics. This is in part due to a disagreement about the status of historicism: is the point of phenomenological inquiry to reveal historical differences among medieval, early modern, and modern experiences? Or does phenomenology's call to investigate structures of consciousness from the first–person point of view allow us to transcend particular confessional identifications and material contexts, tackling problems of theology and ethics that apply more universally? For example, those arguing for a "religious turn" in early modern studies (Jackson & Marotti, 2004) were strongly influenced by the "theological turn" in phenomenology (Janicaud, 1991, trans. 2000). By contrast, scholars such as Bruce Smith have turned the philosophy of Edmund Husserl and Maurice Merleau-Ponty in a more experimental direction, studying Shakespearean theater in light of early modern sensory environments as well as contemporary developments in cognitive neuroscience. How can recent explorations of the medieval sensorium and devotional performance (Nichols & Kablitz, ed. 2008), especially those informed by cognitive science (Gertsman, ed., 2008; Stevenson, 2010), shed light on the cultural reformations that played out in dramatic and religious performances? Our objective is to bring these various approaches together in order to open up new perspectives on periodization and to reexamine early drama's role in narratives of secularization and modernization.

We invite papers that take a phenomenological approach (broadly defined) to the moralities and cycle plays, particularly their contested role as both the quintessence and the end of medieval drama, as well as their relationship to the drama of the long sixteenth century. Papers might consider secularization and pluralization, embodied cognition, historical phenomenology, political theology, the history of the senses, and/or the "religious turn" in phenomenology, as exemplified in the work of Jean-Luc Marion, Michel Henry, Robert Sokolowski, and Jean-Yves Lacoste.

This year at Kalamazoo, we envision a seminar modeled on those at SAA: a conversation oriented around precirculated papers, made accessible to a wider audience by the seminar leaders' introductions and by abstracts circulated during the session. We especially encourage proposals for co-authored papers.