Reading Multimedia: Interdisciplinary Approaches

full name / name of organization: 
Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies
contact email: 

The "Reading Medieval Multimedia: Interdisciplinary Approaches" session seeks papers across the disciplines of medieval studies that explore avenues for understanding medieval multimedia works, that is, works which utilize multiple forms of media as a way of appealing to the minds and senses of their reader-viewers and thereby shape reception. The goal of these sessions is to bring into dialogue approaches from a variety of fields that acknowledge the interdisciplinary demands of studying multimedia but otherwise tend to direct their discussions to monodisciplinary audiences.

Scholars have increasingly attended in recent years to what Stephen G. Nichols terms the "manuscript matrix" of literary texts. For example, Jessica Brantley uses the manuscript context of an illustrated Carthusian miscellany to argue for the intersections between reading and performance, group and private study in late medieval devotional culture. For this session, we want to expand the discussion beyond manuscript contexts to address the varieties of media a single work might engage with to shape cultural experience. What did it mean to the viewer, in terms of visual and bodily experience, to walk through a manor hall bordered about with images and/or words, as in the Great Hall at Longthorpe Tower? How was the singing of mass inflected by standing in choir stalls decorated with images drawn from the story of Reynard the Fox, as at Gloucester Cathedral? How can we reconstruct or conceive of the import of the absent painted cloths on which some of John Lydgate's verses were painted, or the intersection of food and verse in subtleties presented at feasts? How was the juxtaposition of image, text, music, spoken word, and taste used to stir the mind, the senses, and evoke affective and participatory responses in their audiences of these multimedia works? These sessions invite proposals that offer interdisciplinary approaches to further our understanding of the effects, contexts, and ramifications of medieval multimedia.

Please send proposals of 350 words to Heather Blatt at by September 15, 2009.

Organizers: Maija Birenbaum (Fordham), Heather Blatt (Fordham), Janice McCoy (University of Virginia)