Manuscript Aesthetics (Kalamazoo ICMS 2018)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Graduate Medievalists at Berkeley
contact email: 

In a 2013 special issue of the Chaucer Review, Arthur Bahr and Alexandra Gillespie encourage literary scholars to consider the aesthetic qualities of the medieval manuscript, in tandem with the text itself. For Bahr and Gillespie, the “forms of manuscripts can be read alongside, or as an intrinsicaspect of, the forms of literary texts.” These claims are, of course, part of a long-standing tradition in Anglo-American scholarship that considers how the mise-en-page of the medieval manuscript generates different modes of reading, from the lifelong work of Malcolm Parkes to the so-called “New Philology.”

These methodological approaches invite medievalists – both literary scholars and others – to engage with the materiality and aesthetics of the codex and, in particular, with paratextual devices that are routinely left out of modern editions. These include potentially systematic elements of manuscript design such as punctuation, rubrication, and rhyme braces, as well as the unique elements of a specific codex, such as marginalia, doodles, and vellum defects. The sustained analysis of manuscript design can reveal a multilayered understanding of medieval reading practices, as well as an understanding of aesthetics in the Middle Ages.

This panel invites abstracts that explore the aesthetics of a particular manuscript or manuscript tradition. It also invites papers that explore the possibilities and limitations of “manuscript aesthetics” as a concept to think with.

Key questions and ideas include, but are not limited to:

- What is the relationship between text and paratext in the medieval manuscript?

- Should textual criticism and editorial practices be informed by paratextual elements?

- Are terms such as “form,” “aesthetics,” and “materiality” productive for manuscript studies? How are they similar or different?

- These questions have mainly originated within literature departments. Are they useful lines of inquiry for other fields such as history or art history?


Please submit any queries or proposals (~300 words) to Bernardo S. Hinojosa at by September 15, 2017.