ICMS Kalamazoo 2018: Nonhuman Forms of Thought

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Program in Medieval Studies, Rutgers University


Nonhuman Forms of Thought (Sponsored Paper Session)


53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan


May 10-13, 2018





In one sense, thought in the medieval period is defined in specifically human terms: rationality is the defining characteristic of humanity. In another, more expansive, sense, medieval thought reaches outside the human to draw many of its organizing principles from plants, animals, and artifacts. Trees of virtues and vices encourage the pursuit of virtue and the avoidance of sin; astrolabes and volvelles calculate the position of the heavens; and buildings, castles, and arks form the basis for practicing the art of memory. As scholars such as Mary Carruthers have argued, medieval thought takes place alongside a dizzying array of nonhuman images and objects: books, trees, pearls, rivers, arks, buildings, and wheels. While some of these images are pressed into service for their spectacular value, others provide a structural logic. Trees and rivers allow medieval thinkers to understand relationships between trunk and branch, wellspring and tributary. Architectural images, such as castles and arks, provide compartments and divisions to guide and sustain memory and thought. Recently, new materialism has reconsidered the dualistic relationship between matter and thought to allow for the possibility of thought not just beyond the human, but beyond the living. This panel focuses on the contributions that medieval studies can make to one aspect of this rethinking: the interrelations, confusions, and unexpected meanings that arise when thought is carried out through forms and structures drawn from the nonhuman world. Is the relationship between human thought and these nonhuman forms antagonistic, symbiotic, prosthetic, instrumental? How are forms of thought abstracted from nonhuman beings and objects? How do the nonhuman aspects of medieval thought complicate our understanding of thought’s role in constituting the human? This session will bring together papers that address the nonhuman aspects of medieval thought in literature, theology, history, science, and philosophy.


As these methods of ordering knowledge have been deployed, both historically and in the present, to create hierarchies of race, gender, religion, and ability, we welcome abstracts that address these forms of thought from the perspective of critical race theory, decolonial theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, transgender theory, disability studies, and intersectional feminist theory. Further, we encourage submissions that address any aspect of these more-than-human strains in medieval thought, including the medievalisms of later eras, teaching strategies in the classroom, and scholarship beyond western Europe. Send 250-word abstracts, a brief bio, and Participant Information forms to Danielle Allor (danielle.allor@rutgers.edu) by September 15.