Kalamazoo 2017: Imagining the Afterlife; Translating Sacred Bodies

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Yale Medieval Studies, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
contact email: 

Imagining the Afterlife


From the sermons preached in parish churches to the tympanums which adorned great cathedrals, the inevitability of the afterlife is enshrined in scenes of judgment and depictions of events yet to come. As Alastair Minnis has shown in From Eden to Eternity, scholastic discussions of the afterlife were not merely theoretical speculations. They had broad implications for the understanding of human nature, both as it should have been and as it could be. Even outside the universities, ideas about the afterlife were explored in diverse mediums: from the Visio Tundalis, to Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights toDante’s Divine Comedy. Papers might address these and other questions: Why and how were these literary, theological, and artistic representations constructed and what were their impact? What are the sounds, the feelings, the scents and the sights of heaven, purgatory, and hell? How did ideas about the afterlife manifest in practices and rituals around death and burial?


Translating Sacred Bodies


As Patrick Geary demonstrated in Furta Sacra, the theft of relics had undeniable social, political, and economic impact on the places and spaces between which they were translated. Saints and holy figures often found miraculous ways to express either approval or anxiety about the movement of their relics, as when Osbern Bokenham’s St. Margaret appears to ask two hermits to move her neglected body to Mount Flask, or when, in some tellings of the legend of Guy of Warwick, the holy knight’s body becomes so heavy as to be immoveable. Papers might address these and other questions: How did saints’ bodies resist or participate in their own division and translation? How did narratives of the translation and division of saint’s relics attempt to resolve the moral and theological issues of relic theft, and what are the implications for relics as cultural, historical, and artistic objects? What can the practice of furta sacra tell us about ideas of ownership and the will of both saints and God himself?


Please send proposals of 250 words to gina.hurley@yale.edu by September 15, 2017.