ICMS 2018 - Disability, Devotion, and Subjectivity in Medieval and Renaissance England

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
José Villagrana, Bates College / Spencer Strub, UC Berkeley
contact email: 

This panel invites trans-historical and trans-disciplinary examinations of pre-modern disability studies, focusing particularly on the construction of the devotional subject across the lines of periodicity. Medievalists and early modernists working in the burgeoning field of disability studies have shown that “disability” was an operative category in premodern texts, with subjects constituted by different or “non-standard” bodies, minds, and spirits. This roundtable proposes to extend this conversation by turning to religious experience and devotion, an important discursive field for the construction of identity by marginalized and/or minority groups.



Devotional manuals, spiritual biographies, and hagiographies – both before and after the Reformation – involve disclosures and depictions of impairment, asking their audiences to identify with a construction of ability related to devotional practice. Questions participants might ask include:

·      What constitutes a “non-standard” body in pastoral, contemplative, and narrative devotional writing?

·      How do figurative and allegorical depictions of disabled bodies in religious literature construct the disabled subject?

·      What accommodations should be accepted for a disabled body to attain a recommended devotional posture?

·      How does devotional didacticism approach variation in sensory acuity?

·      How are devotional communities and cultures defined by conceptions of ability and impairment?

·      Under which circumstances is the attainment of a-typical ability the aim of devotional practice?

·      How might legal and ethical debates about injury, loss, and retribution be shaped by conceptions of impairment?


This roundtable invites a conversation on how devotional practices, and the very nature of devotion, evolved with (or stubbornly resisted) the Protestant and Catholic Reformations, reshaping the construction of the disabled subject. We invite a range of approaches, including contemporary theoretical lenses on disability studies as well as historical and literary-formal examinations of the subject. 


Please send 300-word abstracts for ten-minute roundtable papers to José Villagrana (jvillagr@bates.edu) and Spencer Strub (spencer.strub@berkeley.edu) by September 15, 2017.