Toxic Masculinities: Creating, Enforcing, and Distorting Ideas of Manliness in the Middle Ages (Kalamazoo 2019)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Ana Grinberg, Société Rencesvals, American-Canadian Branch

CFPs 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, May 9-12, 2019

Toxic Masculinities: Creating, Enforcing, and Distorting Ideas of Manliness in the Middle Ages

Co-sponsors: MEARCSTAPA and Société Rencesvals, American-Canadian Branch

Organizers: Ana Grinberg (Auburn University) and Asa Simon Mittman (California State University, Chico)

Medieval narratives create norms for “men” and “manly” behavior that often resemble but are not identical to modern ones: masculinity is not a permanent or transhistorical category. Likewise, medieval codes for behavior that often appear to be gendered masculine, such as chivalric ones, may not be as closed as they seem. This panel intends to focus closely on medieval constructions of gender rather than modern or medievalist ones, although the topic is of special urgency as contemporary discourses that reinforce “toxic masculinities” frequently claim the historicity of the gender binary and argue that there are the positive social effects of supposedly “medieval” structures, such as formal courtship, enforced monogamy, and chivalry.

Medieval heroic narratives serve as cultural vessels of destructive male expression. Bisclavret mauls his wife’s face because she leaves him out of reasonable fear. Roland’s pride and his decision not to sound the Oliphant until the last moment only leads to the slaughter of his soldiers. King Arthur seeks to rectify his incestuous mistake via Herod(ian) style massacre. These characters engage in toxic behaviors, responding to social expectations of manliness.

As part of our mission to bring together different fields and methodological approaches, MEARCSTAPA and Société Rencesvals, American-Canadian Branch seek to examine constructions of masculinity in the medieval world that destroys its subject, where it glorifies rape or violence as a means of restoration, or where, in other ways, it proves harmful to those caught in its restrictive ideologies.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a completed Participant Information Form to session organizers Ana Grinberg ( or Asa Simon Mittman ( by September 15. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. All abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions, as per Congress regulations.