With Stacy Klein: Early Medieval Childhood, Parenting, and Family Structures

deadline for submissions: 
September 25, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Harvard Medieval English Colloquium
contact email: 



Representations of children and parents often surface in early medieval literature, balking the commonly held supposition that medieval society, with its high rates of infant mortality and depictions of children as miniature adults, did not value childhood as a distinct life stage. This panel welcomes papers that discuss parents, children, and families in early medieval England from any angle, but which might respond to one or several of the following questions. How did Anglo-Saxon writers imagine reproductive technologies and family structures beyond the constraints of heterosexuality and the nuclear family? How did they depict alternative forms of parenting, such as fosterage, child oblation, or cross-species adoption? How do genealogical trees describe the relationship between humankind and nature? How do representations of children speak to broader philosophical or theological investigations of human vulnerability and productivity? This is intended primarily as an Old English panel, but if you work on similar issues in the later part of the Middle Ages, we are happy to consider your submission.


Note on the selection process: The Harvard Medieval English Colloquium will sponsor two panels this coming May at the 54th Annual Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo. Each of the panels has a "featured speaker": Catherine Sanok has agreed to give a paper on "Secular Temporalities," and Stacy Klein on "Early Medieval Childhood, Parenting, and Family Structures." A committee will choose three other panelists for each session by a process of blind review of the abstract submissions. The hope is that the blind review process would provide a relatively unbiased chance for junior faculty, graduate students, and adjuncts to "break in" on a panel that has the potential to draw a big audience. The sum of the idea is thus twofold: first, to start a conversation between senior faculty and those whom academic conferences often leave underexposed, and second, to provide a space for dialogue between academics at widely differing stages of the career.