Kalamazoo 2019: Beyond the Battlefield: Medieval Literature in Wartime
How does medieval war resonate beyond the battlefield? This roundtable session invites papers that consider the relationship between medieval literature and wartime. War punctuates our understanding of the Middle Ages, providing us with frameworks for comprehending and interpreting the events of history, and the corpus of literature created in response to these conditions is equally broad. In its most literal sense, wartime literature is the narration or memorialization of events on the battlefield, from the Battle of Maldon to the work of Jordan Fantosme and the poetry attributed to Laurence Minot. Wartime, however, is less a temporal or veridical marker than a loaded conceptual term. What counts as wartime? When does it begin and end? Is the ‘wartime’ of combatants and noncombatants, the homefront and the field, the same? Despite assumptions that ‘wartime’ is a modern phenomenon, the OED traces it back to John Trevisa’s fourteenth-century translation of Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon. Our panel seeks to explore two related problems of medieval wartime literature: what are the temporalities of medieval wartime, and how are they discerned, described, and created through literary texts? Participants could approach this topic through discussion of a specific text, manuscript, or historical case-study, and we are keen to include papers that reflect the chronological and geographic breadth of the Middle Ages, from late antiquity to the early modern. We particularly welcome contributions that treat wartime as a crucible for race and racialization, the impact of war on gendered bodies, and the influence of later wartimes (such as the Second World War) on our engagement with medieval texts.