Shirking the Canon: “Obscure” or “Unpopular” Texts in the Survey Classroom

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2018
full name / name of organization: 
Medieval Makars Society

CFP: Shirking the Canon: “Obscure” or “Unpopular” Texts in the Survey Classroom

54th International Congress on Medieval Studies

Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI 

9-12 May 2019


Many medieval scholars find themselves at a difficult crossroads when teaching survey literature courses. We owe our students exposure to the traditional medieval literary canon, as these texts have secured their place in the canon for aesthetic, political, or social reasons. However, students may have encountered these popular texts previously or—even more tragically—have found ways around interacting with the original text via SparkNotes or Wikipedia. Additionally, many scholars attempt to find ways to fuse their teaching and scholarship, yet have difficulty doing so if their research interests fall outside of the traditional literary canon. These problems lead teacher-scholars to consider adding “obscure” or “unpopular” texts to our literary classrooms but ultimately juggling teaching these non-traditional texts alongside the canonical, curricular requirements. Also taking into consideration the recent debates in the medieval field, there is an importance in teaching a variety of perspectives and literatures, particularly in terms of race, sexuality, gender identity, and so forth. 


The purpose of this roundtable session is to negotiate this difficult terrain from various approaches and perspectives. Some of the questions we will ask panelists to explore will include: How do we combine our teaching and scholarship, particularly if the latter involves non-traditional texts? How do we do service to our students and the curriculum by adding non-canonical texts to our survey courses? In which courses is this approach most effective: Intro to Lit courses or Medieval surveys? What benefits can students gain from the inclusion of “obscure” texts?


The roundtable will not be an exchange of lesson plans. Rather, we hope to have panelists explore the pedagogical and theoretical opportunities presented by adding non-canonical texts to the survey classroom. While some teaching examples and successes may be presented as models, the primary focus of the panel is to discuss the “whys” and “hows” of teaching new and different texts in a survey course. 


Please email abstracts of 200-250 words to by 15 September 2018. If you have any questions, we are happy to answer them for you!