Barbarous Tongues: Middle English and Beyond

deadline for submissions: 
March 3, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
MLA Middle English Forum
contact email: 

Middle English language and literature’s status is a perennial matter of debate, whose immediate political subtexts include race, class, gender, and nation. Middle English texts themselves categorize barbarous tongues, mother tongues, lay and learned languages. How do medieval linguistic taxonomies politicize identity and territory, medieval or postmedieval? Can we locate concepts like the vulgar tongue and vernacular eloquence in our current critical lexicon? What is at stake in contemporary deployments of categories like classical, vernacular, or sacred language and world, national, provincial, or cosmopolitan language? How do these and other linguistic terms participate in the broader cultural politics of labels like barbarism and civilization? Our linguistic categories politicize space, time, and language-users, rooting some firmly within particular territories while propelling others far beyond home. How might closer attention to conversations about linguistic or cultural creolization benefit Middle English studies? Please send 250-word abstracts for roundtable presentations to Susan Nakley ( by March 3, 2019.