"Confessions": A special 10th-anniversary issue of postmedieval

deadline for submissions: 
April 5, 2019
full name / name of organization: 
postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies

"Confessions": postmedieval 11, no. 2

On the occasion of postmedieval’s tenth anniversary, we invite scholars to commemorate the journal’s contributions to a present-minded medieval studies and to openly acknowledge our devotions to and desires for the writing of history by engaging in the performance of confession. “The confession,” according to Michel Foucault, “is a ritual of discourse in which the speaking subject is also the subject of the statement; it is also a ritual that unfolds within a power relationship…; a ritual in which truth is corroborated by the obstacles and resistances it has had to surmount in order to be formulated; and finally, a ritual in which the expression alone…produces intrinsic modifications in the person who articulates it.” With this in mind, we seek essays that account for the personal and political motivations that drive each contributor’s intellectual work. In other words, we call contributors to fuse the confessional mode with rigorous research in order to recognize our own inextricability from the subject of our work, to critique the relationships of power that enable and disable our work, to identify the obstacles and resistances out of which our work emerges, and to suggest how we, as scholars, indeed desire the past and are effectively transformed by it in the present. 


As Amy Hollywood reminds us, the premodern form of the “confession was not only an admission of sins but also an act of praise and a profession of faith.” Therefore, by appropriating this particularly premodern and, indeed, religious genre, we aim to move beyond the mere inclusion of the autobiographical in our critical work in order to rethink the very ethics of confession. In this special anniversary issue, we evoke the praiseful tone of confession. But we also intend to disrupt the models of sovereign authority upon which conventional modes of confession rely—to reimagine confession as an act of resistance. Attending to the broad set of actions—like acknowledgement, avowal, declaration, recognition, and disclosure—with which confession is associated, we seek essays that resignify confession; that wrestle with the challenges to and critiques of confession; and that decenter dominant frameworks of confession by redirecting attention to non-Western and non-Christian archives. What forms of empowerment and coalition might the disclosure of conventionally silenced motivations engender? How might the confession challenge not only the institutional norms of academic publishing, but also its attendant values and ideologies? Against the fantasy of an apolitical, objective, and secular mode of performing intellectual labor, we invite devotees of postmedieval to reflect on their devotions to the past.  

How is our devotion to the past shaped by our present devotions to communities, political mobilization, and visions of the world? How are the methods and theories that we bring to our scholarship conditioned by concomitant attachments to values, ethics, and ideals? At the same time that we call contributors to account for their particular positions as subjects shaped in the world, we recognize the numerous crises that shape this world, so we ask: “What matters to you and why does it matter for your scholarship?” For example, how might the growing voices of medievalists of color and queer medievalists require a reconception of the ethical demands of medieval scholarship? How do racism and the threat of white supremacy lend urgency to engagements with critical race theory? How does the #MeToo Movement influence feminist analyses of the past? How do queer and trans activisms play themselves out in ancient, medieval, and early modern scholarship? Does increasing financial inequity motivate examinations of premodern labor? How might xenophobic nationalism and immigration issues inform approaches to the Global Middle Ages or the Global Renaissance? In fact, might premodern models of desire and devotion reflect our own, and when might it be ethically or politically exigent to distance oneself from the devotions of premoderns? 

Suggested topics include but are not limited to: 

  • Desire for and devotion to the past 

  • The postmedieval fandom 

  • Confession as praise 

  • Modern and premodern autobiography, memoir, and life writing 

  • Confession as resistance or critique or resistances to and critiques of confession 

  • Challenges to objectivity of academic work 

  • Challenges to secularity of academic work 

  • The first-person singular in the writing of history 

  • Confession as/in performance 

  • The convergence and divergence of political commitments and critical work 

  • Confession as disclosure, coming out, allyship, or coalition 

  • Identifications and disidentifications with race, gender, sexuality, class and their influence on scholarly work 

  • Confession in a global context 

  • Confession of alterity 

  • Ethics of confession 

  • The limits of confession or confession not as complete transparency  

We welcome submissions that examine any historical period, cultural context, and geographical region in the premodern world. We especially encourage contributions from early-career scholars as well as contributions that creatively reimagine the form of the confession as, for example, dialogue, interview, manifesto, etc.  

In order to be considered for inclusion, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words and a brief bio to the guest-editors, Abdulhamit Arvas, Afrodesia McCannon, and Kris Trujillo, at <postmedieval10th@gmail.com> by April 5, 2019. Pending proposal acceptance, completed essays of no longer than 3,000 words (note brevity) will be due August 15, 2019.