Remote Middle English 1
Middle English Forum Roundtable CFP for MLA National Convention 2022, to be held in Washington, D.C., January 6-9, 2022
This roundtable session invites papers that analyze perceptions, representations, and implications of the remote in the Middle English period and its immediate premodern afterworlds, whether geographic, linguistic, literary, cultural, political, emotional, or other, c.1200-1700. What does Middle English remoteness signify? How does such remoteness signify?
For example, what does Gawain’s trek from the heart of the Round Table through the wilderness of Wirral to a remote Green Chapel and back again reveal about geographic, cultural, and emotional distance and proximity in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight? How do other romances narrate their quests through the figure of the remote? How do remote settings serve to recontextualize familiar narratives? What does it mean to stage theatrical settings like Eden, Noah’s Ark, Jerusalem, or Hell in towns like York or Chester? How might setting English religious debates, like those around Eucharistic theology, in relatively remote locales, such as Eraclea, Aragon, in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament, transform audience awareness of the geopolitical stakes of local religious friction? How does vernacular theology use natural, literary, or familial imagery and other devices to mediate spiritual distance and transform remote spiritual desires into immediate or affective human experiences, and how does it maintain or enhance that distance and remoteness? Beyond literary representations, can a reflection on diversity across English dialects and linguistic changes to the language in the course of a lifetime, like William Caxton’s 1490 preface to the Eneydos, engage the concept of the remote to shape a linguistic theory? Looking past the threshold of 1500, how might early-modern English writers like Spenser, Marlowe, and Shakespeare deploy the notion of remoteness to invent the medieval when they imagine pre-Reformation English language, religion, and sovereignty?
We invite inquiries into Middle English representations of places geographically remote from England, and we also seek papers that scrutinize understandings of Britain, England, and Englishness as remote because perched on the edge of mappae mundi and other imaginations of the world.