The Sacred and the Secular: Crossovers between Religious Piety and Courtly Love- ICMS 2022 Online (Kalamazoo)

deadline for submissions: 
September 15, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Maybelle Leung
contact email: 


Call for Papers— “The Sacred and the Secular: Crossovers between Religious Piety and Courtly Love.”

Special Session at the 57th International Congress on Medieval Studies

(Online: May 9 to 14, 2022)

This session welcomes 15-20 minute papers on any thematic crossover between courtly love or fin amor, a knightly submission to a lady of desire, and affective piety, the envisioned marriage of oneself to Christ.

While modern audiences tend to understand the former as “secular,” pertaining to Arthuriana, the latter remains associated with “sacred” literature and women mystics. However, as Barbara Newman (2013) argues, crossovers between the two forms of love were abundant; as Sir Gawain’s courtesy modelled him in the form of Christ, the beguine mystic Marguerite Porete imagined herself in a courtly wooing by God. Together, courtly love and affective piety stressed the complete surrender of the self to the will of the other. 

We seek papers that ask: How did courtly love and medieval devotion alike approach the love object? How did both forms of love imagine the soul and the flesh? Did erotic consummation prevent spiritual salvation, or did it guide the soul towards it? Was the devotional only spiritual, or did it also promote carnality? A final interest lies in how we understand the medieval love of the sacred in our secular age.

Topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Forms of love in the Middle Ages
  • Asceticism vs. eroticism 
  • Chivalry, Christianity, and sexuality
  • Erotic motifs in religious devotion
  • The art of love; amatory writing
  • Bodies and bodily transgressions
  • Sacrality/secularity in art and music 
  • Landscapes, animals, and other natural motifs of desire
  • Latin vs. vernacular language
  • In contemporary criticism: queer theory, psychoanalysis, etc.
  • Contemporary adaptations (popular culture, romance fiction, etc.)


Please submit proposals (paper title and 250-word abstract) through the submission portal at

The deadline for submissions is September 15, 2021.

If you have any questions, contact Maybelle Leung (York University) at