A New(ish) World: Medieval Influences in American Literature

deadline for submissions: 
September 6, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Session for International Medieval Congress, Leeds - 4th – 7th July 2022
contact email: 

A New(ish) World: Medieval Influences in American Literature

(International Medieval Congress, Leeds - 4th – 7th July 2022)


For a nation that was founded on the notion of ‘newness’, intent on separation, innovation, and “modernity”, it can be somewhat surprising how often medieval influences have permeated American literature. From Twain, who traversed the boundaries between the medieval and the modern with his Connecticut Yankee in Camelot; to Fitzgerald, who superimposed the romance tradition onto the 1920s Jazz Age; and Steinbeck, who experimented with Arthurian legend – American narratives have often proved that the intangible border between the present and the past can be crossed, recrossed, and broken. The vast Atlantic Ocean provides an ideal platform for the nation to craft an individual identity away from European influence. Borders separate, conceal, keep in, keep out – they are crafted with the intent to preserve. Why, then, does so much of America’s literature rely on and build upon medieval tropes and conventions?

The session will aim to answer that question by exploring medieval tropes in American literature. We seek 20-minute papers on topics that may include, but are not limited to:

  • Adaptations of romances
  • Knighthood and chivalry
  • Quests and migrations
  • Gender, sexuality, and queer readings of medieval modernism
  • Race, racism, and the ‘white knight’ complex
  • Violence, life, and death
  • Religion, the transcendent, and the sublime
  • Family, community, and hierarchy 
  • Political plots and betrayals
  • Illuminated manuscripts and paratexts
  • Experimentation and postmodernism

Please submit abstracts of no more than 200 words to the session organisers, Heather Moss (heathermoss97@gmail.com) and Dr Ahmed Honeini (ahmed.honeini.2015@rhul.ac.uk) by September 6th, 2021. Please include the following information with your submission: full name; email address; postal address; telephone number; full affiliation details (department, institution); title (e.g. Dr, Ms, Mr, Mx, Professor etc). We are committed to soliciting papers from scholars reflecting the full diversity of the field of literary studies, and we ideally aim to include a mix of participants from across the career spectrum. All are welcome to apply.