Premodern Desires: The Erotic from the Symposium to the Inferno - NEMLA 2022

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Charles Firestone East, Columbia University
contact email: 

Ever since the publication of Foucault’s multi-volume work The History of Sexuality, scholarship, whether theoretically, historically, or literarily minded, has reckoned with the call to develop less anachronistic methodologies to analyze premodern expressions of desire. While scholars such as David Halperin and Susan Lanser have risen to the challenge of Foucault’s text and expanded his analysis to address feminine and queer desires, both generally and within their specific periods of study, these theoretical and methodological strides in the history of sexuality have penetrated fields at various rates. This seminar seeks to help remedy this disciplinary issue, particularly within the literature of medieval studies and classics. Preference will be given to proposals that offer readings involving the mechanics and ethics of love (variously defined), whether philosophical and legal treatises or poetry which seek to define a process of infatuation within specific social contexts.

Questions for consideration: How do we define interpersonal relationships that by nature of their period of origin do not provide normative labels? What does our tendency to read ancient and medieval friendships through queer lenses tell us about the transferability of cultural norms and theoretical methodologies? What role does gender play in the various expressions of premodern desires?

The NEMLA 2022 conference will take place March 10-13, 2022 in Baltimore, Maryland. Abstracts should be submitted at and are due September 30, 2021.