Medieval Rebellion and Modern Insurrectionism

deadline for submissions: 
March 18, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
MLA Middle English Forum
contact email: 

How might medieval dissent, rebellion, and class conflict shed new light on modern insurrectionism? What new historiographic questions might we ask, or positions might we take, on Middle English literature in view of contemporary events?

Paul Megna’s paper for this forum at MLA 2022 invoked a Public Books piece by Irina Dumitrescu in order to prompt contemporary medievalists to ponder the events of 1/6/2021. How might 1/6/2021 cause us to reconsider the scholarly lenses through which we have typically interpreted the events of Rising of 1381 and their literary manifestations? Terms such as "revolt," "(up)rising," and "insurrection" imply contrasting assumptions about and views of the events so named, as scholars of Middle English have long recognized for the events of 1381 and as has been hotly debated since January 2021. The political traumas of the present, in particular their implications for considerations of race and class, both echo and invite close scrutiny of some of the historiographical paradigms that we have grown used to in our subfield, as well as the genres of Middle English literature—dream visions such as Langland’s Piers Plowman or Gower’s Vox Clamantis—that are typical focal points of discourse. Such scrutiny may in turn also cast aspects of our political present into relief. This session invites papers that consider the "distant mirror" of 1381 or other medieval English rebellions, riots, and risings and how they, and their characterizations in later discourse, shape and have been shaped by the political contexts of the scholars who study them. 250-word abstracts should be sent to Ruen-chuan Ma (rma@uvu.edu )and Claire Waters (cmwaters@ucdavis.edu) no later than March 18, 2022.