Gender and Materiality in the Middle Ages Kzoo-2015

full name / name of organization: 
Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship

50th Medieval Congress
Kalamazoo, MI
May 14-17 2015

A number of different scholarly organizations have come together for the 50th Medieval Congress to pose questions about Materiality in the Middle Ages. While each panel represents a different issue and/or approach, at the core of these many inquiries is the question, "what about the MATTER of the Middle Ages?" The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship hopes to add a specific vein to this inter-organizational effort to interrogate medieval materiality from as many different angles and using as many different methods as possible. This panel at the 2015 Medieval Congress will actually be a follow-up session to one at MLA 2015 in January, in which several scholars will be taking up the topic of "Gender and Medieval Materialisms."

This panel, seeks papers that investigate the relationship between gendered bodies, medieval material culture and practices, and the expression of this practice in material-discursive texts. Our aim is not to simply continue an established conversation about the materiality of medieval culture and gender, but to take the field's traditional work on materiality and corporeality and extend it through the framework of contemporary feminist materialism scholarship.

As Stacy Alaimo and Susan Hekman point out in their introduction to Material Feminisims, feminist theory in the late twentieth century, that linked into the "linguistic turn," tended to "distance [it]self as much as possible from the tainted realm of materiality by taking refuge within culture, discourse, and language" (1) and even when feminist scholarship did focus on the body, it produced what Alaimo and Hekman call a "tremendous outpouring of scholarship on 'the body'" that really amounted to scholarship analyzing the "discourses about the body" (3) rather than material bodies themselves. The "body" of late twentieth-century feminist scholarship tended to be the discursively produced, socially constructed body that emerged at the nexus of social, cultural, and textual forces to render "the body" legible as such a thing within a human network of distributive agency and performative action. The material here, was still, somehow, the realm of either inescapable or unconsctructed, almost a priori, reality while the cultural and the discursive covered that background (material) surface with a multiplicity of overlapping significations and inscriptions.

We ask for work on medieval materialisms that seeks not to push against the linguistic turn, but to recover the significance of matter itself that has, throughout much of Humanist history, been flattened into nothing more than a surface onto which the human can inscribe meaning, significance, and value. This idea that matter is merely the passive stuff to be molded into human forms echoes the common gendered binary of active/passive mapped onto male/female.

Please submit proposals for papers that aim to take seriously the way in which matter matters in the Middle Ages, and in particular, the way that matter worked and/or was deployed to create gendered frameworks, experiences, or texts in medieval culture, discourse, and philosophy within medieval texts and contexts.

Topics can include (but are not limited to):

• Gendered (human or non-human) bodies
• Material constraints of gendering or gendered materialization
• Gendered reading or writing practices
• Medical/Anatomical/Gynecological materialities
• Materiality of queerness or genderqueerness
• Gendered material practices or material practices of gender (and/or gender performance)
• Transgender materialities
• Material sex and gender

Please submit abstracts for papers of 250-400 words to with "SMFS Kzoo" in the SUBJECT LINE. (This e-mail is receiving proposals for multiple panels, so please be sure to include this.) Please ATTACH your abstract as a Word (or other text) document and include your name, contact information, and panel to which you are proposing (SMFS) in the text of the document.

DEADLINE: September 15, 2014

If your proposal happens to overlap with topics relating to Mysticism and Materiality or the Materiality of Female Religion (and/or religious or devotional practices), I would ask you to consider submitting your proposal to the Magistra: A Journal of Female Spirituality panel instead. If you are unsure of which panel suits you and your topic better and would like to discuss it, please e-mail