CFP: Sessions Sponsored by the Research Group on MS Evidence, 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo 2015

Deadline: 15 September 2014

Sessions Sponsored and Co-Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence at the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, May 14–17, 2015

For the 50th Congress, the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (RGME) prepares five sessions to celebrate a wide range of interests and explorations in the realms of medieval, early modern, and related studies.  We continue sponsorships and co-sponsorships of sessions, designed to showcase the work of younger, independent, and established scholars and teachers alike, in a constructive interchange between areas of expertise and spans of experience.

We invite proposals for papers for the sessions.  Please send your proposed title and abstract directly to the session organizers by 15 September 2014, along with the completed Participant Information Form (PIF) available at  We welcome your questions and suggestions.

I.  Sessions Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (RGME)

   1.  “Making It or Faking It:   The Strange Truths of ‘False Witnesses’ to Medieval Forms”

           Organizers:  Mildred Budny, RGME, and Sarah M. Anderson, Princeton University
                                ( /

   2.  “Predicting the Past:  Dream Symbology in the Middle Ages”

           Organizer:  Valerio Cappozzo, University of Mississippi (

II.  Session Co-Sponsored with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at the University of Florida (

   3.  “The ‘Good’, the ‘Bad’, and the ‘Ugly’ Ruler:  Ideal Kingship in the Middle Ages”

           Organizers:  Florin Curta, University of Florida, and Mildred Budny, RGME (

III.  Sessions Co-Sponsored with the Societas Magica (

   4.  “Magic in Manuscript Versus Print Cultures”

Organizer:  Frank Klaassen, University of Saskatchewan (

   5.  “Efficacious Words:  Spoken and Inscribed”

Organizer:  Jason Roberts, University of Texas at Austin (

The Scope of the Sessions

1.  “Making It or Faking It:  The Strange Truths of ‘False Witnesses’ to Medieval Forms”

Endlessly fascinating and endlessly emerging, forgeries, imitations, and re-creations of earlier forms challenge the study of medieval texts, art, artefacts, modes of thought, and systems of belief.  Among these “fakes” or “re-makes” are texts, compilations, and other media created in the style of, or attributed to, known authors, artists, craftsmen, or “celebrities” — whether made or claimed as such during the medieval period or subsequently.  There are many methods for discerning, at least in part, the deliberately deceptive from the imitations, “impersonators”, or genuine exercises in recreating processes so as better to understand the products of earlier ages.  Identifying criteria for the “false witnesses” can include later symptoms, materials, or forensic clues, which advancing research may exclude for the purported period of production.  Whether aimed to fool, amuse, instruct, or re-educate their audiences with a “better” or “truer” version of the past, these ‘false witnesses’ call for recognition of their potential truths, for their own (as well as later) times, in their complex testimony to the Middle Ages in many forms, as part of a living legacy, with afterlives included.

2.  “Predicting the Past:  Dream Symbology in the Middle Ages”

Like medieval bestiaries, dream-books constitute compelling tools to investigate the collective imagination of the Middle Ages.  These manuals, such as the widely circulated “Somniale Danielis”, were usually structured so that key terms in the text corresponded to the subject of the dream, while the key-words were arranged alphabetically with a concise interpretation of its symbol.  The system established both quick and easy access to terms, symbols, and their meanings, and functioned as a convenient guide to the interpretation of dreams.  It serves, too, as an important tool for understanding medieval literary as well as other dreams, and for identifying and describing traditional dream topoi.  Our session analyses the origin and circulation of dream symbology as transmitted in dream-manuals, in both manuscript and early printed sources.  It also concentrates on how dream symbols developed and changed, in their transfer across religious texts and imagery, literature, and the visual arts, into settings and contexts (including genres other than the literary and media other than the book) where they reveal new layers of meaning.  In such ways, dream-books and their study may function as portals to the medieval past.

3.  “The ‘Good’, the ‘Bad’ and the ‘Ugly’ Ruler:  Ideal Kingship in the Middle Ages”

(co-sponsored with the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the University of Florida)

This session will address the techniques employed in shaping the ideal medieval ruler.  Texts such as the “Mirrors of Princes,” pedagogical literature, and historiography functioned as models in the education of princes, while the historical actions of princes were shaped in hindsight according to idealized patterns of behavior.  We propose to examine 1) the formation of the canon of virtues expected of rulers according to medieval theorists, combining ancient and Biblical models with the cardinal and the theological virtues (Justice, Fortitude, Temperance, Prudence, Charity, Faith, and Hope); 2) the rôle of language in describing concrete “power,” rendered by multiple Latin words (auctoritas, potestas, potentia, imperium, vis, dicio, dominium), which, however, mostly could not apply to the power of usurpers, requiring other strategies; and 3) the differing narrative concepts and methods employed by medieval historians, according with their own attitudes, intentions, and backgrounds (regional, national, social, educational, and more), in their depictions of rulers, as revealed by the markers of “good” and “bad” rulers — or the qualities of both in one person.  Case studies could cast significant light upon the many natures of medieval kingship, in principle and in practice.

4.  “Magic in Manuscript Versus Print Cultures” (co-sponsored with the Societas Magica)

Even if early modernists such as Elizabeth Eisenstein may have overdramatized the transition of manuscript to print culture, there are nevertheless qualitative differences between books of magic in the two media.  This session will explore these differences as well as the fortunes of magic in the transition to an intellectual culture and market place that included printed books.  How did intellectual entrepreneurship and mass markets associated with printing transform the presentation of magic?  How did manuscript and printed books of magic interact?  Were they used in different ways?  What books never found their way into print and why? If printing was a popularizing or democratizing force, how did it change magic?  How did printers collect and reorganize manuscript material?  How did the new capacities and limitations of the printed word alter magic texts, or has the impact of form (and process) on content been overblown?

5.  “Efficacious Words: Spoken and Inscribed” (co-sponsored with the Societas Magica)

From the Tetragrammaton (“YHWH”) to abracadabra, from runic letters carved on a blade to the task of guessing Rumpelstiltskin’s name, words – spoken or written – have been believed not only to inspire, but to be efficacious in and of themselves.  Indeed, the acts of naming, inscribing, or pronouncing aloud, as well as renaming or erasing, reveal a belief in the power of the word in itself.  What are such words?  What power are they believed to have and what is the source of their power?  When are some words more powerful than others?  Moreover, how do antiquity and foreignness affect the power of efficacious words?  This session will explore examples of efficacious words in texts and artifacts, as well as the beliefs and practices that support the power of words to effect change directly.


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