WMU to host medievalists from around the globe

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of WMU's International Congress on Medieval Studies.

International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 10-13

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will stage its 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies, the largest, most comprehensive academic conference of its kind in the world, Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13.

Worldwide, the congress annually attracts some 3,000 medievalists--professional academics, students and enthusiasts interested in the Middle Ages. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the event, which began as a biennial gathering in 1962 and grew to become an annual event in 1970.

Now named the International Congress on Medieval Studies, it is sponsored by WMU's Medieval Institute and held primarily in venues on the University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

The Medieval Institute, also founded 50 years ago, ranks among the top 10 North American institutes, centers and programs that focus on medieval studies. Established for instruction and research in the history and culture of the Middle Ages, its pioneering function was to introduce the first Master of Arts in Medieval Studies offered at a state-supported university in the United States.

A half century later, WMU remains one of the few public colleges and universities in the nation with an interdisciplinary graduate program in medieval studies, with the Medieval Institute having earned a global reputation for its academic programs, medieval congress, notable research activities and longstanding scholarly publications program.

Conference highlights

The 2012 International Congress on Medieval Studies will include more than 550 sessions featuring the presentation of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and performances. In addition, the exhibits hall will be filled with nearly 70 publishers, used book dealers, purveyors of medieval sundries and other vendors. There also will be some 90 business meetings and receptions sponsored by learned societies, associations and institutions.

"I'm pleased to extend the invitation to come and participate in this tremendous rite of spring," says Dr. James Murray, director of the Medieval Institute. "An abundance of stimulating subjects, people and imaginative approaches to the Middle Ages await you."

During the congress's academic sessions, scholars will present their latest research findings, culled from the study of material remains of the medieval past as well as written records ranging from epic poems to laundry lists. Sessions will be devoted to the works of famous and less-known authors as well as topics such as old Norse literature and culture; rethinking cultures and identities in the medieval Mediterranean; the political cultures of royal, papal, and Mongolian courts in the late Middle Ages; the life cycle of medieval monasteries; gender and sexuality; religious dress; and medieval medicine.

Individual papers to be presented will include everything from "The Crusader Rebranding of Jerusalem's Temple Mount," "Piety and Propaganda," "From Stone to Statue: The Nature/Art Divide," and "Medieval Law in Dante's "Purgatorio" to "The Medievalism of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter Novels," "The Hobbit on Its 75th Anniversary," and "Revenants, Ghosts and Trolls: The Living, the Dead and the In-Between."

Special plenary lectures are set for 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, May 11-12, in the Bernhard Center's East Ballroom. Dr. David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania, will speak first on "Conceptualizing Literary History: Europe, 1348-1418." Dr. Paul Binski, Professor of the History of Medieval Art at the University of Cambridge, will speak the following day on "The Heroic Age of Gothic: Invention and Its Contexts, 1200-1400."

Among this year's workshops will be Electronic Medievalist Games, Teaching Paleography and Codicology, Medieval Music: Reading From the Sources, Computer-Assisted Analysis of Medieval Texts, and Digital Medieval Studies for Dummies.

A reception to help celebrate the medieval congress's 50th anniversary will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday in the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, where congress attendees will view the exhibition "Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture From the Victoria & Albert Museum."

For more information about the 2012 International Congress on Medieval Studies, including costs and how to register, visit wmich.edu/medieval/congress or contact the Medieval Institute at medieval-institute@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8745.