Amazingly, we already need to send in our session proposals for Kalamazoo 2009. Phillip Bernhardt-House has very kindly written up three proposals for us, in the hopes that the Kalamazoo Kommittee will take two. Send comments asap, if you have any, since these need to be sent in by Thursday:
Monstrous Production and Reproduction
The medieval accounts of origins for monstrous creatures are varied and diverse, ranging from tracing these beings’ lineage from Cain or Ham (as in the Old English Beowulf and the Hiberno-Latin Sex Aetates Mundi), to placing their beginnings in the curse of a saint from more recent times (as in Giraldus Cambrensis’ Topographia Hiberniae or in the Old Norse Konungs Skuggsia), to even some texts which attribute monstrosity to what we would call “environmental factors” (e.g. the Rothschild Canticles). The methods by which individual monsters and monstrous races reproduce their anomalous physiologies are also equally varied, if and when such processes are outlined when they are not implied or assumed. Papers in this panel will focus on these accounts of the creation and procreation of monsters, both in a narrative sense and/or a textual sense (i.e. tracing the origins of a particular monstrous motif), and will illuminate how these accounts not only demonstrate the intentions and understanding of their textual authors and audiences, but also how these tales interpret and define the fears as well as ideals of humans in the past and present toward physiology, cosmology, ethics, sexuality, and the general existence in and engagement with the world-at-large.
Speculum Monstrarum: Monsters as Reflections and Shadows in Medieval Cultures
Monsters are always, in some sense, reflections of the human image, whether those reflections are simply a reversal of the original, or a distorted fun-house mirror producing surprising and frightening results. In a psychological sense, monsters are often an exhibition of the “shadow side” of humanity, that part which is never far away and bears an outline in common with the original object, and yet it never disappears unless the human object is entirely engulfed in darkness. As a result, study of the monstrous image can provide a profound insight into what a culture understands as the “light side” or original image of the human, in addition to an articulation of its opposite and what is excluded in the comprehension and construction of the human. Further to the exploration of these issues, this panel may also seek–like the speculum principis and virtuous conduct treatises of the premodern period–to attempt providing an idealized template of what constitutes a “good monster” (not necessarily in the moral sense) in both composition and behavior on a narrative level.
“Monster Culture (Seven Theses)”: A Roundtable
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s now paradigmatic manifesto on the importance of studying monsters and the monstrous, both generally in all time periods and cultures as well as in strictly medieval contexts, has influenced and inspired countless students exposed to his text in undergraduate courses, and likewise a great many working scholars and the studies they have produced since its publication in 1996. As an inaugural event for MEARCSTAPA, we seek in this roundtable to re-familiarize ourselves with the critical issues of the text, but also to evaluate, reconsider, and extend these theses for future consideration and deployment in subsequent studies. Founding members of MEARCSTAPA will share their interpretations and experiences of the text in research and teaching, and we will seek to have Cohen act as a respondent to the issues raised.