Call for Submissions to an Edited Volume – Dealing with the Dead: Community and Mortality in the Middle Ages

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR AN EDITED VOLUME – Title: Dealing with the Dead: Community and Mortality in the Middle Ages, Editor: Thea Cervone

Call for abstracts for chapters to be included in an upcoming volume on Death in Medieval and Early Modern art, history, and culture.

For people of all classes in medieval and early modern England death was a constant, visible presence. It was part of everyday life and there were reminders everywhere of its inevitability: injury and accidents, illness and disease, public executions, and the tragedies of death in childbirth and infant mortality. Yet, the acknowledgement of the fact of death, despite its undeniable reality, did not necessarily amount to an acceptance of its finality. Whether they were commoners, clergy, aristocrats, or kings, the dead continued to function literally as integrated members of their communities long after they lay in their graves.

From stories of revenants bringing pleas from Purgatory to the living, to the practical uses of the charnel house; from the remains of the executed on public display, to the proclamation of an aristocratic dynasty’s authority over the living via its dead, we are looking for papers that discuss how communities dealt with their dead as continual, albeit non-living members. We are interested in interdisciplinary studies that illustrate unexpected situations and under-researched persons, periods, and events in art, literature, archaeology, and history. We are also interested in papers that argue against stereotypical or outdated presumptions about the relationships between the premodern dead and their fellow community members above ground. How do 21st century scholars deal with the medieval and early modern dead?

Papers are open to any discipline of the humanities and also to the disciplines of paleography and archaeology. Papers are also open medieval and early modern cultures outside Europe. Please send abstracts of 300 words to Thea Cervone, University of Southern California at by 1 March 2014


Two Monster Titles from Ashgate

I wanted to let you know that The Ashgate Encyclopedia of Literary and Cinematic Monsters is now available!  This was edited by Jeffrey Andrew Weinstock (Central Michigan University), an excellent monster scholar!

Also, if you haven’t seen, the Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous is now out in paperback for less than half the price of the hardback!

Order them both today!  Happy Halloween, all!

Another Kalamazoo Monster CFP

Call for Papers 

International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University

May 8-11, 2014

The Medieval Monster as Mirror: Translation, Hybridity, and Cultural Identity

Scholars in several areas of Medieval Studies have made important contributions to the growing field of “monster theory.”  For example, Michael Camille discussed the role of the hybrid figures who populate the margins of many medieval manuscripts as visual mirrors of anxiety about identity in the cultures that produced them; and Jeffrey Jerome Cohen has argued that monsters in medieval European literature embody a paradox of otherness and intimacy that allows authors and readers to test definitions of cultural identity.  Recently, Deanne Williams has read a monstrous character in Gower’s Confessio amantis as a figure for the hybridity of the translated text.  This session invites papers that examine additional examples of monster figures in medieval texts using translated material, in order to explore the relationship between representations of corporeal hybridity and translation as a self-conscious negotiation of anxieties about cultural identity and otherness.

 Please send proposals for papers of 15-20 minutes to Ben Garceau ( by September 15, 2013.

Session organizers: Ben Garceau and Margot Valles

 Session sponsored by the Medieval Studies Institute, Indiana University


KZOO 2014 CFPs

Calls For Papers:
International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo
May 8-11, 2014

MONSTERS I: Monstrous Gender
Recent trends in monster scholarship are developing a strong focus on the imbrications of monstrosity and gender. We are looking for papers that address the intersection of gender and monstrosity in interesting, unusual, provocative and meaningful ways. We especially encourage papers that seek to move beyond the more traditional uses of monster and gender theories in medieval studies to consider how these categories of thinking can intersect, challenge, problematize, corroborate, support, and inform one another. Interdisciplinary approaches including but not limited to the consideration of monstrous gender in literature, language, history, art history, architecture, philosophy, religion, politics, and/or cultural studies are highly welcome. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a completed Participant Information Form (available here: to session organizers Melissa Ridley Elmes ( or Asa Simon Mittman ( by September 15. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. Abstracts will be posted to the MEARCSTAPA blog, and all abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions, as per Congress regulations.

MONSTERS II: Parallel Worlds: Monstrous Voyages, Monstrous Visitors
Refraction, reflection, intrusion, illusion, overlay, visitation, wandering, straying: parallel worlds double and haunt medieval landscapes, providing voyage destinations and otherworldly visitors. Medieval worlds are not unitary or univocal, as refugees seek Torelore and the Pays de Cocagne; as chroniclers record or imagine far-off Carthage and Jerusalem; as the secular world finds itself invaded by hellish demons or heavenly angels; as saints and mystics simultaneously inhabit this world and the next. What can other worlds, or other temporalities, tell us about how medieval cultures understood the quotidian or secular world? How does the ingress of or egress to various worlds beyond establish or erode the definition of the here-and-now? Are all such intrusions monstrous? Does monstrosity necessitate intrusion from beyond? We invite papers from all disciplines and national traditions, on topics that might include the double presence of life and death, profane and sacred, self and other, animal and human, native and foreigner, male and female, straight and queer, past, future, and present. Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a completed Participant Information Form (available here: to session organizers Stefanie Goyette ( or Asa Simon Mittman ( by September 15. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. Abstracts will be posted to the MEARCSTAPA blog, and all abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions, as per Congress regulations.

SEMA 2013 Murder Roundtable Submissions

Dwayne C. Coleman, University of Central Arkansas
Murder, Manslaughter, and Responsibility: Killing in Malory’s Le Morte Darthur

In “The Tale of Sir Gareth of Orkney,” Malory relates of Sir Gareth’s future alienation from his elder brother Sir Gawain because Gawain, as he explains, “was evir vengeable, and where he hated he wolde be avenged with murther” (Malory 360). Malory is obviously referencing the murders of Sir Pellinor and Sir Lamorak that Gawain and his other brothers will commit later in “The Book of Sir Tristram.” He portrays these murders as being among the more destructive events in the history of the Round Table, and although Gawain tries to use the justification of blood feud, the killings are a clear breach of Arthurian chivalry as formulated in the Pentacost oath sworn at the ordination of the Round Table. More complex is Sir Lancelot’s later killing of Sir Mellyagaunt after denying his plea for mercy. The killing comes as part of trial by combat, and the duplicitous Mellyagaunt garners little sympathy. However, Lancelot’s determination to “be revenged” upon him pushes the boundaries of justice and creates an undercurrent of moral ambiguity (Malory 1138). No one ever questions the righteousness of Lancelot’s action just as Gawain is never really made to answer for Lamorak’s death, and these acts are taken as symptoms of the larger conflicts within the order. Both Gawain and Lancelot later seek to atone for moral failures, but these killings are not among them. The incidents demonstrate the challenge that Malory faces in establishing what is murder and what is a righteous killing.


Euan Drew Griffiths, UNC – Chapel Hill
Arthur’s Executioner: murder and legality in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

The fourteenth-century poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, presents a fascinating contrast between life and death, right and wrong. Sir Gawain, acting according to the rules of chivalry and courtliness answers a challenge on behalf of his king to behead the Green Knight. The consequences of Gawain’s actions, however, bind him to a greater web of legal and moral choices that convey him towards his own, seemingly unavoidable, execution. In the course of his road to death, the Green Knight presents Gawain with a series of “mind games” that challenge Gawain’s adherence to his former legal structure, the Old Testament, and he is introduced to a new moral and legal framework, the New Testament. Ultimately, Gawain must account for his actions, particularly his rash decision to kill the Green Knight, and he offers his own head in return. The poem rejects Gawain’s approach, and instead celebrates mercy and restraint in response to penalty and unabashed violence. Instead of death, Gawain receives the slightest of cuts to his neck and a green girdle, symbols of his mistakes to take with him back to Arthur’s court. Thus, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight confronts medieval chivalry and its legal framework through Gawain’s quest to the Green Chapel. The poem not only critiques the genre of Chivalric Romance, but also poses demanding questions regarding individual responsibility and violence as a punishment for sin.


Anne Latowsky, University of South Florida
Who Gets Killed and Why? Homicide in the Fabliaux Tradition

SEMA 2013 Teaching Monstrosity Roundtable Submissions

Clinton Atchley, Henderson State University
Monsters Я Us: Teaching Monsters in a Composition Course

ENG 3313: University Writing is one of several upper-level writing courses that students may choose to fulfill the junior/senior-level writing course requirement in our liberal arts core. This course does not count toward the English major or minor; consequently, the students who take this class come from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, and interests, everything from the arts and sciences to business to nursing to aviation. One of the challenges for instructors of this class is to find a middle ground of common interest for these disparate students. As a Medievalist teaching this class, I focus on monsters. I argue in my class that we create our own monsters and that it has always been this way. This is to say that each culture, each time period in history develops its own monsters depending on what it finds transgressive within itself. In a self-reflexive, self-referential way, our ancestors and we today reveal our deepest psychological fears through what we perceive as scary. Beginning with the classical period and working to the present, we explore questions such as how do monsters reflect cultural, racial, ethical values and repressed fears? how have our monsters evolved? and what does it mean to be human? For my base text, I utilize Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s chapter, “Monster Culture (Seven Theses),” from his text Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Using this as our framework, we research, analyze, and trace the history of monsters from the oral tradition through manuscripts, print, radio, film, and television.


Debra E. Best, California State University, Dominguez Hills
Teaching Medieval Monsters to both Graduate Students and to a Diverse Undergraduate Population

This presentation will introduce my course “Literary Monsters of Medieval England,” which I have taught since 2001 to a range of students, including undergraduate honors students, a diverse undergraduate population, and graduate students who may or may not have had a course Chaucer. While such a specialized course may not exist in every university‚Äôs curriculum, the questions it raises enhance discussion in any medieval literature course. Its central questions examine how monsters function in defining the self, society, and perceived threats. Is something a monster just because it appears non-human or non-animal? How do monsters elevate the hero? How does depicting foreign and non-Christian peoples as monsters help to justify conquest? How do monsters represent sin? How do they articulate threats to the family? Through these questions, students gain insight into the fears and social concerns dominating medieval culture and modern society. This theme leads students into focused readings of texts ranging from Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight to lesser known saint’s lives, romances, chronicles, travel works, and religious instructional manuals. Looking at how this course has changed depending upon its core audience, this presentation will explore how one adapts the study of monsters to fulfill the needs of various student populations. How can monsters increase the appeal of medieval literature to an underprepared and diverse student body? How can monsters increase the depth of knowledge of advanced graduate students? How does one approach a class filled with students with vast differences in skills and interests?


Bernard Lewis, Murray State University
A Monstrous Panel Indeed!

Monsters have always been the rage. Literature, legend, and myth are rich with fabulous animals, chimera, shape-shifters, green men, changelings, and people who are just not ordinary. Simply put, we have historically given much attention to physical differences and cultural “otherness.” From Nosferatu to Dracula, to Anne Rice’s Interview with Louis Pointe du lac, to Stephanie Meyer’s sparkling daylight walkers, the vampire survives. From Marie de France’s “Bisclavret” to Christopher Marlowe’s Duke Ferdinand (The Duchess of Malfi), to Professor Lupin of Harry Potter fame, the werewolf persists as well. Recent movies and television series have focused on the ancient rivalry of the two species. In classroom discussion, “Bisclavret” invites important questions about monstrosity: Who is more monstrous, the werewolf or the wife? How monstrous does one have to be to be marginalized, to become “other?” And, of course, there is the irresistible question of hereditary maiming. Although we want to fear the “other” and the monstrous, we sometimes choose to glamorize them. This panel might ask what informs our choices? Why do we prefer the wolf over the wife? Why do we sometimes sympathize with the vampire? Beowulf is no ordinary man; he is a killing machine. Then why do we like him? And why is he less monstrous than Grendel? After all, Grendel’s mother does not think her son is monstrous at all. How do we identify and define our monsters? And why do we seem to need them?

Tina Boyer, Wake Forest University
Teaching German Monsters 

This proposal addresses two different aspects of teaching medieval monstrosity at the undergraduate level. One is to incorporate a course on medieval monsters (specifically German and Norse) as part of a first year seminar to introduce freshmen to the German medieval period via instances of monstrous encounters in English translation. Secondly, teaching medieval monstrosity as a German language course at the junior and senior level. Both courses benefit from using monster theory as the primary approach by giving students access to a time period through a medium they are comfortable discussing. Monsters are popular and seem familiar, but when closely analyzed provide deeper insight into medieval culture and by extension into our own. This proves that monsters can provide a bridge, not only across disciplines and time periods, but also languages and cultures.

I will provide different texts and theories that can be accessed both in English and in German, but will also show syllabus development. What worked and what didn’t. To date, I have taught one of these courses each semester and have developed a deeper understanding of what can be expected in an undergraduate curriculum, but can also be used at the graduate level.


Melissa Ridley Elmes UNC-Greensboro
Monsters: the Gateway to Academia

Introductory courses in English such as intro to literature, intro to poetry, and intro to narrative tend to be conducted as introductions to the literary canon, comprising authors and works historically considered the ones “students should know”. However, such an approach can lead to outcomes such as students thinking English is boring, students thinking college-level classes are “just like high school AP class”, or students thinking “I don’t understand this”. These courses tend to be overlooked as the ones that could become a gateway for students to learn to think in new and interesting ways about their relationship to literature, culture, and with the university. Structuring them around themes like “heroes and monsters” rather than canonically can accomplish this. In my talk I will review how I structure my intro to narrative course and provide a copy of the course outline to roundtable attendants as an exemplar of how such a course can become an accessible gateway into academia for students, especially those who have struggled in school or who are first-generation university students unsure of their ability. Developing a syllabus around familiar subjects of interest, such as monsters, gives these students an early opportunity to see in very tangible way that the university is not an inaccessible “Dead White Anglo Saxon Guys” club, but rather a space for considering themselves and the world around them in ways they otherwise might not experience.

Flaying Volume CFP


Title: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages

Editor: Larissa Tracy

From images of Saint Bartholomew holding his skin in his arms, to scenes of grisly execution in Havelok the Dane, to laws that prescribed it as a punishment for treason, this volume explores the gruesome practice of skin removal—flaying—in the Middle Ages. This volume examines the widely diverse examples of this grisly practice, and explores the layered responses to skin-removal in art, history, literature, manuscript studies and law. How common was this punishment in practice? How does art reflect spiritual response? How is flaying, in any form, used to further political or religious goals? The papers in this volume will literally get beneath the skin of medieval sensibilities regarding punishment and sacrifice in a nuanced discussion of medieval flaying. Abstracts covering any aspect of literal skin removal from late antiquity to the early modern period will be considered.

* Please submit abstracts of 250 words by Sept. 1, 2013 to Larissa Tracy

( or

* Please include your affiliation and brief bio with your abstract.

* Please include your last name in the file name, and please include a brief bio.

SEMA CFPs: Murder and Teaching Monsters

Calls For Papers—SEMA 2013

Appalachian State University, Oct. 3–5, 2013 

Session: On the Edge of Law: Murder in the Middle Ages


Organizer: Dr. Larissa Tracy

Medieval society, not unlike its modern descendants, was plagued with a series of crimes both petty and capital. Murder, one of the worst crimes imaginable because it involves robbing another of life, has captivated audiences and communities since the earliest law codes were established. But in the medieval period, murder had very specific legal parameters depending on time, culture, geography, and legal structures. This session explores the variety of circumstances associated with murder in the Middle Ages ranging from law, literature, art, punishments, justifications and prohibitions to iconography and material culture. Papers on manslaughter, assassins and crimes of passion as well as premeditated murder will be considered.

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to Dr. Larissa Tracy:

Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself.

Deadline: June 1, 2013


Session: Monsters and the Margins: Teaching Monstrosity (A Roundtable Discussion)


Organizer: Dr. Larissa Tracy

Monsters are all the rage these days. Several erudite studies have been published on monstrosity in the Middle Ages in the last twenty years, and medieval monsters have made they way onto syllabi across disciplines. This roundtable will feature discussions on how monstrosity can be applied in the modern classroom, exchanging ideas about teaching medieval monsters in art, literature, or history. Do students relate better to the Middle Ages through the valence of monstrosity? Is this fascination with monsters a modern phenomena more than a medieval one? Is teaching monstrosity a way of contextualizing the distant past for current students? Which texts work? Which don’t? Do monsters provide a bridge for teaching across cultures, disciplines and periods? In short, what can monsters add to the courses we teach?

Each discussant will give a short, 5-minute presentation before the floor is opened for conversation.

Abstracts of 250 words should be sent to Dr. Larissa Tracy:

Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself.

Deadline: June 1, 2013

CFP: Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques, at Rice University Oct. 25-27, 2013

Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques 

October 25-27, 2013 

Young Professional and Graduate Conference

Department of Religious Studies

Rice University 


The Rice Gnosticism, Mysticism, and Esotericism Work Group, in association with the Religious Studies Department of Rice University, invites proposals for the upcoming conference “Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques,” to be held at Rice University in Houston, Texas, on October 25 – 27, 2013. We request abstracts by May 17, 2013.

“Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques” aims to create conversations on the impact of monstrosity and examples of the grotesque in discourse related to religion and the sacred. The tendency to populate religious landscapes with non-human entities, literally demonize opponents, perceive monsters as existing in far-reaching geographical borders (e.g., “the East” in Medieval Europe), and decorate sacred sites with grotesques is a trait shared throughout innumerable traditions. Recently the term “monster studies” was coined to cover the recent works dedicated to monsters by such authors as John Block Friedman, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, and Asa Mittman, who have helped to provide a framework for the study of such phenomena, not only in religious studies but also in literature, art history, and history. Through this framework, monsters and grotesques have been revealed as important markers of marginality, social boundaries, liminality, identity, cultural borders, and the “Other.”

“Holy Monsters, Sacred Grotesques” seeks to inform conversations about the sacred with monstrous discourse. We desire to do so in an interdisciplinary fashion and to encourage scholars in fields outside of religious studies who deal with such materials to join in our conversation. As such, we seek papers not only from religious studies but other disciplines in the humanities (e.g., philosophy, history, gender studies, art history, literature) and social sciences (e.g., political science, sociology, psychology, anthropology), as well.

Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length and should represent an intersection of the sacred (loosely construed) with a theme or object of monstrosity.

Please send a 300-word abstract, along with your name, institution, and year of study (if a graduate student) by May 17, 2013 to:

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Michael Heyes at

Mearcstapa Annual Meeting and Monstrous Panels at Kalamazoo

Come one, come all!  Step right up and see the most remarkable monster (scholars) you have ever seen!  Only one thin dime, one tenth of a dollar!  Step right up!

This year, our annual MEARCSTAPA meeting will be held at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo.  Please let anyone you see there who would be interested know about it.  Everyone is welcome.  We will be discussing ideas for next year’s sessions at KZoo and Leeds, as well as any suggestions for other venues and projects.MEARCSTAPA Annual Meeting
Friday, May 10, 6:30-7:30
Bernhard Lounge (Main Floor)
Western Michigan UniversityNote:  we have no dues and anyone is welcome to join.

Bring or wear your sexy MEARCSTAPA swag:

If you have any questions, please let me know.

I hope to see many of you there!

With Monstrous Affection,
PS.  Be sure to attend our two sessions, as well:

Monsters I: Haunting the Middle Ages
Friday, 1:30, Session 282, Schneider 1360

Presider:  Thea Cervone, Univ. of Southern California

The Mysterious Case of the Ghost Who Was Not There
Amy Amendt-Raduege, Whatcom Community College
Kinship with Ghosts: The Reappearing Dead and Purgatory in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
Caitlin Saraphis, Univ. of North Carolina–Greensboro
Mere Dead Things: Transi Tombs, Lollards, and the Haunting of Sculpture
Marian Bleeke, Cleveland State Univ.
Monsters II: Down to the skin: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages
Friday, 3:30,  Session 340, Schneider 1360
Presider:  Larissa Tracy
A Window for the Pain: Surface, Interiority, and Christ’s Flagellated Skin in Late Medieval Sculpture
Peter Dent, Univ. of Bristol

Getting under Your Skin: The Monstrous Subdermal
Derek Newman-Stille, Trent Univ.

The Flaying of Saint Bartholomew and the Rhetoric of the Flesh in the Belles Heures of the Duke of Berry
Sherry C. M. Lindquist, Western Illinois Univ.

English Cycle Passion Plays
Valerie Gramling, Univ. of Massachusetts–Amherst