MAP 2013 Abstract Submissions

Call for Papers
Medieval Association of the Pacific Conference
University of San Diego, California
March 21-23, 2013
Sponsored by MEARCSTAPA

Session Title: Heroes and Monsters

What is the relationship between the hero and the monster? How is the hero transformed by his/her encounter with the monstrous? What is the hero without the monster (and vice versa)? In an attempt to understand this association, our session invites papers on the relationship(s) between heroes and the monsters they defeat (or by whom they are defeated). We welcome papers addressing heroes and monsters in all of their various formats (heroes can include knights, saints, or those “just plain clever”; while monsters can be dragons, demons, giants, etc), and which choose to play figuratively upon the concept of defeat (e.g. the giant Galehaut’s “defeat” and death via lovesickness at the “hands” of Lancelot). Of particular interest will be those papers that focus upon the way in which the hero and/or monster is physically/mentally/spiritually changed through this encounter, or those works in which the hero is or becomes a monster (e.g. early versions of St. Christopher’s Life which feature him as a cynocephalus; the eponymous hero from Marie de France’s Bisclavret).

Please send a title, an abstract (approx. 350 words), and your complete contact information (Name, e-mail, telephone, affiliation, status, title) to Michael Heyes <Michael.E.Heyes@rice.edu> or Asa Simon Mittman <asmittman@mail.csuchico.edu> by September 28. Please note that all abstract submissions will be posted on our blog:http://mearcstapa.org/wp/

 ________________________________________

Monstrous Vikings and the Slippage of Heroic Identity in The Battle of Maldon
Michelle Brooks

The Battle of Maldon takes what might have been just another English defeat at the hands of Viking invaders and elevates the deaths of Lord Byrhtnoð and his Anglo-Saxon army into a transformative intersection of selfhood and otherness. Maldon is a text that demonstrates awareness of historical narratives and anxieties of cultural erasure resulting from the resurgence in Viking invasions of the period. Closer exploration of the text reveals significant revision of the identities of the Anglo-Saxon heroes through their encounter with the monstrous Vikings, or “slaughter-wolves.” This paper will focus on the fluid mode of contextual self-representation in response to the violent clash with the Vikings, who operate as a monstrous other. The polyphony of voices by Byrhtnoð, his retainers, and the Viking forces disproves the existence of one authoritative discourse. I suggest that this demands an expansion of English identity as a dynamic, communal experience in order to manage an ambiguous threat. Accordingly, the paper will conclude with the assertion that the heroes cannot subscribe to one dominant narrative, but rather must accommodate many narratives to respond to the shifting boundaries of selfhood. Maldon asserts interpretive multiplicity in order to reshape the identity of its characters. More broadly, it asserts Anglo-Saxon identity as the complex response of an invaded culture in crisis transformed by its clash with the monstrous Vikings. The experience of defeat necessitates strategies for reconstruction through the power of representation and the authoring of a collective memory that rewrites Anglo-Saxon identity for the future.

________________________________________
Heroic spectacle and monstrous invisibility in Beowulf, Andreas, and Elene
Fabienne Michelet

Grendel, arguably the most famous of the Old English monsters, famously attacks Hrothgar’s hall at night (‘on wanre niht’; ‘ær þon dæg cwome’), under the clouds (‘under wolcnum’), and under the cover of darkness (‘under misthleoþum’). He moves about stealthily and his whereabouts are only vaguely known. He and his mother inhabit  ‘a secret land’ (‘dygel lond’), yet the Danes are aware of their existence. Similarly, the dragon, who waits for nighttime before avenging the invasion of his barrow, has been a lurking presence in the land of the Geats from the time he first settled on the gold, three hundred years earlier. Monsters, it seems, escape localization. By contrast, heroes such as Beowulf exist in the public sphere: they act openly, their social identity is expressed by their armours and weapons, gleaming ornaments which both protect and manifest who they are. Heroic action is a spectacle; furthermore, it is the spectacle of a spectacle, in which we listen to those who hear and see the hero.

In this paper, I would like to explore this contrast between the visibility of heroes and the invisibility of monsters. Looking at poems such as Beouwlf, Andreas, and Elene, I will focus on scenes depicting the arrival of a (monstrous) outsider, and more particularly on how this outsider occupies space. Who is, and who is not, conspicuously in sight? How does this visibility correlate with the threat the outsider poses? How do heroes and monsters negotiate the social interactions inherent in sharing space? To what extent are categories such as ‘monsters’ and ‘heroes’ in fact predicated on display and visibility?

________________________________________

Symbolic Bodies: Monstrosity and Heroism in Beowulf and Judith
Rebecca Coleman
In the past decade, many critics, such as Dana M. Oswald, Renee Rebecca Trilling, and M. Wendy Hennequin, have examined the body in Beowulf, generally focusing on questions of monstrosity in relation to the ambiguous physical descriptions of Grendel’s mother and the even less concrete physical descriptions of Grendel. Much of the debate centers on deciphering whether or not the Grendel-kin are in fact physically monsters or merely human-like beings that possess monstrous qualities, leading to larger questions about what monstrosity actually is in Old English literature. In line with this conversation, I consider how bodily representations relate to monstrosity. However, I depart from the current focus that reads the body in a literal manner, considering, rather, how the body acts as a symbolic representation of community in Beowulf and the Old English Judith. Consequently, I propose that monstrosity is manifest when individual pursuits put the larger community at risk.
I argue that a monster is made when an individual breaks communal bonds, which is reflected in the treatment of the physical body. In these texts, the circulation and exchange of bodies strengthen kinship and community bonds, while the stagnant, uncirculated body reflects the fragmentation and destruction of community. Furthermore, particular body parts represent different positions and purposes in the social hierarchy, with arms and hands symbolizing an individual person of less prominence and heads representing community and power. Thus, I propose that the destruction of the body mirrors the destruction of the socio-political order, as the ruination of the ‘communal’ head has far greater consequences in Old English poetry than the ruination of ‘individual’ hands, ultimately demonstrating that communal identity trumps individual identity in Anglo-Saxon literature.
Therefore, in these texts the individual hero does not exist because individualism is associated with monstrosity. Through the bodily depictions of monsters and humans alike, it is evident that the hero is only significant as a communal representation. In both cases, the physical body functions as a microcosmic representative of the larger socio-political order, revealing the exalted status of the community over the individual in Old English poetry and demonstrating that monstrosity is not a physical trait but a social one.

________________________________________

“The Monsters and Beowulf: How Vision Decayed the Hero”
Amy Sandoval

This essay explores the nuanced understanding of vision in medieval philosophy and applies those theories to Beowulf. Modern theories of vision, such as Lacan’s gaze, demonstrate the power of vision to objectify the person/thing being seen. However, modern science explains that the act of seeing is actually passive. The eye receives light refracted off objects and sends the response to the brain; the eye does not reach out to the object itself in order to make an identification. In contrast, medieval theories, including the extromission theory, believed in an active eye, one that extended a visual ray out to an object. The eye’s ability to touch its object presents the possibility for vision to manipulate its object. Like a hand, rays can be emitted from the eye to reach out and touch the object, apprehending knowledge and objectifying the item in sight. Moreover, the act of sight is imbued with power beyond the literal ability to touch. Senses such as memory, imagination, common sense and estimation can be created by an interaction with vision. For Beowulf, vision allows him the sense of sight and the abstract senses of knowledge and identity, that is, when he is able to see. This essay focuses especially on the contact Beowulf has with his adversaries (Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and the Dragon) to explain the correlation between Beowulf’s vision and the decline of his capabilities as a warrior throughout the poem. Beowulf’s vision is increasingly obscured while in battle, thus leaving him vulnerable to objectification. Ultimately, it is interaction with these monsters which alters him physically and leads to his failure as a hero. Additionally, this essay also includes original translations of Beowulf in Old English as well as detailed descriptions of Beowulf’s literal and figurative battles with the monsters. These translations reveal the intricacies of the language used in the original text and the ways in which they favor an aggressive and tangible medieval approach to the act of vision.

__________________________________________________

“In the Belly of the Beast”
Michael Heyes

While Margaret of Antioch accomplishes many heroic feats in her Life – including the subjugation of a demon and resisting extreme forms of torture – the heroic act for which she is best know is the slaying of the dragon that appears in her prison cell. Although the scene is relatively short, its word count belies its importance to the story. With respect to her adherents, Margaret’s most famous offering (safe birth) is intimately related to her bursting from the dragon, while artistic renderings of the scene are some of the most frequent depictions of Margaret. The scene also attracted considerable attention from a subset of Margaret’s hagiographers, such as Jacobus de Voragine and the author of the South English Legendary, who tend to dismiss the dragon swallowing Margaret as “apocryphal.” Scholars have primarily argued that such authors deny Margaret’s physical contact with the dragon due to the degree of corporeality such contact would require for the demonic figure. Counter to this claim, I will argue that the Margaret tradition is instead drawing upon the older life of St. Anthony, creating a parallel between Margaret’s encounter with the dragon and Anthony’s struggle with demonically induced lust. As such, medieval readers would have viewed the draconic encounter as distinctly sexual: by defeating the dragon, Margaret is transformed from the fearful young girl who is overcome by the “fear of death” into a heroic virgin martyr “whose name is blessed through the ages.” Paradoxically, it is Margaret’s close encounter with the overly sexualized dragon that secures her transformation into a holy virgin. I am primarily interested in the way in which comparing Margaret’s Life to Antony’s may help us understand the greater Margaret tradition, particularly the aforementioned authors’ rejections of the draconic encounter and the way in which this crucial scene was understood by Margaret’s adherents.

MAP CFP

Call for Papers
Medieval Association of the Pacific Conference
University of San Diego, California
March 21-23, 2013
Sponsored by MEARCSTAPA

Session Title: Heroes and Monsters

What is the relationship between the hero and the monster? How is the hero transformed by his/her encounter with the monstrous? What is the hero without the monster (and vice versa)? In an attempt to understand this association, our session invites papers on the relationship(s) between heroes and the monsters they defeat (or by whom they are defeated). We welcome papers addressing heroes and monsters in all of their various formats (heroes can include knights, saints, or those “just plain clever”; while monsters can be dragons, demons, giants, etc), and which choose to play figuratively upon the concept of defeat (e.g. the giant Galehaut’s “defeat” and death via lovesickness at the “hands” of Lancelot). Of particular interest will be those papers that focus upon the way in which the hero and/or monster is physically/mentally/spiritually changed through this encounter, or those works in which the hero is or becomes a monster (e.g. early versions of St. Christopher’s Life which feature him as a cynocephalus; the eponymous hero from Marie de France’s Bisclavret).

Please send a title, an abstract (approx. 350 words), and your complete contact information (Name, e-mail, telephone, affiliation, status, title) to Michael Heyes <Michael.E.Heyes@rice.edu> or Asa Simon Mittman <asmittman@mail.csuchico.edu> by September 28. Please note that all abstract submissions will be posted on our blog: http://mearcstapa.org/wp/

Kalamazoo 2013 CFP

MONSTERS I: Haunting the Middle Ages
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico; Sarah Alison Miller, Duquesne University

This panel proposes to explore those monstrous figures that haunt the borders between the living and the dead: ghosts, revenants, animated corpses and skeletons. What do these figures reveal about the porous boundaries between life and death, soul and body? What do they communicate about the relationship between haunting, trauma and memory? How is haunting associated with space, whether that space be a geographical location, a physical structure, a fantasized realm, or human consciousness? How were these figures depicted in art and material culture? How might monster studies be considered a haunted domain? How might the Middle Ages be considered a haunted age?

MONSTERS II: Down to the skin: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages
Organizers: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University and Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico

Presider: Larissa Tracy

From images of Saint Bartholomew holding his skin in his arms, to scenes of demons flaying the damned within the mouth of hell, to grisly execution in Havelok the Dane, to laws that prescribed it as a punishment for treason, this session explores the gruesome, even monstrous, practice of skin removal—flaying—in the Middle Ages. This session proposes to examine the widely diverse examples of this grisly practice, and explore 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 session will literally get beneath the skin of medieval sensibilities regarding punishment and sacrifice in a nuanced discussion of medieval flaying.

Send proposals to Asa Mittman, Kat Tracy, and/or Sarah Alison Miller.

Kalamazoo 2013 Paper Proposals

MONSTERS I: Haunting the Middle Ages
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico; Sarah Alison Miller, Duquesne University

This panel proposes to explore those monstrous figures that haunt the borders between the living and the dead: ghosts, revenants, animated corpses and skeletons. What do these figures reveal about the porous boundaries between life and death, soul and body? What do they communicate about the relationship between haunting, trauma and memory? How is haunting associated with space, whether that space be a geographical location, a physical structure, a fantasized realm, or human consciousness? How were these figures depicted in art and material culture? How might monster studies be considered a haunted domain? How might the Middle Ages be considered a haunted age?

**************************************

Laying Down the Law: The Hauntings in Eyrbyggja saga
Joyce Tally Lionarons, Ursinus College
The thirteenth-century Icelandic Eyrbyggja saga depicts the development of a Christian, law-abiding Iceland haunted – both literally and figuratively – by its violent pagan past. This is seen most clearly in the hauntings at Fróðá, where a group of ghosts attend their own funeral feast and refuse to leave the farmhouse until they are summoned to a door-court and legally convicted of trespassing, after which the house is sprinkled with holy water and blessed to ensure they do not return. The simple allegory is complicated, however, by the fact that this is neither the first nor the last haunting in the saga: the ghost of Þórolf Twist-foot returns from the grave twice to kill people and cattle; the ghost of Þórgunna rises to cook breakfast for the men transporting her body across country for Christian burial; and even as the ghostly men sit by the fire at Fróðá, another revenant in the form of a seal – most likely the ghost of Þórgunna once again – rises through the floor in the next room to devour the farmstead’s store of food for the winter. This paper will explore the hauntings within the saga in the context of Iceland’s social and religious history to determine how the country’s religious and secular authorities attempted to lay down the law to Iceland’s recalcitrant ghosts.

**************************************
Grettir and Glámr: Exploring Iceland’s Haunting Past through the Human Monstrous
Rebecca Merkelbach University of Cambridge
The Sagas of Icelanders constitute a body of literature that frequently juxtaposes the monstrous and the human. In them, a past is created that is both haunted and haunting, populated with revenants who represent the forces of chaos, coming from without to destroy human society. One particularly prominent example of these corporeal undead is Glámr, an antisocial and marginal man in life and a threat to civilisation in undeath. However, the hero who fights him, Grettir the Strong, is not unambiguously human before encountering Glámr, and afterwards becomes ever more and more monstrous under the influence of Glámr’s curse.
This notion of the human monstrous complicates the idea of the haunted past as it is established by the appearance of the undead: Revenant activity is always temporally limited, whereas mankind survives long after the undead have been put to rest – although pushed to the margins of society as in the case of the outlaw Grettir. In this paper I thus want to explore the relationship between the undead and those “dead to the world” as exemplified by the monstrous figures of Grettir and Glámr. Moreover, I will be looking at what this relationship tells us about Icelanders’ approaches towards their past, especially when coming from the late, fourteenth-century perspective of Grettis saga, looking at a difficult past and present, at monstrous humans and human monsters.
**************************************

The Mysterious Case of the Ghost Who Was Not There
Amy Amendt-Raduege Whatcom Community College
In about 1400, an anonymous monk of Byland Abbey recorded one of the strangest moments in supernatural history. The monk recounts how a woman “caught a ghost and carried it home on her back,” where witnesses were puzzled to note that the ghost seemed “not solid but illusory.” The story is very brief, but it contains one of the most puzzling and contradictory moments in medieval ghostlore: if the flesh of the corpse was not solid, how could it be caught? But if the ghost was a physical presence, how could her fingers slip through it? Brief though it is, this story raises complex questions about the relationship of the ecumenical with the popular, and exactly about what ghosts in the Middle Ages were expected to be. I suspect that this story marks the point of fusion between two very different conceptions of ghosts. For centuries, clergy and layfolk alike had been hearing stories of the undead derived from the Roman tradition, in which ghosts were insubstantial. In the North, however, ghosts were something entirely different. Northern ghosts could eat, talk, and even attempt to bed a widow. This idea of a ghost was so commonplace that the monk himself seems surprised by the noncorporeality of the piggybacking ghost. The monk’s story is unique in its blend of the two traditions – a ghost that is solid and illusory, present and absent. It pinpoints an intersection of the two beliefs, a moment in which the corporeal revenants of the Northern world give way to the noncorporeal spirits of the South.

**************************************

Kinship with Ghosts: The Reappearing Dead and Purgatory in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries.
Caitlin Saraphis, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Ghosts and other forms of the (re)animated dead appear with increased frequency in the writings of clerics of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  While historians such as Nancy Caciola, C. S. Watkins, and Jean-Claude Schmitt have investigated these ghosts for their connections to xenophobia, folklore, and paganism, the evidence they provide about understandings of purgatory during this period has been largely overlooked.  In those cases where ghosts have been used to illustrate concepts of the afterlife, as in the works of Schimitt and A. Ja. Gurevitch, the focus has been predominately on ghosts’ representation in visions, allowing assumptions about the physicality of their appearance to stand uninvestigated, despite the problematic language with which many of these ghosts are described.

In my paper, I analyze the reappearing dead in the works of Orderic Vitalis, Walter Map, and William of Newburgh to show that clerics, as well as the general populace, understood death to be a transitory state from which individuals could return temporarily for various purposes, particularly in order to beg or demand assistance from the living.  The dead who appeared in this way, whether described as ghosts or animated corpses, were understood to be corporeal in one way or another, able to manipulate the world around them and to suffer purgatorial punishment not only to their spiritual but also their physical bodies.

I also explore how the Church’s ideas on the social aspects of purgatory emphasized the relationship between the reappearing dead and their former family and friends. Though drawing on an earlier, folkloric understanding of a reciprocal relationship between the living and the dead, these ghosts and animated corpses emphasize the living’s responsibility to ascertain the nature of the returning dead through shared memory, as well as to accede to the dead’s demands for assistance in shortening the duration of their purgatorial suffering. I argue that this responsibility had to function primarily along kinship lines because the transitory nature of death made the animated dead a threat to society that could only be ameliorated by establishing their identity as a member of the community through shared memory.  Without these memories, the dead’s claim on the living could not be validated, allowing the living to ignore the dead’s demands and leaving the dead to languish in purgatory.
**************************************

Ælla of Northumbria, Anglo-Saxon Historicism, and Fantasy Fiction
Donna Beth Ellard Rice University

This paper examines the spectral presence of Ælla of Northumbria in late twentieth-century history and early twenty-first century fiction. It argues that Ælla, a nearly unknown Anglo-Saxon king, haunts the margins of scholarly and popular writings as a ghostly signifier of ‘Empire’.

Ælla of Northumbria is a mysterious figure of the Anglo-Saxon ninth century. Among Old English texts, his identity is preserved in one line of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which mentions his death at York in 866 in battle with the Danish Great Army. In Scandinavian sources, however, Ælla enjoys a much fuller description. He appears in Ragnarssona þáttr (Tale of Ragnar’s Sons) as the murderer of the Danish pirate-king, Ragnar Loðbrog, and subject of Danish ire. Ragnar’s sons travel to Northumbria and kill Ælla in a revenge act that has since been referred to as the ‘blood eagle ritual.’

From the eighteenth-century forward, Scandinavian literature has been used by both scholarly and popular writers to fill in the gaps of Ælla’s biography and tease out the gruesome particularities of his death-by-blood-eagle. This paper examines briefly two clusters of the most recent academic and non-academic discussions regarding Ælla and his blood eagle: heated exchanges between Anglo-Saxon and Old Icelandic scholars Roberta Frank, Alfred Smyth, and Bjarni Einarsson; and fictional references by writers Guy Gavriel Kay and Robert Barr Smith.

This paper examines the language of both clusters of writings in order to argue that the historical identity recreated for Ælla and the gory details of his blood eagle are not grounded in facts about the Anglo-Saxon past but in concerns about the Anglo-American present. It suggests that Ælla is a ghostly signifier that haunts the margins that hinge medieval history to popular culture. And it further speculates that the mutual ‘concerns’ surrounding Ælla’s blood eagle attend to the terror associated with two different kinds of contemporary empires: the colonial empires of Europe’s nation-states and the ideological empire of Islamic terrorism.

**************************************
Mere Dead Things: Transi Tombs, Lollards, and the Haunting of Sculpture
Marian Bleeke, Cleveland State UniversityThe transitomb, defined as a tomb that includes a sculptural representation of the corpse, is one of the more haunting forms of later medieval sculptural production.  For the transi makes present what should be absent, visible what should be invisible, and so confronts its living viewers with the realities of death and decay. The fourteenth-century transi tombs of two English ecclesiastics, Henry Chichele and Richard Fleming, accomplish this confrontation through a doubled representation of the deceased; shown once as whole and healthy and again as an emaciated corpse.   Each man is thus shown separately and yet simultaneously as both living and dead, both his soul and his body, while the exposed stone of the transi sculpture insists upon the dead body’s permanent presence. During their lives, both Chichele and Fleming were involved in the English church’s anti-Lollard persecutions and prosecutions.  Their familiarity with Lollardry suggests that the Lollard critique of images, and in particular sculptures, as mere dead things may form a context for understanding their tombs’ striking sculptural representations of death and the dead body.  Indeed, the Lollards seem to have been haunted by sculptures, as they asserted their deadness while worrying that they were not dead at all, and their inertness as things while worrying that they acted inappropriately as powers and presences. This paper thus argues for seeing these two transis less as commentaries on death or the dead, than as reflections on the not-dead qualities of sculpture and so on sculpture itself as a haunted and haunting medium.**************************************

Does the Blood Make the Monster?: ‘Sawul-drior’ in Old English Literature
Hana Videen, King’s College London

This paper will explore the ways in which monsters are defined by blood, both the blood of themselves and that of others.  It will examine various ‘monsters’ of the Old English canon, including the Grendel-kin in Beowulf and the cannibalistic Mermedonians in the poem Andreas.  Anglo-Saxon leechbooks describe the practice of using blood to transfer disease away from the body, and this paper will relate that to the transfer of abstract evil within the physical world.  The tree of every evil in Genesis A grows from the blood of a good person, Abel, for the blood transfers the hostility and monstrousness of his brother Cain.

In Old English poetry blood functions in different ways to identify what is evil or monstrous.  Grendel’s consumption of blood makes him all the more horrific, as he violates the command of God in the Old Testament.  Furthermore, his blood is thought to be the blood of Cain, an inherited mark of his irredeemable soul.  The blood of Grendel’s mother is so powerful that it melts a sword blade like fire melting ice.  ‘Sawul-drior’, or ‘soul-blood’, alternatively represents life and death in the poem Beowulf.  Monsters tread the boundary between life and death, an abstract realm represented physically by blood.

**************************************
MONSTERS II: Down to the skin: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages
Organizers: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University and Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico
Presider: Larissa Tracy


From images of Saint Bartholomew holding his skin in his arms, to scenes of demons flaying the damned within the mouth of hell, to grisly execution in Havelok the Dane, to laws that prescribed it as a punishment for treason, this session explores the gruesome, even monstrous, practice of skin removal—flaying—in the Middle Ages. This session proposes to examine the widely diverse examples of this grisly practice, and explore 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 session will literally get beneath the skin of medieval sensibilities regarding punishment and sacrifice in a nuanced discussion of medieval flaying.

**************************************
Getting Under Your Skin: The Monstrous Subdermal
Derek Newman-Stille, Trent University

Skin serves as a physical and metaphorical boundary, separating the internal from the external. It is a passageway between what is “Us” and what is “Other”. Skin can serve as a marker of the human and as a way of illustrating an internal human core that is preserved from monstrous contamination. In Topographia Hibernica, werewolves are able to illustrate their core humanity to a priest by showing that there wolfish exterior is only skin deep and that their essential core is still human and therefore that their spirits are similarly still human and deserve last rites. In Guillaume de Palerne, the protagonists are able to wear the skin of animals and be mistaken for them while returning to their full human status by the removal of this skin. In the Volsungasaga, Sigmund and Sinfjotli don the skin of wolves and are transformed into wolves, unable to remove the skins for a period of time until they are able to regain their humanity. Their wearing of these skins allows them to question traditional age roles and behave outside of social norms.
Monstrous skins in these narratives serve a transvestitic role, a transformational piece of clothing that facilitates a different expression of identity. Skin becomes clothing in these narratives and clothing serves as a marker (and maker) of identity, dictating how to identify and perceive individuals and also, for the person wearing that clothing, how to perform their identity. Ideas like class, gender, ethnicity, and age are performed through clothing and, similarly, monstrous performances are vestic, clothed, and embodied in the skin, the outer appearance that is worn. The werewolf Bisclavret can only retain and re-re-express his humanity when he is provided with his human clothing, the performative place of his humanity. Cohen notes the role of the monstrous in policing boundaries in his Monster Culture: Seven Theses, but what polices the boundaries between the human and the monstrous? In this paper I argue that skin serves as a metaphorical boundary between the human and the monstrous, preventing and/or policing the interaction between the human and monstrous bodies in the transformed individual. This paper borrows from Mary Douglass in her discussion of the role of entrances and exits of the body for controlling the entrance and exit of foreign or taboo bodies, and on Judith Butler in her discussion of the performative nature of identity.

**************************************
The Flaying of St. Bartholomew and the Rhetoric of the Flesh in the Belles Heures of the Duke of Berry
Sherry C.M. Lindquist, Western Illinois University
     The miniature of the flaying of St. Bartholomew in the Duke of Berry’s Belles Heures participates in the book’s sophisticated pictorial discourse about flesh: about its sensuality and sanctity, about the appeal of bodily integrity and the equally powerful fascination with its monstrous opposite. This paper draws on groundwork laid by Michael Camille, Robert Mills and Martha Easton concerning the duke’s desires, the aestheticized male martyr, and the meaning of the female nude in the Belles Heures, respectively. An analysis of the Limbourgs’ gorgeous and excruciating rendering reveals the ways in which it is in dialogue with other horrifying, attractive and playful bodies on the folios of the Duke’s famous book, as well as with visual traditions and actual practices of punishment to be found outside of its covers.
**************************************

“Lo, his flessh al be beflapped that fat is”: From Flagellation to Flaying in the English Cycle Passion Plays
Valerie Gramling, University of Massachusetts

In the early plays of the English cycles skin is something that is put on the body, like a garment, to transform it – in Chester God clothes Adam and Eve in animal skins to transform them from immortal to mortal, while in the N-Town Annunciation Filius puts on human skin (“that wede”) to become God-as-man. The Passion plays, however, depict the beginning of a new transformation which demands an undressing, a removal of that mortal skin from the body of Jesus to reveal his divinity. Both clothing and skin mark Jesus as human, and in the cycles he is divested of both as his flesh is left “withowtyn [the] hyde” that signifies his mortality and humanity. In this presentation I argue that various moments within each cycle’s Passion suggest that Jesus is not merely stripped and scourged but actually flayed, his skin violently torn from his body in preparation for his resurrection. Though costuming records are scarce, I examine the language used by Jesus and other characters to establish the torture and transformation of his body as they gloss the performed mystery for the audience, and consider how relics of his skin appear in subsequent plays through Jesus’ burial cloths and seamless coat. Ultimately I assert that by symbolically flaying Jesus on stage, the cycle playwrights not only reinforce medieval readings of Jesus’ trial as one of treason but also allow his skin to be transformed into these relics which provide tangible testaments to his sacrifice and mankind’s salvation.

**************************************

A window for the Pain: Surface, Interiority and Christ’s Flagellated Skin in Late Medieval Sculpture
Peter Dent, University of Bristol

From c.1300, the so-called crucifixi dolorosi, graphic images of Christ’s wounded and broken body on the cross, began to spread rapidly throughout Europe. These polychromed wooden sculptures combine elements of high relief and vivid colour in order to depict skin furrowed with the wounds of the flail. These patterns are sometimes applied following a grid system so that the bloody lacerations spread like the nodes of a web across the entire surface of Christ’s body. Variation in the size and depth of the lesions sets up a complex rhythm for the viewer to follow. On some crucifixes, the traces of under-drawing reveal the careful planning that lay behind such grotesque effects. In this paper, I propose to focus on the sophisticated articulation of the surface as a way of generating interiority. On the one hand, I will draw on late medieval ideas about wounds, in particular the episode in canto 13 of Dante’s Inferno where words and blood sputter in tandem from Piero della Vigna’s broken branches. In Dante’s description of della Vigna’s punishment, Harpies feeding on his leaves cause ‘pain and a window for the pain’. The wounds of the flagellation offer a window onto Christ’s interior suffering. On the other hand, I will also compare these crucifixes with the articulation of skin surface in sculpture from other periods, above all the classical sculpture of fifth-century Greece, where a set of comparable techniques is used to generate surface depth and, by extension, a similar effect of interiority.

***********************************

To Love and Be Wise: Crimes of Love and Reticent Judgements in Medieval Fabliaux
Michael Dzanko, The Ohio State University

In Boccaccio’s Decameron, 8.7, Rinieri, a scholar, falls in love with the young widow Helena. Although she appears, at first, to reciprocate his erotic desires, the would-be lover is soon left, literally, out in the cold. He then exacts a calculatedly cruel counter-penalty, leaving her high on a tower, to be flayed by the sun. After the tale is told, a most curious judgement is passed on the participants, with the assembled court pronouncing that though the scholar’s dispensing of justice was admittedly excessive, ‘their compassion was restrained’ by the knowledge that the lady had partially brought her woes on herself. Any character or reader hoping for a sense of distributive justice, or a final judgement, however, is left wanting.

Nor are Rinieri and Elena alone in the dock, for the fabliau tradition contains many other examples of ‘comedies of retribution’, each featuring acts of flagellation and similarly indeterminate judgements. For his part, Chaucer was equally equivocal about the use of flaying by the characters of Phoebus and Absolon, in The Manciple’s Tale and The Miller’s Tale, respectively. Even earlier French and Dutch tales were not sparing in their use of this grisly motif, though they, too, were rather more ambivalent when it came to the crimes themselves. In this paper, I argue that though the genre itself has always been afforded a certain carnal licence, the recurring motif of flaying and the distinctly reticent judgements of it, raise some interesting questions about the problematic nature of the medieval response.

Kalamazoo 2013 CFP

MONSTERS I: Haunting the Middle Ages
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico; Sarah Alison Miller, Duquesne University

This panel proposes to explore those monstrous figures that haunt the borders between the living and the dead: ghosts, revenants, animated corpses and skeletons. What do these figures reveal about the porous boundaries between life and death, soul and body? What do they communicate about the relationship between haunting, trauma and memory? How is haunting associated with space, whether that space be a geographical location, a physical structure, a fantasized realm, or human consciousness? How were these figures depicted in art and material culture? How might monster studies be considered a haunted domain? How might the Middle Ages be considered a haunted age?

MONSTERS II: Down to the skin: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages
Organizers: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University and Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico

Presider: Larissa Tracy

From images of Saint Bartholomew holding his skin in his arms, to scenes of demons flaying the damned within the mouth of hell, to grisly execution in Havelok the Dane, to laws that prescribed it as a punishment for treason, this session explores the gruesome, even monstrous, practice of skin removal—flaying—in the Middle Ages. This session proposes to examine the widely diverse examples of this grisly practice, and explore 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 session will literally get beneath the skin of medieval sensibilities regarding punishment and sacrifice in a nuanced discussion of medieval flaying.

Send proposals to Asa Mittman, Kat Tracy, and/or Sarah Alison Miller.

SEMA Abstract Submissions

The Annual Meeting of the Southeastern Medieval Association at the University of Southern Mississippi to be held October 18-20, 2012 on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Session title: Re-Membering the Monstrous Sponsor: MEARCSTAPA
Organizer: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University
Disarticulated bodies and separated members populate the Middle Ages in a variety of forms. From the cherished body parts of saints, to the reviled limbs of criminals and monstrous creatures, dismembered and reassembled bodies have a profound cultural significance throughout medieval Europe. We welcome abstracts of 250 words on any form of dismemberment, physical dislocation or separated members in medieval literature, art, language, law, history, or archaeology.
DEADLINE FOR ABSTRACTS: June 1, 2012
Please email abstracts of no more than 250 words, with a brief biographical note to Larissa Tracy: kattracy@comcast.net.

From Animal to Meat: Illuminating the Medieval Ritual of Unmaking
Rebekah L. Pratt, Arizona State University

  Among the many sumptuous images of the late fourteenth-century hunting manual by Gaston Fébus, Le livre de la chasse  (Ms. fr. 616,  Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris), one particular illumination stands apart.  The portrayal of the breaking apart of the animal body seems out of place amongst the courtly scenes which decorate the manuscript. Perhaps not grotesque by our own twenty-first century standards, this image visualizes the unmaking or undoing ritual described in medieval hunting manuals and graphically depicts an animal skinned, dismembered, cut open and sliced into pieces by humans.
 Critical examination of the historical context and iconography of medieval unmaking images demonstrates their cultural significance.  In the twenty-first century, many prefer their animal flesh cold, bloodless and wrapped in plastic, no longer resembling the creature it once was.  This supermarket product is no longer an animal but instead has become what humans consume: meat. This transformation occurs through the taking apart of the animal body, which reduces the creature into unrecognizable pieces.  Medieval representations of unmaking  reveal the ritual served a similar purpose, to transform animal bodies into consumable flesh.

“The dismembering saint in Ireland”
Dr. Máire Johnson, University of Oklahoma
The saints celebrated in the written evidence of medieval Ireland are honored for many acts. Some of these deeds, such as healings, can readily be reconciled with an expected image of holiness. But what of a saint who is associated with the rending apart of human bodies? Indeed, throughout Ireland’s hagiographical texts can be found numerous instances in which holy men and women are linked with varying forms of dismemberment. Hands wither and drop off; heads are severed by rapidly-growing gangrene. In the most extreme instances entire bodies are sundered. Such harsh occurrences hardly seem consonant with the idea of a holy person yet, as this paper will show, the dismembering saint presents an object lesson in the power of God’s agent to not only restore the community of Christ but to expel those who are not properly part of it. Just as instances of hagiographical healing mark the saint’s ability to return to physical and spiritual integrity both the individual and the collective body Christian, so also accounts of dramatic disarticulation signify the saint’s severance of those who would injure the church and its members. Following models established in both canonical and apocryphal scriptures—sometimes with a uniquely Hibernian sense of humor—the Irish saint’s separation of the part from the whole thus makes manifest the threshold between healthy and harmful, believer and unbeliever, and sacred and profane.

Rachel McClain, California State University Long Beach

By their very nature, giants are simultaneously similar to, and markedly different from men. The monstrosity of giants is a function of extremes, both behavioral and physical, extremes that are easily traced to men, but manifested disproportionately in giants. In later Middle English chivalric literature, violence against giants is both sanctioned and expected, with a generally predetermined outcome: beheading. However, while giants are almost universally beheaded, there are instances when they are not, and I argue that instances in which lethal conclusions are avoided can reveal a new way of defining the rules for engagement with giants. Looking at a number of English romances from the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth centuries, I will show that the degree of monstrosity of the giant, and the space in which the battle takes place, work together to determine whether or not a giant is beheaded. Only if the giant is truly monstrous, or if the battle takes place in the wilderness is the giant beheaded. This only reinforces giants’ kinship to man, and conversely, their alterity when placed in environments outside civilization. Additionally, it governs a knight’s use of chivalric violence. While beheading giants is the rule in medieval literature, the exceptions have much to tell us about violence and monstrosity.

KZoo 2012 Wrapup

Welcome, new members, welcome back long standing members and friends!  My thanks to all of our presenters, presiders, organizers and audience members for MEARCSTAPA’s two sessions at the 2-12 ICMS at Kalamazoo!  We had two excellent sessions.

The three speakers from “You’re So Juvenile: Monstrous Children in Medieval Culture” (ably presided over by Ana Grinberg) presented fascinating material on the processes of birth and generation of monstrous offspring.  I admit that many times, throughout, I was reminded of Eraserhead.  There has been some talk of a collection on the subject of monstrous babies and children, and I look forward to more on the subject!

Our speakers for “Eyes of the Beholders: A Roundtable Discussion on the Monstrous,” provided excellent inspiration for a good discussion, and our new interim-VP Kat Tracy kept everyone in line nicely.  Special thanks to Kristen Figg for standing in admirably for John Block Friedman, whose paper set us up for a strong conversation.  Marcus Hensel’s work to nail down the monstrous pressed us to move beyond generalizations and Jeannie Miller’s work on the medieval Islamic tradition broadened the scope in productive ways.

Finally, the new Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous sold well at the book fair and generated much positive attention, so this bodes well for the future of Monster Studies!

We are now at work on session proposals for next year, so keep an eye out for them, and I look forward to seeing you all again in Leeds or in Kalamazoo, next year!

KZOO 2013 Session Proposals (DRAFTS)

Session Proposals for 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies

May 9-12, 2013

Sponsor: Monsters: The Experimental Association for the research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory and Practical Application (MEARCSTAPA)



We wish to propose three related sessions on the subject of the monstrous in the Middle Ages.  This is a theme receiving increasing attention in scholarship, including papers and sessions at conferences, university courses, and publications.  MEARCSTAPA has sponsored successful and well attended sessions at the ICMS every year, and interest continues to rise.  The three sessions we propose for 2013 are as follows:

MONSTERS I:  Haunting the Middle Ages
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico; Sarah Alison Miller, Duquesne University

This panel proposes to explore those monstrous figures that haunt the borders between the living and the dead: ghosts, revenants, animated corpses and skeletons. What do these figures reveal about the porous boundaries between life and death, soul and body? What do they communicate about the relationship between haunting, trauma and memory? How is haunting associated with space, whether that space be a geographical location, a physical structure, a fantasized realm, or human consciousness? How were these figures depicted in art and material culture? How might monster studies be considered a haunted domain?  How might the Middle Ages be considered a haunted age?





MONSTERS II: Down to the skin: Images of Flaying in the Middle Ages
Organizers: Larissa Tracy, Longwood University and Asa Simon Mittman, California State University-Chico

Presider: 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 session explores the gruesome practice of skin removal—flaying—in the Middle Ages. This session proposes to examine the widely diverse examples of this grisly practice, and explore 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 session will literally get beneath the skin of medieval sensibilities regarding punishment and sacrifice in a nuanced discussion of medieval flaying.






MONSTERS III:  Monstrous Metamorphoses and Teratological Transformations
Monsters are boarder-walkers and boundary-crossers, highlighting the normal and normative through their transgressions.  This aspect of the monstrous is brought to the fore when monsters actually transform.  In medieval images and narratives, some creatures, like werewolves, begin as human and degrade, deform, distort and devolve into monsters; others, like the “Saracens” of conversion narratives, become more “normal” humans.  For this session, we seek papers on the metamorphoses of monsters as they challenge our ideas of form, culture, religion, nationality, etc.  Papers may deal with—but are by no means bound by—the following areas of inquiry:
  • shape-shifters (lycanthropes, witches, or Bors’s demonic temptresses)
  • creatures that grow or shrink dramatically (the Welsh Cai, Cornish spriggans, or the Irish Cú Chulainn)
  • monsters that change color (the Saracen King of Tars), age (the “loathly lady”), or sex (Tiresias and Loki)
  • once-human creatures whose transformations test our sense of boundaries and our understanding of the nature of nature (Fafnir, Daphne, or even Christ)
  • long-term transformations in the depictions of specific monstrous creatures (Nimrod, the Fomoire, or Cain)
  • monsters who transform between the text and accompanying images (the donestre in Cotton Vitellius A.xv)
  • the difficulties inherent in depicting a metamorphosis in manuscript illustrations

MEARCSTAPA Annual Meeting

Come one, come all!  Step right up and see the most remarkable monster (scholars) you have ever seen!  Only one thin time, 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 11, 7:30-8:30
Bernhard Lounge (Main Floor)
Western Michigan University

Note:  we have no dues and anyone is welcome to join.

Bring or wear your sexy MEARCSTAPA swag:
http://www.cafepress.com/mearcstapa

I hope to see many of you there!
Asa

PS.  Be sure to attend our two sessions, as well:
Session 45 Bernhard 204
You’re So Juvenile: Monstrous Children in Medieval Culture
Sponsor: MEARCSTAPA
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State Univ.–Chico; Melissa Ridley Elmes, Carlbrook School
Presider: Ana Grinberg, Univ. of California–San Diego
Is It a Boy, a Girl, or an Other? Monstrous Births of Non-monstrous Origins
Lisa Leblanc, Anna Maria College
Born For Monstrous Sanctity: Margaret and Her (Uncontainable) Dragon
Beth Sutherland, Univ. of Virginia
Twins and Hermaphrodites in Albertus and Pseudo-Albertus
Sarah Alison Miller, Duquesne Univ.
Session 138 Schneider 1360
Eyes of the Beholders: A Roundtable Discussion on the Monstrous
Sponsor: MEARCSTAPA
Organizer: Asa Simon Mittman, California State Univ.–Chico; Renee M. Ward, Wilfrid Laurier Univ. Presider: Larissa Tracy, Longwood Univ.
Us and Them: Cultural Relativism in the Middle French Secrets de l’histoire naturelle
John Block Friedman, Univ. of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
Monsters in Dante’s Hell: Cultural Implications and Unorthodox Religion
Eric Morningstar, Univ. of Michigan–Flint
Monsters, A Definition
Marcus Hensel, Univ. of Oregon
Dogs, Devils, and the Rhetoric of Total Audibility
Jeannie Miller, New York Univ.

Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous

Dear all,

I am delighted to announce the publication of the Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous, co-edited by Peter Dendle and myself.  This exciting volume has contributions by excellent scholars in the growing field of monsters studies, including a Forward by John Block Friedman and a Postscript by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.  There are also essays by a number of other medievalists and early-modernists, including:  Surekha Davies, Francesca Leoni; Karl Steel; Sarah Alison Miller; Dana Oswald; Debra Higgs Strickland; Chet van Duzer; Peter Dendle; and myself.  Full table of contents (and ordering information — you get a discount if you order through Ashgate’s site!) are here:


A flyer is available here:


Advanced reviews are very strong:
‘This volume awakens the monster as an academic topic. Combining John Block Friedman’s historical-literary approach with Jeffrey J. Cohen’s theoretical concerns, Asa Simon Mittman and Peter Dendle have marshaled chapters that comprise a seminal work for everyone interested in the monstrous. Wide-ranging chapters work through various historical and geographic views of monstrosity, from the African Mami Wata to Pokemon. Theoretical chapters consider contemporary views of what a monster is and why we care about them as we do. Taken together, the essays in The Ashgate Research Companion to Monsters and the Monstrous reveal that monsters appear in every culture and haunt each of us in different ways, or as Mittman says, the monstrous calls into question our (their, anyone’s) epistemological worldview, highlights its fragmentary and inadequate nature, and thereby asks us … to acknowledge the failures of our systems of categorization.’ 
David Sprunger, Concordia College, Minnesota, USA 

‘An impressively broad and thoughtful collection of the ways in which many cultures, ancient and modern, have used monsters to think about what it means to be human. Lavishly illustrated and ambitious in scope, this book enlarges the reader’s imagination.’ 
Professor Lorraine Daston, Director of the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Germany 

Like all such projects, the book had a long gestation, but the authors were wonderful to work with, and I am thrilled with the final volume.  Order a copy for your library, today!  Order one for yourself, two for your parents, three for your kids, and a dozen for the monsters under your beds, in your closets, and creeping down your walls.

Best,
Asa