Calls for Papers/Aug 17, 2017

Nature and the Unnatural in the Middle Ages

Nature and the Unnatural in the Middle Ages lead image

Nature and the Unnatural in the Middle Ages: New Perspectives, 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, May 10–13, 2018

Scholarship on the Middle Ages has long turned to medieval conceptions of nature and the unnatural as a deep cultural logic underlying a broad range medieval social and cultural practices. This panel seeks new work on nature and the unnatural in the middle ages, inviting new perspectives on how notions of nature/unnature shaped medieval definitions and interpretations of their world. Medieval people variously theorized the fluid boundary between nature and the unnatural: it described the liminal space between the celestial and infernal worlds, the miraculous and decaying body, sexual propriety and deviance, and mystical visions, among a whole host of other phenomena. Similarly, notions of nature and the unnatural undergird a variety of medieval textual and material survivals, including scholastic texts on perspectiva, Gothic architectural ornament, saints’ lives, surveying manuals, monastic rules, mappae mundi, and liturgical objects. How can new scholarly perspectives refresh our understanding of what, and how, nature and unnature meant during the Middle Ages? How might these new perspectives help uncover medieval theorizations of nature and the unnatural in places and sources we haven’t yet looked? In short: what else was nature and the unnatural during the Middle Ages? These are but a few questions this panel seeks to explore.

We look forward to abstracts from every discipline, and welcome papers representing a diverse range of temporal and geographical specializations.

Session contact
Melissa Horn, University of Chicago

Sponsored by the Medieval Studies Workshop at the University of Chicago