Cities of Strangeness 1350-1700: strangers, estrangement, becoming-strange – Call for Papers

Cities of Strangeness 1350-1700: strangers, estrangement, becoming-strange

Deadline for submissions: January 19, 2018
Full name / name of organization: 
University of Manchester
Contact email:
The Northern Premodern Seminar Cities of Strangeness, 1350-1700
strangers / estrangement / becoming-strange

Friday 11th May, University of Manchester

Looking one way, you see a beautiful virgin: another way, some deformed monster. Cast an eye upon her profession, she is a well-graced creature: turn it upon her conversation, she is a misshapen stigmatic. View her peace, she is fairer than the daughters of men: view her pride, the children of the Hittites and Amorites are beauteous to her. Think of her good works, then blessed art thou of the Lord; number her sins, then how is that faithful city become an harlot!
Thomas Adams, Eirenopolis: The City of Peace (1622)

The period spanning the years 1350-1700 saw a massive expansion in urban populations, transforming social formations. Changes and developments in medieval and early modern cities were intricately tied up with trade, migration, politics, economics, shifting possibilities for social mobility, and the growth of commodity culture; the relationships of individuals and communities to, and in, the city were frequently characterised by alienation and disorder. The early meanings of ‘strange’ as foreign or alien, and also new, wondrous, and astonishing, point towards premodern cities as sites of danger, possibility, conflict, and discovery.

Cities of Strangeness, 1350-1700 is an interdisciplinary one-day conference exploring the centrality of strangeness and estrangement in literary, artistic, and cultural representations of the premodern city. To what extent is the experience of the premodern city characterised by estrangement or alienation? How did the growth and transformation of urban spaces across the late medieval and early modern period alter social identities and formations? What were the relationships between a city and its strangers? How do literature and art respond to cities in strange ways?

We invite proposals for papers that explore any of the following, or related topics, in relation to late medieval and early modern cities:

  • strange bodies, strange creatures
  • the psychoanalysis of estrangement
  • race, immigration, emigration, diaspora
  • alienation and capitalism, class and poverty
  • protests and riots
  • gender, sex and sexuality
  • heterotopias and liminal spaces
  • uncanny, imaginary, mystical or supernatural cities
  • strange languages, strange speech, strange sound

We welcome papers from scholars working in literature, visual cultures, history, religious studies, urbanism, and other related disciplines. We encourage papers that take a cross-period or interdisciplinary approach.

Confirmed plenary speakers: Adam Hansen (University of Northumbria), Anke Bernau (University of Manchester), and Matthew Dimmock (University of Sussex).

Please send 250 word abstracts for fifteen-minute papers to Annie Dickinson and Laura Swift at by Friday 19th January, 2018. Please include a brief biography.

The venue is wheelchair accessible, with accessible, gender-neutral toilets and designated parking bays. Information about prayer rooms, dietary requirements, assistance dogs, hearing loops, transport and accommodation can be found on the website (; please contact the organisers if there is anything you would like to discuss in advance.   

Lunch, refreshments, and a wine reception will be provided. Replies to all submissions will be sent in early February 2018, when registration will open.

The conference is kindly sponsored by artsmethods@manchester.