CFP: Material Affects: Theorizing Bodies and Minds in Medieval North Atlantic Cultures

Please find below a call for papers for a seminar that is a part of the second meeting of a conference with an innovative format. IONA: Seafaring focuses on the multicultural early medieval islands of the North Atlantic (hence, IONA) and is “Designed less around traditional conference presentations and more as a ‘workspace,’ IONA: Seafaring is designed to provide time and space for nascent and developing work, intellectual risk-taking, collaboration and cooperation”.

IONA will be held at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, from 11-13 April 2019. As part of the conference this seminar, organized by Erin Sweany, Rachel Anderson, Kristen Mills, and Margie Housley, will focus on minds, bodies, and theoretical inquiry.

Scholars studying medieval bodies and minds have encountered intersecting and overlapping questions in recent years. Physical and phenomenological experience are, to some extent, inextricable. Much scholarship on emotions has focused on the ways that feelings are embodied, through gesture, somatic response, and emotional performance. Embodied experience, likewise, is inextricable from socially- and culturally- constructed ideas — and feelings — about bodies, space, and being. Nor can the material body be removed/overlooked in our readings of texts: embodied experience of health and dis/ability, and more. Theorists such as Sara Ahmed, Elaine Scarry, and Judith Butler have shown that embodied experience is inseparable from internal/emotional experience and vice versa. At the same time, approaches to medieval minds and bodies have faced similar difficulties: methodological approaches in the sciences and social sciences are often separated from the humanities, while historicist, materialist, and philological approaches to the medieval world have often been positioned in opposition to critical theory.

Just as bodies cannot be separated from minds, and the material cannot be extracted from the phenomenological, we view history, science, and theory as intimately connected. This seminar seeks to build on and deepen this foundation with a range of approaches to feelings and bodies in the medieval North Atlantic. How can critical theory work with historicist and scientific approaches to medieval literature and culture? How can we effectively employ non-humanities methodologies in the humanities? How do these approaches shape, and how are they shaped by, feminist and queer discourses in medieval studies and across the humanities? How can medieval literary and cultural studies allow us to rethink theoretical and methodological tools within and beyond the humanities? We hope to consider new theoretical approaches, more “traditional” methodological approaches, and papers that bridge the two. Proposed papers might fall into the following thematic strands:

– Interiority and embodied affects
– Queer/feminist approaches to body and mind
– Disability/non-normativity in physical and emotional states
– Intersections of affect, gender, the non-human, race, etc.
– Historicism and anachronism in medieval studies
– Spirituality as affective and embodied experience
– Comparative literary approaches (e.g. Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, or comparative approaches across the medieval world)
– Using science/social science methodologies such as (but not limited to): Actor- Network Theory, New Materialisms, Medical Humanities, and Systems Theory

We invite proposals from scholars working in all disciplines. Please send 250-word abstracts to Erin Sweany at by 1 July, 2018.

For more information on IONA: