CFP: Vices and Virtues: Gender, Subversion, and Moralizing Discourses (ICMS Kalamazoo)

Abstracts are invited for a panel on Vices and Virtues: Gender, Subversion, and Moralizing Discourses at the International Congress on Medieval Studies (ICMS) Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, 9-12 May, 2019.

Organizers: Jacob Doss, University of Texas at Austin; and Matthew Vanderpoel, University of Chicago

Significant watersheds in medieval Christianity have often entailed the reconceptualization of notions of vice and virtue and of gender. From the twelfth-century “renaissance” and “reformation,” amid the thirteenth-century “pastoral revolution,” and after the rediscovery of Aristotle, these two conceptual categories formed a mutually influential discourse. However, much of the scholarship on the development of discourses of vice and virtue has not incorporated gender as a central category of analysis, outside of specific case studies, if at all. Where gender has been addressed it has often been treated primarily as an egalitarian, gender-neutral discourse. Certainly, on one level, one’s susceptibility to vice or the development of virtue was not the domain of one or another gender, but this did not stop medieval people from creatively deploying them in gendered terms. Despite this seemingly ambivalent relationship to gender, medieval Christians wielded virtue and vice to organize social hierarchies, construct theoretical and practical anthropologies, and, as in telling cases such as Prudentius’ Psychomachia, to subvert gender binaries.

This panel will aim both to interrogate and theorize, broadly, the extent to which moralizing discourses concerning the vices and virtues incorporated notions of gender and vice versa. How does the gendering of specific personifications of vices and virtues reinforce and subvert medieval discourses about gender? How do normative commitments to gender roles and performances structure programmatic and didactic accounts of vice and virtue? To what extent does the intersection of vice and virtue with gendered language change between different religious or non-religious contexts, for example between monasteries, the universities, and popularizing works for the laity, or in the politics of the nobility? How may recent gender- and queer- theoretical thought equip us to interpret medieval writings on vice and virtue? Given these variegated questions, we seek an interdisciplinary panel and welcome proposals from scholars of religion, philosophy, literature, art history, and history.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words including your name title, and affiliation along with a completed Participant Information Form (available on the ICMS conference website) to the session organizers, Jacob Doss ( ) or Matthew Vanderpoel ( by 15 September, 2018.

Abstracts not accepted will be forwarded to the Congress Committee to be considered for general sessions.