Monsters and Materialities
Proposed session for the 2019 IMC (Leeds),1-4 July, Leeds, UK
Organizers: Asa Simon Mittman and Renée Ward
We seek papers to compose a session on the subject of “Monsters and Materialities” for the 2019 International Medieval Congress at Leeds. The Congress theme is “Materialities.”
Monsters abound in medieval culture, from giants to serpentine women and dog-headed saints. Often, monsters threaten communities through evocative ways; the most terrifying or even edifying monsters are those whose physical form is a mystery. Grendel terrorizes Heorot, but exact details of his physical appearance are unclear despite gestures towards his size, ferocity, and monstrosity. Yet monsters also frequently leave traces that suggest the magnitude of their physical presence. Early archaeological sites such as Maen Ceti (the 14 ft rock Arthur purportedly pulled from his shoe and threw away) speak to the gigantism often associated with Arthur’s figure, while the footprint embedded on the window sill and the trembling of the tower upon which Melusine perches emphasize the sheer weight of her winged and tailed body. In other cases, they leave behind more direct relics, such as the “griffon’s claw” associated with St. Cuthbert, or the many “unicorn horns” owned by European royalty as talismans against poison. Monstrous bodies were thought to exist in time and space; their presence is felt in real and palpable ways. No matter their size, these monsters leave their physical imprint upon the material structures of the world around them. However fantastic, however elusive, monsters exist in material and tangible ways—woven into tapestries, painted into frescoes, and melded into glass.
This panel seeks to examine the material aspect of monstrous beings in medieval culture, to uncover the impact of their presence in the world that imagines them in various forms. We invite papers from all disciplines and national traditions that examine every aspect and avenue this connection evokes. Topics may include: literary representations that emphasize the material nature of monsters; material depictions of monsters in other media such as sculpture, architecture, tapestry, glassworks, frescoes, and paintings; and physical remains or archaeological artefacts associated with monstrous beings and myths and legends.
Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a brief bio to session organizers Asa Mittman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Renée Ward (email@example.com) by the 31 August 2018. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. All abstracts will be vetted by the MEARCSTAPA board and the full session will be submitted to the Congress mid-September 2018. Additionally, MEARCSTAPA will provide an award of $500 to the best graduate student/independent/unwaged submission to this or any of its sessions to help offset the costs of travel and lodging for the IMC.
As an organization dedicated to the study of marginalized communities and entities in the Middle Ages and beyond, MEARCSTAPA affirms its position on diversity, inclusion, and inquiry within all academic discourses. We support and embrace those who have been marginalized, excluded, and othered in medieval studies. We disavow hatred and intolerance. We walk the borders, but do not police them; we welcome your company.