Kzoo 2019 cfp: Periodization

A call for papers for a Special Session at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI (May 9-12, 2019). E-mail 250-word abstracts to by September 15, 2018. This paper panel is in sequence with Katie Little‘s roundtable, “Periodization I: Do We Need It?”

Periodization II: What Can We Do about It?

No one in the Middle Ages thought they were living in ‘the Middle Ages,’ of course. The middle of what? By the very nature of their research area, medievalists are well aware of the traps and ironies of historical periodization. When we become conscious of the marginalization of medieval studies in our institutions, we join periodization’s discontents. Since 2000, widely discussed books and collections by James Simpson (Reform and Cultural Revolution, 2002), Jennifer Summit and David Wallace (“Medieval/Renaissance: After Periodization,” 2007), and Kathleen Davis (Periodization and Sovereignty, 2008) have criticized the institutional status quo and pointed ahead to new periodizations or even to the end of historical periods as we know them.

This panel provides a timely forum for reconsidering the question of periodization and directing it to new research problems. For example, all the work mentioned in the previous paragraph concerns the medieval/modern periodization, but scholars within individual disciplines must grapple with other periodizations: late antique / medieval; Old English / Middle English within medieval English studies; high medieval / late medieval within continental European medieval studies.

Moreover, Davis asserts that medieval studies must build bridges with postcolonial studies if medieval studies is to avoid Eurocentrism even as it attacks presentism. That is, the issue of time and temporality has been bound up, in Western historiography, with the issue of space and spatiality. To question the medieval/modern divide may also amount to questioning the European/non-European divide. A clutch of edited volumes since 2000 attests that this transdisciplinary synthesis is already under way (The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, 2000; Postcolonial Moves: Medieval through Modern, ed. Patricia Clare Ingham and Michelle R. Warren, 2003; Medievalisms in the Postcolonial World, ed. Davis and Nadia Altschul, 2009).

This panel seeks submissions that could address a variety of questions from any disciplinary perspective, including:

  • How have our scholarly predecessors divided historical time?
  • Who has, historically, decided how to divide time, and why?
  • What are the negative or positive implications of those divisions for a particular subfield, approach, author, or text?
  • What is the relation between temporality and spatiality, ‘medieval’ and ‘Europe’?
  • What role do, or should, programs or institutes of medieval studies play in addressing periodization?
  • If periodization is an institutional and/or intellectual problem, what can be done about it?

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