Barnard College’s twenty-fourth Medieval and Renaissance Conference

Saturday December 6, 2014


The conference organizers seek proposals for papers on issues of textual materiality in the medieval and Renaissance periods. This topic includes both the material upon which words are transmitted (parchment, paper, wood, marble, bodies, etc.), as well as the inscribed object’s visual aspects (illustrations, etc.). Interdisciplinary at its core, this conference examines not only the intersection of literary studies and art history, but also addresses central concerns of the history of science, history of law, aesthetic philosophy, museum conservation, and book history.


Confirmed keynote speakers:

-Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak (Professor of History, NYU)

-Peter N. Miller (Professor of Cultural History and Dean, Bard Graduate Center)


We encourage submissions on all topics related to the conference theme. Possible panels might include, but are not limited to the following:


·      Anachronic Texts. This panel would consider material texts that juxtapose or even superimpose different time periods (for example, the palimpsest)


·      The Incunabulum. The materiality of the word in texts printed pre-1501


·      Tablets and Inscriptions: How tablets, architectural façades and other non-book surfaces become sites of inscription


·      Public Words: The materiality of words in public spaces, such as on monuments, stages, etc.


·      Word, Image, and the Arts of Memory. The use of images in texts addressing the arts of memory


·      Defaced Pages: The evidential and interpretive interest of texts marked by censorship and various forms of use.


·      Objects of the Law: Legal authority and its material forms, such as seals, etc.


·      Questioning the Materialist Turn. A forum for debating theoretical and philosophical problems of a materialist approach to artworks.


·      Mapping the Word and the World. The presence of words, cartouches, and other textual objects in medieval and Early Modern cartography.


·      The Digital Archive. Advantages and problems of the digitized archive, which makes material texts more widely available—but only through, arguably, effacing the materiality of the material text.


This conference is organized by Professors Rachel Eisendrath, Christopher Baswell, and Phillip John Usher, together with other members of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program at Barnard College, Columbia University.


Please send 300-word abstract by May 15, 2014, to the conference organizers: barnardmedren2014@gmail.com



The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship has announced that the winner of the 2013 prize for the best graduate student article on feminist scholarship on the Middle Ages is Gillian Adler.  Gillian, a graduate of Barnard College, is a doctoral student in the English Department of UCLA, working with Christine Chism and Matthew Fisher.  Her winning essay, “Female Intercession and the Shaping of Male Heroism in the Roman d’Enéas and Le Chevalier au Lion,” was written for a class taught by Zrinka Stahuljak of the UCLA French Department and will be published in a future issue of Medieval Feminist Forum.  Congratulations!

Gillian Adler writes: "My paper, 'Female Intercession and the Shaping of Male Heroism in the Roman d’Enéas and Le Chevalier au Lion,' is concerned broadly with how women operate in twelfth-century French romance. I argue that the female intercessory figures who seem to wield verbal power and influence over the shape of these texts are assimilated into a narrative pattern that celebrates redemptive, foundational male heroes. Following the arguments of scholars like E. Jane Burns and Simon Gaunt, my paper looks at how the genre of romance subversively imagines an alternative to the masculinist model of homosociality in the chanson de geste tradition by privileging the place of female subjectivity in narrative, but ultimately constructs instances of female victimization that reinforce fantasies of male genealogical claims and chivalric repute. My interest in the intersection between romance and history developed in my studies at Barnard, when I was working with Professor Christopher Baswell in a course on the medieval imagination of antiquity and with Professor Timea Szell in a course on Boethius and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. My undergraduate work with these professors and others on everything from early medieval historiography to late medieval female devotional practices has continued to influence the shape of my current research in the UCLA English doctoral program."

About the Program

The Medieval and Renaissance program at Barnard College enables students to acquire a thorough knowledge of the most important aspects of Medieval or Renaissance civilizations and to gain an awareness of the interdependence of historical and cultural developments.

All images are drawn from manuscripts/books owned by Barnard College or Columbia University and made available by Columbia's Digital Scriptorium. Images used with permission. The image in the top-left is from Barnard College's MS 1, a fourteenth-century Italian manuscript.

More Information