WMU to become mecca for world's medievalists

Share |
Photo of audience at medieval congress.

Attendees listen to a speaker during the 2012 congress.

KALAMAZOO — More than 3,000 of the world's leading authorities on the Middle Ages will converge on the Western Michigan University campus in early May to examine topics ranging from medieval social networking and military history to medieval conspiracy theories.

The University's famed Medieval Institute will host its 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies Thursday through Sunday, May 9-12. The congress is the world's largest annual gathering of those interested in all things medieval, and attendees will include professional academics, students, writers, performers, enthusiasts and independent scholars. Participants from around the world will fill area hotels and six campus residence halls in WMU's Goldsworth Valley, where the congress is centered.

2013 congress

The 2013 congress will include more than 575 sessions, many focusing on the presentation of scholarly papers, while others will include roundtables, workshops, demonstrations and performances. One of the more unusual demonstrations this year will be an iron smelting demonstration that will take place outdoors at Goldsworth Valley Pond.

Photo of musical instrument vendor.

A woman inspects musical instruments at a vendor's table during the 2012 congress.

"The 48th congress will once again bring a large and varied host of medievalists to their familiar and favorite venues on the WMU campus," says James M. Murray, director of the Medieval Institute.  He notes that the congress began in 1962 as a biennial conference and has been held annually since 1970.

Music performances are always among highlights of the congress. For the 2013 event, Murray says, the Medieval Institute has partnered with West Michigan arts organization Fontana Chamber Arts to sponsor a Friday, May 10, performance by Anonymous 4 at 8 p.m. in Kalamazoo College's Stetson Chapel. The famed a capella female quartet has performed for sold-out audiences on major concert series and at festivals throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The group has produced 19 best-selling recordings. Tickets for the Anonymous 4 concert are available at the Fontana Chamber Arts website, fontanachamberarts.org.

Additional 2013 congress highlights include scholarly presentations on new findings covering topics as diverse as the scandalous and the marvelous in medieval art, gender issues in old Icelandic sagas, and medieval conspiracies and conspiracy theories. Also examined will be the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and other modern writers and thinkers inspired by the literature and history of the Middle Ages.

Many workshops planned

Photo of women singing at the medieval conference.

Attendees give a musical performance at the 2012 congress.

Among this year's workshops are one on learning to sing medieval chants and another on reading old Italian aloud. This year's congress also features a series of sessions celebrating the 700th anniversary of the birth of the great Italian poet Giovanni Boccaccio in 1313 and the 50th anniversary of the death of novelist and scholar C. S. Lewis in 1963.

Special plenary lectures are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, May 10-11, in the Bernhard Center's East Ballroom. On Friday, Peregrine Horden of Royal Holloway, University of London will speak on "Poseidon's Oar: Horizons of the Medieval Mediterranean." The following day, Mary Carruthers of New York University will talk about "Augustinian Intention and Medieval Aesthetic."

The exhibits hall, an annual favorite of medievalists and Kalamazoo residents alike, will feature the wares of more than 60 publishers, used and rare book dealers, purveyors of medieval sundries and others. In addition, there will be nearly 90 business meetings and receptions sponsored by learned societies, publishers and academic institutions—all taking advantage of the gathering that attracts a veritable "who's who" of international experts on medieval topics.

For more information about the 2013 International Congress on Medieval Studies, including how to register, visit wmich.edu/medieval/congress or contact the Medieval Institute at medieval-institute@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8745.

Related article:
Medieval prayer book newly available online | May 7, 2013