More than 3,000 expected to flock to WMU for Medieval Congress

Share |
Photo of a medieval congress lecture.

A large audience listens to a presentation during the 2013 congress.

KALAMAZOO—More than 3,000 of the world's leading academics and others interested in the Middle Ages will gather on the Western Michigan University campus Thursday through Sunday, May 8-11, to examine all aspects of the period, from music to military, maritime and monastic history.

The 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, hosted by the University's famed Medieval Institute, is the world's largest annual gathering of professional academics, students, performers, enthusiasts and independent scholars interested in all things medieval.

The conference attracts participants from around the globe who fill area hotels and six campus residence halls in WMU's Goldsworth Valley, where the congress is centered. It features not only sessions devoted to academic papers, but also to panel discussions, workshops and performances.

"We look forward every year to welcoming our colleagues from near and far, and this year we are grateful that spring has come just in time for their arrival," says James M. Murray, director of the Medieval Institute.

"As is customary, the range of topics to be considered is enormous. Visual art, literature in many languages, drama, political and intellectual history, the environment, law and theology, as well as the many modern manifestations of the 'medieval'—perennial topics of congress conversation—will all be considered. And this year's congress reflects an emerging interest in the study of failure in the Middle Ages."

Special event highlights

Musical and theatrical performances are always among the highlights of the congress.

This year, they will include a contemporary staging of a medieval French play, "The Mystery of Saint Veronica," by the WMU Department of Theatre in collaboration with the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society. The performance will be directed by Dr. Lofton L. Durham, WMU assistant professor of theatre, who also prepared the play's English translation.

In addition, there will be a presentation of a 10th-century liturgical drama by Early Music Michigan in collaboration with the Hildegard Singers and directed by Eric H. Strand, EMM's leader. And for the first time, the Congress will feature modern poets reading their work on medieval subjects.

Special events for 2014 also will include a Medieval Women Wikipedia Write-In staged by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, which is seeking to diversify the profile of Wikipedia in terms of both the topics covered and the editorship. The write-in will take place for the duration of the congress, from Thursday morning until midday Sunday.

Planned workshops will give participants a hands-on introduction to the medieval astronomical device known as the astrolabe and focus on new online resources for medieval studies, singing medieval plainchant and pronouncing Old French, Middle French and medieval Italian.

General congress information

Photo of a blacksmithing demonstration.

Onlookers observe a demonstration at the 2013 congress.

The 2014 Medieval Congress will include more than 565 sessions that take place at various campus venues, including the Bernhard Center, Fetzer Center and Goldsworth Valley III residence halls.

Special plenary lectures are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday, May 9-10, in the Bernhard Center's East Ballroom.

Dr. Susan Einbinder, professor of Hebrew and Judaic studies and comparative literature at the University of Connecticut, will speak Friday on "The Libel of the Lamb: Violence and Medieval Metaphor." Dr. Anne Walters Robertson, Claire Dux Swift Distinguished Service Professor of Music and the Humanities at the University of Chicago, will speak Saturday on "What They Read, What They Saw, What They Heard: Composers and Sacred Music in Late Medieval Culture."

Other scholarly sessions will cover new findings on topics as diverse as the Bible in the Byzantine world; advances in medieval archaeology; rethinking "medieval" for the 21st century; the economics of sanctity; monastic ways of life for women; nobility, chivalry and war on the frontiers of Christendom; medieval apocalypticism; paranormal activity in the medieval North; and monks going wild.

The exhibits hall will be full to bursting with more than 70 used and rare book dealers, publishers and purveyors of medieval-themed wares. There also will be more than 100 business meetings and receptions hosted by publishers, learned societies and academic programs.

For more information about the 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies, including costs and how to register, visit wmich.edu/medieval/congress or contact the Medieval Institute at medieval-institute@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8745.