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World's leading medieval scholars come to WMU

May 5, 2008

KALAMAZOO--More than 3,000 scholars and others interested in the Middle Ages will gather on the campus of Western Michigan University May 8-11 for the 43rd International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Sponsored by WMU's Medieval Institute, the congress attracts scholars from across the United States and a score of other nations. This year's event will include more than 600 sessions that will feature presentations of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and performances.

"It's mouthwatering," says Dr. James Murray, director of the Medieval Institute, "Each year's congress program attests to the abundance of subjects, people and imaginative approaches to all aspects of the Middle Ages."

In addition to addressing every aspect of life in the Middle Ages, Murray says, the event will also focus on modern phenomena inspired by the literature and history of the period. Multiple sessions are devoted to the work of such key authors as Chaucer, Dante and Christine de Pizan. This year, the 900th anniversary of the founding of the abbey of Saint-Victor in Paris will trigger a series of sessions devoted to the great thinkers associated with that house. Other sessions will focus on the material culture of the period, including the machines of war, clothing, coins, art and architecture. Also featured will be a medieval gaming workshop, with games old and new.

The 43rd congress will offer readers' theater performances of Middle English texts, as well as performances of music in praise of the Virgin Mary and of the German heroic epic "Duke Herzog." Three films on medieval themes will be screened in the evenings: the 1964 production of "Becket;" 1991's "The Fisher King;" and "The Da Vinci Code", which was released in 2006.

An additional congress attraction is a special art exhibition, "Sacred Steps: Pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago," which features modern prints and photography inspired by the famous pilgrimage routes to Santiago on Spain's Atlantic coast.

Also in connection with the congress, Boston-based Le Bon Vent will present a concert titled "The King's Court to a Cajun Kitchen" at 8 p.m. Friday, May 9, in the First Baptist Church, which is located at 315 W. Michigan Ave. in downtown Kalamazoo.

Le Bon Vent is an eclectic group of musicians," says Murray. "Their concert will feature a wide range of French song and dance music from the medieval to Cajun contemporary."

Information about the congress, including links to online registration and online concert ticket sales, is available at www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress. Additional information is available through the Medieval Institute at medieval-institute@wmich.edu and (269) 387-8745.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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