Special Events

The special events of the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 9-12, 2019) at Western Michigan University include two plenary lectures, the annual lecture on the reception of the classics, an exhibition of medieval manuscripts on loan from Les Enluminures, the associated events of the Mostly Medieval Theatre Festival, and a dance.

Plenary lectures

Icons of Sound and the Exultet Liturgy of Southern Italy

Bissera V. Pentcheva

Stanford University

Friday, May 10, 8:30 a.m.
Bernhard Ballroom
Sponsored by the Medieval Academy of America

Mastering Humiliation in Medieval Literature

Bonnie Wheeler

Southern Methodist University

Saturday, May 11, 8:30 a.m.
Bernhard Ballroom
Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania Press

Reception of the Classics in the Middle Ages Lecture

Portrait of David Townsend

David Townsend

Mentioning the Unmentionable: "Praeteritio" and the Legacy of Roman Satire in Aelred of Rievaulx

David Townsend

University of Toronto

with a response by Catherine Conybeare, Bryn Mawr College

Thursday, May 9, 7:30 p.m.
Endowed in memory of Archibald Cason Edwards, Senior, and Sarah Stanley Gordon Edwards

The spiritual treatises of Aelred of Rievaulx, and in particular the "Speculum caritatis," are notably marked by a complex rhetorical stance toward questions of sexual heterodoxy. On the one hand, passages of outraged denunciation punctuate that treatise. On the other, sexual irregularities are sometimes highlighted by Aelred’s protestations that he will pass over in silence behaviors too shameful to mention—even as he thereby calls attentions to them. With some frequency, both these rhetorical strategies stand closely juxtaposed with considerations of legitimate and even spiritually beneficial homosocial affect within the monastic community. The consequent texture of cues for readerly response is richly polysemous. These strategies recall both the classical forensic device of "praeteritio," and, perhaps contradictorily, the refusal of Roman satirists, notably Juvenal, ever to shut up about virtually anything they find offensive: that latter satirical disclosure is sometimes predicated upon the notion of a secrecy around illicit behaviors that the writer feels compelled to unmask. In this lecture, I will explore the tensions between these strategies, principally in key passages of the "Speculum caritatis." I’ll suggest that debates of recent decades over the delimitations of licit and illicit homosocial affect in Aelred stem at least in part from the ambiguous field of possible receptions his rhetoric enables.

Mostly Medieval Theatre Festival

Mostly Medieval Theatre Festival logo: "mostly medieval, mostly theatre"The Mostly Medieval Theatre Festival is a biennial performance festival showcasing and invigorating the global heritage of drama, music, dance, and performance styles from late antiquity through the Renaissance. All evening performances will be followed by a talkback—an opportunity to ask questions and share knowledge among the audience and performers.

Sfanta (Holy One): Hell Bent on Heaven

created by Diana Lobontiu

Husband Swap, or Swap Meat (Le Trocheur de maris)

translated by Jody Enders and performed by Radford University

Wednesday, May 8, 8 p.m.

A night of absurdity pairs Teodora, a wannabe saint from Romania who seeks fame rather than faith, with three dissatisfied wives who meet the Husband Trader and get the men of their dreams—or not. 100 minutes plus intermission.

Je Christine

created by Suzanne Savoy


written by Ron Cook and performed by Simonetta Cochis and Ron and Janice Cook

Thursday, May 9, 8 p.m.

A night of strong French women, enriched with music, features fourteenth-century writer and noblewoman Christine de Pizan and the powerful Aliénor of Aquitaine, mother of kings. 2 hours 35 minutes plus intermission.

Problematic Men

Pneuma Ensemble

Friday, May 10, 8 p.m.

Unique, historically informed performances in the original languages accompanied by period instruments of the Latin comedy "Babio," the Middle English "Dux Moraud," and the Latin lyric "Samson Dux Fortissime." 100 minutes plus intermission.

Time's Up

University of Minnesota–Duluth

Saturday, May 11, 8 p.m.

#MeToo. Musical theatre. Medieval drama. What do these things have in common? This adaptation of the tenth-century The Conversion of the Harlot Thais suggests there are powerful parallels to be drawn between the plot of Hrosvit’s play and the challenges of the twenty-first century. 90 minutes, no intermission.


  • Evening performances: $10 presale with online Congress registration.
  • Noon performances: $12 presale with online Congress registration (no shuttle service).
  • General admission for all performances: $15.


All performances take place at the Gilmore Theatre Complex on the WMU campus.

Shuttles depart Valley 3 (Eldridge-Fox) for evening performances beginning at 7:15 pm.

Return shuttles depart both at the conclusion of each performance and following the talkback.

All evening performances are repeated at noon the following day (no shuttle service). Unused evening performance tickets may be redeemed (with an upcharge of $2) for the following day’s matinee of the same program.

Exhibition of medieval manuscripts

Les Enluminures, Text Manuscript 602
Thomas a Kempis, Imitatio Christi

Wednesday, May 8, to Monday, May 14

Weekdays: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Edwin and Mary Meader Room
3rd Floor, Waldo Library

Western Michigan University is pleased to be a part of the program "Manuscripts in the Curriculum" sponsored by Les Enluminures. As a part of that program, twenty-one Les Enluminures manuscripts will be on loan to the University and will be a focus of a two-week intensive course, "The Medieval Book," in June.

The manuscripts on loan will be on display during the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Waldo Library on the WMU campus. The manuscripts are a deliberately diverse group, with examples from a very wide time span from the thirteenth century onwards, in many languages, including Latin and vernacular languages; non-Western European cultures are represented by manuscripts from Greece and Ethiopia. The subjects are equally diverse and include liturgy, lives of saints, canon law, school books, and humanism.

Saturday night dance

The Saturday Night Dance takes place in the East Ballroom of the Bernhard Center from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. You should be ready to prove that you are 21 before you approach the cash bar. You must have a photo ID with you. You may not bring your own drinks to the dance. All other beverages and snacks are free. The Dance is a social occasion for registered attendees of the congress only. Please bring your registration badge to the Bernhard Center: it is your ticket of entry.

Worship services

Daily Vespers

Thursday to Saturday, 5:15 p.m.
Fetzer 1040

Roman Catholic daily Mass

Thursday to Saturday, 7 a.m.
Fetzer 1040

Roman Catholic Sunday Mass

Saturday, 7 p.m.
Sunday, 7 a.m.
Fetzer 1040

Anglican (Episcopal)-Lutheran Eucharist

Sunday, 7 a.m.
Fetzer 1045