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More than 3,000 expected to attend medieval congress

May 4, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Scholars from around the globe will descend on Kalamazoo Thursday through Sunday, May 10-13, for Western Michigan University's 42nd International Congress on Medieval Studies.

More than 3,000 people are expected to attend the event, including scholars from more than 25 nations. Sponsored by the University's Medieval Institute, this year's congress takes place at locations across campus and features more than 600 sessions offering scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and performances covering nearly every facet of life in the Middle Ages.

"Interest in the congress continues to grow among professional medievalists," says Dr. Rand Johnson, interim director of the Medieval Institute. "For these four days in May, the international conversation on medieval topics moves to Kalamazoo. And the conversation includes students, a feature of the conference, which sets it apart from many others in the profession. Many of these junior scholars, in fact, present their first papers here, making the experience an important part of their entrée into the profession. The congress has become a favorite event for many area residents as well. They attend a variety of paper sessions and performances, and especially enjoy the exhibits hall, where they find rare books and manuscripts, current books by international presses, seals and coins, and many other items."

"Topics for this year's congress include such medieval standards as the Vikings, "Beowulf," Chaucer, Thomas Aquinas and King Arthur. This year's program also includes several sessions on early Islamic/Christian relations, J.R.R.Tolkien, the Knights Templar, medieval anti-war movements and Bohemond's crusade of 1107, for which this year is the 900th anniversary.

Highlights of the congress this year include a reconstruction of the evening prayer service for the feast of Corpus Christi, newly introduced into the Catholic church in the 1200s, as well as readers' theater performances of "Mankind," an English drama of the 1400s, and "The Tale of Sir

Launcelot," from Sir Thomas Malory's "Morte Darthur." There will also be a festival of three films on medieval themes: "A Knight's Tale" from 2001, 1954's "The Black Knight" and "Kriemhilds Rache" (Kriemhild's Revenge) part of Fritz Lang's 1924 silent epic based on the medieval German epic "Nibelunglied."

A number of session and paper titles reflect the intersection of popular culture and medieval studies.

A series of sessions focuses on the Middle Ages on television. "Getting Medieval on Television I: Dateline Camelot" and "Getting Medieval on Television II: Dateline Sherwood Forest" examine everything from "Fractured Fairytales" to "Stargate."

There's an entire session on "Monastic Breweries in the Middle Ages," with one paper in the session titled "Sacred Suds: Monastic Asceticism and the Rationalization of Beer Making in the Middle Ages."

"One-Hit Wonders: Troubadours Represented in the Corpus by a Single Work" will feature a roundtable discussion organized by the Societé Guilhem IX and include comments from five U.S. scholars on the topic.

Some 70 international publishers, book dealers and artisans who specialize in the Middle Ages also will exhibit in the dining hall of the Goldsworth Valley III complex from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 8 a.m. to noon Sunday.

Everyone who attends any part of the congress, including the exhibit hall, must register. The late registration period has begun, but Kalamazoo County residents and WMU students, faculty and staff need only pay the $25 late-registration fee. The additional fee for others attending the event is $130. For students and family members accompanying registrants, the fee is $80.

Also in connection with the congress, the famed Newberry Consort will present a concert titled "Puzzles and Perfect Beauty" at 8 p.m. Friday, May 11 at First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan. Ave. in downtown Kalamazoo. The concert, which marks Mary Springfels' farewell performance as the director of the ensemble she founded, features music from late medieval France and Italy performed on original instruments. General admission tickets are $20.

To download the full conference catalog, visit the congress at www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress. On-site registration will begin at noon, Wednesday, May 9, in the lobby of Eldridge-Fox residence halls and continue throughout the event. More information also is available by calling the Medieval Institute at (269) 387-8745.

Information about the congress, including a link to order concert tickets, is available at www.wmich.edu/medieval/congress. For additional information, contact the Medieval Institute at mdvl_congres@wmich.edu or (269) 387-8745.

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

WMU News
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