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WMU to host medievalists from around the globe

by Jeanne Baron

May 5, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of medieval manuscript.
International Congress on Medieval Studies
KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University will stage its 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, the largest, most comprehensive academic conference of its kind in the world, Thursday through Sunday, May 12-15.

The congress annually attracts some 3,000 medievalists--professional academics, students and enthusiasts interested in the Middle Ages--from around the globe. It is sponsored by the Medieval Institute at WMU and held primarily in venues on the University's main campus in Kalamazoo.

The 2011 medieval congress will include more than 550 sessions featuring the presentation of scholarly papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops and performances. In addition, the exhibits hall will be filled with over 70 publishers, used book dealers, purveyors of medieval sundries and other vendors. There also will be some 90 business meetings and receptions sponsored by learned societies, associations and institutions.

"We work with hundreds of session organizers around the world to create an event that reflects the many facets of the Middle Ages," says Dr. James Murray, director of the Medieval Institute. "We hope that attendees will find both instruction and inspiration in the congress's many offerings."

During the academic sessions, scholars will present their latest research findings, culled from the study of material remains of the medieval past as well as written records ranging from epic poems to laundry lists. Sessions will be devoted to warfare, kingship, monasticism, daily life and science, as well as to the works of great authors, such as Geoffrey Chaucer and Giovanni Boccaccio. Workshops will focus on the structure of the medieval book, the pronunciation of medieval French and English, and online teaching of the Middle Ages.

Presentations will explore such topics as religion and conflict, medieval aesthetics, and inquisitional cultures. Additional offerings include sessions on "Music and the Saints," "Medieval Women's Monstrous Bodies," "Crime and Punishment in the Fourteenth Century" and "Gardens and Gardening in the Middle Ages."

This year's special plenary lectures will take place at 8:30 a.m. Friday and Saturday in the Bernhard Center's East Ballroom. Dr. Annemarie Weyl Carr from Southern Methodist University will speak Friday on "Outremer: Byzantine Art in a World of Multiple Christianities," while Dr. Robert Bartlett from the University of St. Andrews will speak Saturday on "Gerald of Wales and the Ethnographic Imagination."

Evening events planned include screenings of films on medieval themes, a display of reproduction textiles, and workshops on video gaming and longsword techniques. In connection with the congress, the Cançonièr ensemble will present a concert called "The Black Dragon" that features music from Central Europe at the time of Vlad Dracula. The ensemble, comprised of Annette Bauer, Phoebe Jevtovic, Shira Kammen and Tim Rayborn, will perform at 8 p.m. Friday, May 13, in St. Luke's Episcopal Church, 247 W. Lovell St., Kalamazoo. General admission tickets cost $20 and will be available at the door.

For details about the 2011 International Congress on Medieval Studies, including costs and how to register, visit or contact the Medieval Institute at or (269) 387-8745.