“Moving Readers”: Call for Papers International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo 9-12 May 2019

Moving readers: the significance of movement in devotional reading in the late Middle Ages

Recent scholarship on late medieval devotional literature has increasingly shifted emphasis towards reflection on issues that concern the role and experience of the reader in the reading process. This transition from text-oriented to performance-oriented research, where the focus is on the practices involved in the reading process, has led to some fruitful new insights. New themes that have come forward include the material properties of the book; the interaction between object and agent in the reading process; habits of use; strategies for reading, etc. Research that incorporates these issues reveals late medieval (lay) readers to be active, ambitious participants in a wider religious culture, appropriating religious knowledge through activities of assembling, copying, reading and disseminating books.

This session is organized with the aim of continuing advancement in this field by opening up a discussion on readership of late medieval devotional books, both manuscript and early printed books, especially those that can be grouped within the genre of Passion literature. The aim of this session is to initiate discussion on the significance of movement in devotional reading in the late Middle Ages. Reading always involves some kind of movement which necessarily informs and shapes the experience of reading. This movement may be as minimal as the movement that occurs when turning the pages of a book. Some works regulate physical movement (for example alternating kneeling and standing up) as a part of the devotional activity. Other texts invite metaphorical or mental movement, either through its subject matter (meditation on the stations of the Cross) or through the specific placement of text and image on the page. In addition, movement that is part of other religious activities, such as processions, drama, pilgrimage, Mass etc., may resonate in the experience of reading devotional books. This session invites papers that address these issues. The goal of the session will be to further research into religious literature and into the ways in which readers develop religious attitudes and skills during reading. The focus will be on religious literature for lay readers, both in manuscript and early printed books, but papers on other devotional media or related subjects are also welcome.

The session will be sponsored by the research project “Cities of Readers: Religious Literacies in the Long Fifteenth Century”. This project, based at the University of Groningen and funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, studies the participation of lay people in religious culture through their engagement in textual activities. This topic is approached through three main methodological lines: 1) active readership; 2) communities of interpretation; 3) space and place. The research team consists of five members: prof. dr. Sabrina Corbellini, prof. dr. Bart Ramakers, post-doc researcher dr. Margriet Hoogvliet, PhD student Johanneke Uphoff and PhD student Joanka van der Laan. Besides the individual, complementary research projects of the team members, the activities of the team include the organization of and participation in various national and international scientific activities; the organization of an exhibition on the theme ‘Cities of Readers’; and the production of a final synthesis.

Please submit abstracts of no more than 250 words, along with a completed Participant Information Form (available later in July on https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress/submissions), to Joanka van der Laan (a.j.k.van.der.laan@rug.nl). Deadline for proposal is September 15, 2018.


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