CFP: Adapting Violence in/from Classic Texts

A 2-day online workshop to be held 24–25 March 2022, organised by Amy Brown (University of Bern) and Lucy Fleming (University of Oxford). This interdisciplinary event brings together specialists in literature, retelling, and feminist practice to consider how adaptations address various forms of violence in and from their canonical source-texts. Sources and adaptations examined may be in any language, though the workshop will be conducted primarily in English. Please submit proposals for 20-minute conference papers and/or text workshops online or via adaptingviolence@gmail.com. The deadline for submissions is 15 December 2021; we welcome papers from faculty members as well as postgraduates and early-career researchers. The workshop is supported by the University of Bern Fund for Promotion of Young Researchers. Attendance is free.

Plenary Sessions:

  • Urvashi Chakravarty (University of Toronto), Keynote Speaker
  • Maria Sachiko Cecire (Bard College), Plenary Respondent
  • Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni (University of Houston), Author Talk
  • Round Table on violence in adaptations (TBA)

Proposal Portal:

Due by 15 Dec 2021. For proposals we ask for a title, a 200 word abstract, and for ‘Text explorations’ an excerpt or description of the media you’ll share. Please submit online through our proposal portal – but if you have any problems, email us ( adaptingviolence@gmail.com ). Do note that the responses cannot be saved to return to later – you’ll want to draft your abstract somewhere else and paste it in.

Rationale:

Jyotika Virdi (2006) described the feminist creator seeking to represent rape in film as caught between a ‘rock and a hard place’’—that is, between the ethical call to represent oppressive reality, and the risk that representing violence may perpetuate harm. Similar concerns underlie the representation—in film, literary retellings, and other forms of adaptation—of racial violence, homophobia and transpohbia, and graphic physical violence, all of which are common in works held in high esteem for their literary and/or cultural value. Violence in these ‘classic’ works thus becomes a flashpoint for social, political, and creative tensions. In response, adaptations may reify violence in these texts, or critique it; they may represent violence in the name of fidelity, or seek to reclaim the text. Both adaptors and scholars must grapple with difficult questions: When is violence in adaptation important or useful? When is it negligent or even harmful? What uses does violence serve when adapting culturally prestigious texts, and how is these texts’ very prestige linked to the violence they contain?  

This two-day, online workshop will bring together specialists in the contemporary adaptation of ‘classic texts’ and adaptation as a premodern cultural practice to consider what concerns shape the reception and re-visioning of violence. We will explore the stakes involved in adaptation, and the uses and abuses of violence in adapting texts of high cultural value.  

We define ‘violence’ broadly, including both physical violence and social oppressions, and are interested in considering adaptation strategies across and in reaction to different axes of power, including but not limited to race, gender, and sexuality. In this workshop we seek to bring together scholars working on adaptations (any period) of ‘high status cultural texts’, where the source texts predate 1865. Those texts religious, mythological, artistic and historical source-texts as well as literary forms, and adaptations may be in widely varying media. These source-texts need not derive from any particular language, region, or literary tradition; rather, we aim to feature studies from a wide range of cultural contexts and time periods, to approach our central questions from many varied perspectives. In asking what it means to (re-)write violence, potential papers could address:  

  • Case studies grappling with the ethics of rewritten violence; 
  • Applying a lens of feminist theory, queer studies, violence studies, trauma studies or other interdisciplinary modes to ‘classic’ texts; 
  • Retellings or adaptations that challenge contemporary/contemporaneous ideas of violence; 
  • Retellings for particular or unusual audiences or readerships;  
  • The canonization of works containing violence;  
  • How adaptations and retellings relate to ‘real-world’ violence; 
  • The act of adaptation as a form of violence; 
  • Rewritings of violence that are radical, liberating, and even empowering acts. 

Workshop Format:

This workshop will be entirely online, with both synchronous and asynchronous participation options possible. Given the nature of global online conferences we anticipate that many participants will alternate between synchronous and asynchronous participation depending on their location, work and/or family commitments, accessibility needs, and other considerations. Some material will be uploaded and professionally captioned in advance; plenary sessions will be recorded, professionally captioned, and uploaded after the fact. Still other sessions will be unrecorded.

Further Information:

For full details, please visit the workshop website.

MedievalWiki: Training Workshop and Social Editing Session

Fri, October 29, 2021

1:30 PM – 3:30 PM British Summer Time

Online: via Zoom
FREE booking required https://www.eventbrite.com/e/medievalwiki-meet-up-tickets-182576600527

This workshop is for brand new and experienced Wikipedia editors who are interested in improving Wikipedia according to the aims of MedievalWiki (on which, see below). Lucy Moore (York) and Fran Allfrey (KCL) will be hosting.

We will gather on Zoom and introduce newcomers to the MedievalWiki project and how to get started. This will be a relaxed and informal workshop, designed to build the confidence of new and new-ish editors and to provide a social space for more experienced editors.

Everyone is welcome! Medievalists and non-medievalists, researchers, and students. If you can’t make the whole two hours, feel free to drop in just for the first or the second hour (let us know when you book when you plan to stop by).

What is MedievalWiki?

MedievalWiki is a project to improve the quality of medieval articles on Wikipedia (and related projects including Wikimedia and Wikidata). The project is specifically dedicated to making and editing articles with citations to medieval scholars whose work is indebted to or develops feminist, queer, and critical race studies methods and theories. Making and editing biographical pages for Black medievalists and medievalists of colour, women and non-binary and queer medieval scholars, and artists whose work remakes the medieval is firmly within the MedievalWiki remit.

You can read more about the MedievalWiki project here https://medievalwomenwiki.wordpress.com/

Please send any questions to Dr Fran Allfrey francesca.allfrey@kcl.ac.uk

Workshop on the Murbach Hymns and MS. Junius 25

When?        17th/18th February 2022 (week 5, HT)

What?         In this workshop, the fascinating Murbach hymns – a Latin hymnal with Old High German interlinear glosses from the 8th/9th century – and their manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Junius 25) will be carefully examined regarding their translation technique, use and function, cultural background and transmission. Expect two days full of presentations and discussions, a consultation of this and other manuscripts and a live recitation of the hymns.

Updates and official registration will follow soon!

Convenor: Luise Morawetz (luise.morawetz@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk)

Image: fol. 122v, Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Junius 25

Workshop: Oxford Medieval Commentary Network

Saturday, 9 October 2021, Christ Church, Oxford

Sign-ups for the workshop are now open. Sign-up closes 15 July 2021.

Sign-up form

The first workshop and initial meeting of the Medieval Commentary Network will take place at Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 October 2021, from 9am – 5pm. A buffet lunch will be provided. The workshop is free of charge for all participants.
This will take place as an in-person workshop (unless government regulations change). Unfortunately we are unable to live-stream the event, but we are hoping to make recordings of some talks available online after the event (subject to speaker approval).

Speakers include Alastair Minnis, Andrew Kraebel, Edit Lukacs, Audrey Southgate, Elizabeth Doherty, Malena Ratzke, Zachary Guiliano, Bond West, Rachel Cresswell, and others. The full conference programme will be available at https://medievalcommentary.network/ by the end of July.

We recognise that the current situation brings with it a great deal of uncertainty regarding travel; if you find you are no longer able to attend, please let us know as soon as possible.

Please email medievalcommentarynetwork@gmail.com with any questions and for further information.

CALL FOR PAPERS (archived version; CfP now closed)

Manuscripts Live: Singing from Medieval Sources in the Bodleian Library

Building on the success of Gregorian chant workshops  with manuscripts from the Bodleian Library (Singing Together, Apart 1  and Singing Together, Apart 2 ), a group of Oxford medievalists are offering insights into working with manuscripts during lockdown. Meet some of the manuscripts from the Abbey of Medingen, recently digitized through the Polonsky German project, and sing along to chants from the Easter period.  A special focus was on the ‘Exsultet’ which attracted some of the most colourful illumination of the manuscripts as well as detailed devotional instructions in Latin and Low German on how to sing it both out aloud and “on the harp strings of the soul”. Read more on Savouring the Exultet at Medingen in this blog post by Innocent Smith OP for the Polonsky German manuscript digitisation project.

Andrew Dunning, R.W. Hunt Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, showed the Medingen manuscripts at the Bodleian Library live via visualiser from the Weston Library; Zachary Guiliano, Chaplain of St Edmund Hall, Henrike Lähnemann, Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, and Nick Swarbrick, Gregorian chant instructor, and Connor Wood, Organ Scholar at St Edmund Hall, formed a Schola in the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, the library of St Edmund Hall, and commented on the manuscripts, the music, and their theological significance. Two graduate students working on the Easter prayer books, Carolin Gluchowski and Marlene Schilling, pointed out some of the special nuntastic features of the manuscripts.

This was part of the IMC Leeds Fringe Events but open to all manuscript and music enthusiasts! Music downloads for the event: Nunc dimittis (audience sings the ‘repetitio’ Lumen ad revelacionem gencium as congregational responses); Exultet (audience sings the congregational responses); Victime paschali laudes (audience sings the ‘Christ ist erstanden’ as congregational response and the question of the disciples Dic nobis Maria…)

Exultet iam angelica turba celorum…

Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4, fol. 20r – view the full manuscript on the Polonsky German website hab.bodleian.ox.ac.uk

Website Medingen Manuscripts

Recording of the first Polonsky German Workshop “Singing Apart, Together”.

Instruction for the Medingen Provost when during the ‘Exsultet’ to put the incense into the Easter candle, Bodleian Library MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, fol. 36v

Report on the Medieval Intersectionality Workshop

By Philippa Byrne

I got 99 research problems, and questions of identity impinge on all of them in one way or another” – many medievalists, probably.

Medievalists have been pondering identity for a long time, arguably since long before we were even called ‘medievalists’ and were simply labelled ‘antiquarians’ – just think of seventeenth-century arguments about Saxon freedoms versus Norman yokes.
Lots of work – good and bad – has been done on medieval identity. Any scholar working in the field of medieval studies could point you to an article or book which takes a subtle and nuanced approach to issues of identity and belonging. Equally, I’d be willing to bet that nearly every medievalist has worried, at some time or another, about nakedly political attempts to claim the middle ages as the origin point for modern nativist mythologies about (white) identity and ethnicity.
In March, medievalists of Oxford were asked whether we should be thinking about identity and identities in a more complicated and critical way – and, what’s more, talking to other medievalists about our collective approach to these topics. At a workshop on intersectionality, organised and led by Amanda Power and Robin Whelan, we were challenged to think about identities, experiences and labels as overlapping and, indeed, intersecting.

Identity is not one thing or another: it might be rather like a game of 3D chess, with different levels and different engagements being played out. The social systems of the past are complex things with many moving parts. This may seem an obvious point: of course identity is not a static, singular thing. But it is easy to overlook if we, as researchers, pursue and cling onto, a particular kind of identity as the explanatory key to a whole community, kingdom, or historical problem.

This is where, as many speakers over the course of the day suggested, medieval studies needs to speak to, and borrow from, other disciplines. ‘Intersectionality’ is not our coining – and we are still more likely to meet it in the context of sociology or critical theory, applied to modern societies, than in medieval studies. The term itself might need some reframing and repositioning before we can apply it to the medieval world. This was a point made by Bernard Gowers in his paper on ‘Systacts and Literati’: how do we go about constructing and theorising the right type of language to describe medieval groups? Medievalists, as ever, need to worry about how we fit modern terms to past societies. But along with the worry, might we also have an advantage? Almut Suerbaum peered into a number of religious texts by German religious authors in her paper ‘Virgin Mothers, Lowly Queens’. In these texts which describe personal encounters with God, female authors put on and take off a number of different identities in a single piece. A speaker setting forth multiple identities might not seem so strange to a medieval reader. Here we had the paradox of medieval texts dealing with identity in a more complex and sophisticated way than modern medieval scholars might be doing.

My own contribution to the day attempted to think through the life of a Muslim town, in Lucera, southern Italy, in the thirteenth century. Removed from Sicily and established in a formerly Christian town, this group of Muslims was initially permitted to retain their religious practices so long as they paid taxes. But in the early years of the fourteenth-century, Charles II of Naples dissolved the ‘Muslim colony’ (a potentially problematic label) in an extremely violent process, and its Muslim inhabitants were sold into slavery. The story of Lucera fits well into established historiographical explanations about the hardening of religious identities of thirteenth century, and the story of a slow shift from ‘tolerance’ of non-Christians at the start of the period to their persecution at the hands of Christian authorities by the end of the century. But this big overarching narrative might not be very helpful in thinking through the dynamics of local or individual experience.

In attempting to describe the lives of the inhabitants of Lucera, if we begin and end with the term ‘Muslim’, we’ll not get very far. One might even suggest we do the Muslims of Lucera something of a historical injustice by painting their experience in such broad strokes. Though not an exact parallel, to talk about a ‘Christian’ town in southern Italy wouldn’t tell us very much about the experiences of its inhabitants. That label/category of ‘Muslim colony’ needs more adding to it: not least in terms of the dimensions of local experience. Not every facet of life in Lucera was connected to religious practice, and we need to think about the existence of the town beyond its mosque – in terms of its urban geography, its public and private spaces, and how they were built and experienced.
Much of this research is still at the stage of a thought experiment: to what extent can we capture the experience of a group of individuals deported from Sicily to Puglia, southern Italy, in the early thirteenth century? What sources can we look at to tell us about their relationship to the land, to the town, and to other communities in Italy?

But the point of the day – and the point of trying to be ‘intersectional’ medievalists – was not solely about getting to know our medieval subjects better and finding better words to describe their experiences. Intersectionality is a term coined with an inherently political purpose. It underscores the question of how we draw the boundaries of medieval studies, of who we include and who we exclude – and who gets to do that including or excluding. The watchword for the day was a phrase used by the organisers which came up repeatedly in discussion: we should be making ourselves “usefully uncomfortable”. There is value in worrying about our choices of subject and case study, and value in challenging ourselves to justify those selections. With this in mind, we might possibly avoid the lure of only studying the people who look, or seem to look, like us. We might avoid the trap of writing a medieval Europe that looks just like the academy, as presently constituted. We might also hope that one day both our image of medieval Europe and the face of the academy might look a little more diverse. If this is the beginning of a shift in the discipline, it can only be welcomed as a good thing. I, for one, hope to remain usefully uncomfortable for a long time to come.

Click here to view the report written by Rachel Moss on the same event.

Philippa Byrne