The New Chaucer Society 2014 Call for Papers is just out, with a great mix of threads and sessions on everything from NORTH: TEXTS and NORTH: CONTEXTS to MOVEMENT, NETWORKS, ECONOMIES and HANDLING SINS, in addition to panels on Icelandic/ Scandinavian/ British literary and cultural relations tied to the conference’s Icelandic setting. (The link above will bring up a pdf of the call, which doesn’t yet appear on the NCS website.)
While the conference will feature quite a few sessions on topics of current critical interest (ecologies, senses and emotions, the global), there are also lots of offerings for those (instead/also) invested in literary history and literary form, Chaucerian/authorial biography, reception history, and so on–in other words, just the mix of new and long-standing topics and problems this conference has always featured so well. Poaching from the sciences and quantitative social sciences, there will be a trial poster session organized by Anthony Bale and Alexandra Gillespie, which seems a promising opportunity to present research by interdisciplinary teams:
Poster Sessions offer excellent opportunities for extended informal discussion and conversation focused on topics of scholarly or pedagogical research. Posters are displayed for the entire Congress, so that attendees can view the work even when the authors are not physically present. This Poster Session will take place in a busy area, in close proximity to the main conference rooms; there will be one formal session when authors are expected to be physically present and engage in discussion with interested delegates. Authors will not have to make a formal oral presentation about their work, although the session organizers will give a brief introduction to the session on the day. Posters are invited on any topic likely to be of interest to the New Chaucer Society Congress delegates.
I’m organizing a session in the “How To Do Things With Books” thread called “Chaucerian Parchment,” one of numerous panels across several threads related to the history, technology, phenomenology, and theology of the medieval book.
2) Chaucerian Parchment
Scraping away the imagined errors of his scribe, absorbing an array of texts preserved on animal skin, directing his own works’ inscription on membrane folios, signing his name to vellum deeds and depositions: Chaucer’s relation to parchment was a complex if nearly always implicit dimension of his life and literary career. If Ralph Hanna could rightly contend fifteen years ago that “membrane is difficult to interrogate,” advances in the study of the technology, biology, and zooarchaeology of parchment over the last decade suggest it may be time to encourage broader and deeper thinking about the historical, cultural, and economic implications of medieval literature’s primary medium. While the allegorical register of parchment has been much studied (the body as book, writing on human heart and skin, etc.), this session will err on the side of the descriptive and the literal. The parchment inheritance presents a spectrum of topics that merit our scrutiny, from Chaucer’s relation to animal husbandry and butchery to issues of human-animal relations to the micro-economies of urban and rural England. The Icelandic setting of the conference will provide an apt point of entry into such subjects and a helpful point of contrast, as the character of membrane making up most medieval Icelandic manuscripts varies significantly from its insular counterpart, and Icelandic scribes were quite self-conscious about the often stubborn materiality of the medium. Papers on Chaucerian and non-Chaucerian parchment welcome.
The NCS has always my favorite conference of the biennium, and I had to miss the rare delights of Portland in 2012–so especially looking forward to this one. See you in Reykjavik!
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