In Search of the Desert: New Observations on the Late-Medieval Revival of the Eremitic Life
54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 9 – 12, 2019
Deadline: Oct 15, 2018
Organizers: Denva Gallant (University of Delaware) and Amelia Hope-Jones (University of Edinburgh)
In the third and fourth centuries AD, the barren deserts of Egypt, Syria and Palestine witnessed the birth of Christian monastic life among saints who came to be known as the Desert Fathers. The heroic self-discipline and devoted ascetic endeavors of St Antony the Abbot, St Paul of Thebes and St Macarius, among others, became emblematic of an original and authentic form of the religious life. This eremitic tradition, transmitted to the west through hagiography and ascetic literature, exerted a profound influence over the formation of western monastic life in the fifth and sixth centuries, and continued to function as an ideological authority well into the late medieval period and beyond.
Recent conferences and studies have contributed much to our understanding of the early Christian desert as an historical and ideological concept, but have focused primarily on the early medieval period or on the wider geography of the West. This session will shed new light on the evocation of the Desert Fathers in the century after the arrival of the mendicants, a crucial moment in the religious landscape of late-medieval Italy.
In Search of the Desert aims to explore contemporary interest in the eremitic life, whether as historical authority or as living exemplar. It will include, but is not limited to, analyses of early visual representations of the desert which emerged in Italy, in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries. We invite additional contributions to this session, whether historical or art-historical in scope. Papers may focus on the production and patronage of images relating to the desert; on the legacy of the Desert Fathers in hagiography and in forms of religious life; or on the eremitic ideal as exemplum virtutis. Ideally, they should focus on western Europe in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, but papers focusing on the twelfth or fifteenth centuries, or on the byzantine East, will also be considered.
To propose a paper, please send a 250 word abstract by October 15 to Denva Gallant (firstname.lastname@example.org). More information about the Congress can be found here: https://wmich.edu/medievalcongress