CFP: Research Group on Manuscript Evidence at the ICM Kalamazoo (13–16 May 2021), deadline 15 September 2020

Call for Papers for the 2021 Congress: 5 Sessions

I. Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

1–2. Seal the Real: Documentary Records, Seals & Authentications

Part I.  Signed & Sealed

Part II. × Marks the Spot

Organizer: Mildred Budny (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence) director@manuscriptevidence.org

These session explore the presentation and attestation of documentary records in the medieval and early modern periods, in the long transition to the modern custom of signatures as autographs — as distinct (partly) from earlier ‘signatures’ often made by proxy, whether by cross-signs, names inscribed by others on behalf of the signatory, personal or official seals, or other forms. The fields of consideration include forgeries (‘signatures’, seals, and questionable documents), reported records of documents perhaps otherwise lost (as in cartularies, chronicles, and other narratives), and the occasional preservation of fingerprints upon the records themselves.

The time-honored human determination to establish recognized — that is, effective — modes of authenticating intentions and actions by individuals and institutions alike underpins the historical transmission (or disruption, willful and otherwise) of formal records of agreements, sales, transfers, decisions over grievances and feuds, and other impactful official arrangements across the centuries. Examining case studies for this session, we encourage multiple approaches, subject matters, and methodologies for analyzing the strategies adopted (successfully or otherwise) in the pursuit of such a quest for authentication.

The desire effectively to express identity and authenticity as a matter of record may well resonate with many participants. The Session considers aspects of the historical traditions, improvisations, inventions, and (it may be) occasional failures of earlier centuries in such a quest. Perchance we might learn instructively from the past.

Please send your Proposals by 15 September 2020 via Submissions for the 2021 Congress.

Please also inform the Session Organizer as well.  Perhaps an easy way of informing the Organizer of your proposal would be to forward the confirmation email which the Confex system would send for your completed proposal (title, abstract, contact information).

Also, see our blog for on-going discoveries in the study of documents, seals sometimes included: Manuscript Studies.  See its Contents List.


II. Co-Sponsored with the Societas Magica

Session 3. Medieval Magic in Theory: Prologues to Learned Texts of Magic

Organizer: Vajra Regan (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto) vajra.regan@utoronto.ca

The prologues to medieval texts of learned magic could serve a variety of functions.  They were a space for their authors to announce the theme of the work, to situate the work within a specific literary, philosophical, or theological landscape, and to lay special claim to the reader’s attention.  Consequently, these prologues have much to tell us about the traditions and beliefs underlying certain magical texts. Moreover, because many magical texts are substantially anonymous compilations, their prologues often provide unique access to the lives and contexts of the men and women behind the parchment.

The aim of this session is to explore these still largely understudied prologues which testify to the variety of medieval approaches to ‘magic’.  We are especially interested in how magic is theorized in these prologues.  What insights do these prologues offer into contemporary debates about the epistemological status of magic?  Moreover, what can they tell us about the social, religious, and institutional contexts of their authors and readers?

Pdf for this proposal here.

Please send your Proposals by 15 September 2020 via Submissions for the 2021 Congress.

Please also inform the Session Organizer as well.  Perhaps an easy way of informing the Organizer of your proposal would be to forward the confirmation email which the Confex system would send for your completed proposal (title, abstract, contact information).


Sessions 4–5:  Revealing the Unknown, Parts I–II

4. Revealing the Unknown I: Scryers and Scrying in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

Organizers: Sanne de Laat, English Department, Radboud University Nijmegen sannede.laat@student.ru.nl or by September: S.p.a.m.de.laat@gmail.com; László Sándor Chardonnens, English Department, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

From the little boy on the lap of the priest to the astrologer physician Richard Napier, scryers have fulfilled a significant role in spirit communications throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period. That children were instrumentalized by clergy doubling as ritual magicians has been known for a long time. The activities of professional adult scryers, such as Edward Kelley and Sarah Skelhorn, are likewise well-documented. Recently, however, attention has moved to the scrying activities of medical and astrological professionals, as Ofer Hadass’s study of Richard Napier bears out. The autobiography of William Lilly and the manuscripts of Elias Ashmole suggest that early modern astrologer physicians utilized scrying in different ways from the medieval clerical underworld.

This session offers an opportunity to reassess older notions about scryers and scrying, and to engage with current research on the identity and activities of professional scryers. Topics for papers could feature, for instance, the techniques used by scryers, the necessary instruments for this craft, as well as the goals for which a scryer’s services could be used. Diachronic approaches to the topic are welcome, and papers that consider cross-cultural approaches, such as Jewish or Arabic scryers and scrying practices, are encouraged.

5. Revealing the Unknown II: Sortilège, Bibliomancy, and Divination

Organizers: Sanne de Laat, English Department, Radboud University Nijmegen sannede.laat@student.ru.nl or by September: S.p.a.m.de.laat@gmail.com; László Sándor Chardonnens, English Department, Radboud University Nijmegen, The Netherlands

Organizer: Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (Skagit Valley College – Whitbey Island) phillip.bernhardthouse@gmail.com

From earliest times, humans have sought methods to contact supernatural entities to obtain knowledge of the present or future, known as divination. In ancient and medieval contexts, two such methods that were sometimes connected were sortilège and bibliomancy: for example, the Lots of Mary, Sortes Astramphysychi, Homeric Oracles, and Virgilian Oracles.

These practices involved numerological processes to select specific passages from canonical texts in order to divine on desired topics. This session focuses on these and other methods of divination, so as to understand how textual and other authorities became invested with powers far greater than the impacts of their literary merits.

Please send your Proposals by 15 September 2020 via Submissions for the 2021 Congress.

Please also inform the Session Organizer as well.  Perhaps an easy way of informing the Organizer of your proposal would be to forward the confirmation email which the Confex system would send for your completed proposal (title, abstract, contact information).


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Published by Roisin Astell

Roisin Astell received a First Class Honours in History of Art at the University of York (2014), under the supervision of Dr Emanuele Lugli. After spending a year learning French in Paris, Roisin then completed an MSt. in Medieval Studies at the University of Oxford (2016), where she was supervised by Professor Gervase Rosser and Professor Martin Kauffmann. In 2017, Roisin was awarded a CHASE AHRC studentship as a doctoral candidate at the University of Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, under the supervision of Dr Emily Guerry.

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