CFP: The Multimedia Craft of Wonder: Forming and Performing Marvels in Medieval and Early Modern Worlds, 1200-1600 (University of Cambridge, deadline 1 August 2021)

This conference, funded by the interdisciplinary Cambridge centre CRASSH and the Faculty of English, will explore the relationship between wonder, translation, and multimodality in medieval and early modern worlds.


In recent years, renewed critical attention has been paid to wonders and spectacles as wide-ranging as mechanical clocks, printing presses, royal displays, alchemical writings, and professional theatres. This conference will build upon that scholarship by focusing attention onto the dynamics of representing wonder (and wonders) in, across, and between media: in written genres such as chronicles, poetry, letters, handbills, and songs, how were physical marvels recorded, described, or reconstructed through language and literary form? Conversely, how did language shape physical processes of performance, craft, and construction in playscripts, alchemical writings, and books of secrets? What risks and opportunities did translation between media, modes, and genres present?

The conference will take a broad approach to the definition of a ‘marvel’, recognising that the line between human, natural, and supernatural wonders was often indistinct or contested. Papers might address topics such as:

  • The encoding of wonder through specific linguistic devices (e.g. narrative, allegory)
  • Textual reconstructions and dramatic uses of mechanical marvels (e.g. clocks, automata)
  • Representations of natural and demonic magic in text and/or performance
  • Depictions of alchemy and other scientific marvels in written and visual media
  • Medieval and early modern drama, magic within the theatre, and its written inscription
  • Performance contexts and logistics for the staging of wonders
  • Written or visual commemorations of royal and civic pageantry
  • Depictions of, and instructions for, creating wonders in craft manuals and household recipe books
  • Relations between wonder, music, and sound

The keynote address will be delivered by Dr Anke Bernau, Senior Lecturer in Medieval English Literature at the University of Manchester. We hope to attract submissions from a wide range of disciplines including (but not limited to) literary studies, history of science and technology, music, philosophy, and drama.

Papers should be 20 minutes each. Abstracts of 250 words accompanied by a short biographical statement should be sent (along with any queries) to craftofwonder2021@gmail.com by 1st August 2021.

Currently, this conference will be held in person. Please indicate in your abstract if you would be able to adapt your presentation for online delivery if required. More more information, visit the conference’s website here.

Published by ameliahyde

Amelia Roché Hyde holds an MA from The Courtauld Institute of Art, where she studied cross-cultural artistic traditions of medieval Spain, taking an in-depth look at the context and role of Spanish ivories within sacred spaces. Her favorite medieval art objects are ones that are meant to be handled and touched, and she has researched ivories, textiles, and illuminated manuscripts at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The British Museum. Amelia is the Research Assistant at The Met Cloisters.

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