Call for papers for a session at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA, May 14-17 2015.
Scholarly interest in medieval multicultural interactions has increased dramatically over the past three decades as researchers find ample evidence for a Middle Ages that was world-focused and interconnected. In the past few years, crusading and merchant activity has garnered the lion’s share of attention, while comparatively little has been said about pilgrimage. This session seeks to remedy this dearth by presenting a renewed focus on pilgrim writing. By focusing on the narrative voice of the pilgrim, we hope to uncover the important role of the traveler as he or she crafted his or her persona, and to interpret pilgrim narrative as a way of producing the self which blended aspects of personal biography, the souvenir, lived experience, authoritative cultural narratives, intertextuality, scribal culture, intermedial productions, and other strategies.
It is by now a commonplace that pilgrim accounts offer complexities when treated as historical documents. Some of these texts resist proffering their narrator’s name or place of origin; some pilgrim writers are so committed to copying past models that dating their work (or even authenticating their journey) becomes problematical; while others include fantastic or unreliable data. These complaints are certainly justifiable, but recent research viewing pilgrim texts as literature shows that, from a literary standpoint, pilgrim writing offers a goldmine of scholarly potential.
To draw more attention to this understudied resource, we invite papers that assess pilgrim literature – particularly fourteenth- and fifteenth century pilgrim accounts – querying the use of narrative voice and the creation of narrative personae. Through this study, we seek to answer questions such as: did pilgrims strive to create a sense of authenticity or authority in their accounts? Did they view their work as narrative? If pilgrims were consciously self-fashioning, how did their personae speak to their experiences? We hope that our session will invite our colleagues to join us in exploring whether or not the pilgrim’s identity mattered in the account, and under what, if any, conditions.
Please send an abstract (@300 words) to Dr. Suzanne Yeager, firstname.lastname@example.org, by September 20, 2014