Panel title: “Sanctifying the Crip, Cripping the Sacred: Disability, Holiness, and Non-Normative Bodies”
Sponsored by: Hagiography Society
Conference: International Medieval Congress, Leeds (UK), 2-5 July 2018
In her 2006 monograph Disability in Medieval Europe, Irina Metzler conducted the first in-depth analyses of medieval miracle narratives in the context of disability studies. This ground-breaking work demonstrated the ways in which such an approach productively expands – and complicates – out understanding of medieval impairment and medieval hagiography alike. This panel seeks to harness the methodological vigour of Metzler’s intervention, and move the discussion forward to reap the benefits of the efflorescence in medieval disability studies that has taken place since 2006. What can frameworks from disability studies add to studies of medieval holiness, and vice versa? What happens when we sanctify the crip, and crip the sacred?
A vast amount of our knowledge of the experience of impairment in the Middle Ages comes from religious works. An important manifestation of a presumptive saint’s holiness was their capacity to perform mystically curative healings, to return their devotees to an able-bodied state. But medieval saints did not just tend to those with impairment. Some saints were themselves explicitly physically impaired, either permanently or temporarily. Saints’ ascetic self-mortification could also lead to impairment. In all instances, the saint’s body is divergent to the able-bodied norm of those around them, the non-saintly. It operates as a vector of the divine in miraculous healing of others; a receptacle of the divine in their ability to withstand extreme ascetic degradation. What is at stake if we consider the medieval saint’s body as impaired, disabled, emphatically non-able-bodied?
If you’re interested in speaking on this panel, please submit an abstract of roughly 250-300 words, and a brief bio to the panel organiser, Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at] ucl.ac.uk), by 1 August 2017 [extended deadline 25 august]. Please also stipulate your audio-visual requirements in your submission (e.g. projector, speakers, and so forth).
N.B. Conference regulations stipulate that speakers may only present on one panel each year at Leeds. As such, we cannot consider papers from individuals who have already submitted abstract proposals to other sessions at the conference.