Call for Papers – ‘For I am a woman, ignorant, weak and frail’: Feminising Death, Disability and Disease in the later Middle Ages – IMC Leeds

‘For I am a woman, ignorant, weak and frail’: Feminising Death, Disability and Disease in the later Middle Ages

International Medieval Congress University of Leeds 3rd – 6th July 2017

Conference Details

The International Medieval Congress is the largest interdisciplinary medieval conference of its kind – attracting over 2,200 attendees from over 50 countries, and boasting approximately 1,700 individual papers within 580 academic sessions. Every year, the IMC chooses a special thematic strand which, for 2017, is ‘Otherness’. This focus has been chosen for its wide application across all centuries and regions and its impact on all disciplines devoted to this epoch. For further information on the Congress, see: 

Session Details

**Should this session attract enough interest it will become a three-part series, with each session focussing more deeply on the individual themes of death, disability and disease. Within late-medieval society, to be valued was to look and behave according to the societal ‘norm’ – dependency was largely represented as a feminine trait, whereas to be independent was to be masculine. How then did medieval people respond to deviations from these gendered expectations as a result of death (or dying), disabilities and chronic diseases? This session will consider the feminisation of death, disability and disease through an interdisciplinary lens, in order to answer questions about the perceived ‘feminine’ dependency of the marginal ‘third state’ between being fully healthy and fully sick (i.e. to be dying, diseased or disabled). It will hope to consider the contradictory nature of female disease and disability which both engendered an elevated sense of holiness and, conversely, a sense of physical monstrosity; the female response to death, disability and disease as elements of daily life which were (largely) out of their control; the effect of death, disability and disease on medieval constructions of masculinity; and whether – if death, disease and disability dehumanise the body – is it even important to consider the effect of these states on an individual’s gendered identity? We welcome multi-disciplinary papers from all geographical locations, c.1300-c.1500, which engage with themes such as (but not limited to): representations of death, disease and/or (dis)ability; literature either for or by women dealing with the themes of death, disease and/or disability; the tradition of Memento Mori and/or the Danse Macabre; the gendering of ‘Death’ ; the Black Death’s impact on traditional gender roles; obstetric death; female piety and holy anorexia; the effect of chronic disease and/or disability on late-medieval constructions of masculinity; women and disease (as the developers of cures, writers of recipes, carers or patients, etc.); female use of disability aids and/or prosthetics; and self-inflicted disfigurement.

Submission Guidelines

Please send a paper title and an abstract of 100-200 words to Rachael Gillibrand at the Institute for Medieval Studies, University of Leeds ( by 23rd September 2016.

CFP – Wounding and Caring: Vulnerable Bodies in Narrative at the American Comparative Literature Association – Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands July 6-9, 2017.

Seminar – Wounding and Caring: Vulnerable Bodies in Narrative at the American Comparative Literature Association – Utrecht University in Utrecht, the Netherlands July 6-9, 2017.

Organizer: Andreea Marculescu

Co-Organizer: Amit Baishya


Vulnerability is a key term in a strand of recent feminist scholarship (Adriana Cavarero, Judith Butler, Rosalyn Diprose, Kelly Oliver, Ann Murphy). Vulnerability is not defined here as a temporary situation specific to certain subjects; rather, as Butler points out in Frames of War, it is a condition of social life, one where the subject is exposed to forms of violence that she cannot anticipate or pre-empt. In this sense, vulnerability is intrinsic to definitions of the “human” and captures the subject in intersubjective relations with a host of (unknown and, possibly, unknowable) others. Consideration of vulnerability entails, thus, both the recognition of one’s own dependency on others and the designing of collective mechanisms and frameworks of care for bodies. Furthermore, following the etymological root of the word vulnerability (the Latin vulnus), Cavarero underlines that this category designates a susceptibility to both wounding and caring. As a wounded body, the subject is unilaterally exposed to pain and suffering. The subject afflicted by such violence is trapped in the reality of her own suffering; she cannot step away or fight against the infliction of suffering upon her. Yet, this suffering body can also be cared for by others.


Therefore, while the risk of violence done by the other is a crucial factor in the analysis of vulnerability, frames of care that recognize the existence of particular vulnerable bodies should also be part of the critical discourse about the ethical and ontological status of precarious subjects. Indeed, external socio-political frameworks are crucial in validating which subjects can be placed (or not) under the category of vulnerability. Hence the need, according to Butler, for the introduction of a term such as « grievability »—the condition of possibility that determines whether a life is encompassed within the frames of vulnerability, risk and precariousness. « Wounding, » « caring, » « grievability, » and « responsibility » become, therefore, key terms that must be critically elaborated in tracing the physico-emotional profile of vulnerable bodies and also the recognition of their socio-cultural value.


Keeping these insights in mind, this seminar seeks to discuss the narrative production, valuation and circulation of vulnerable bodies belonging to different historical, social and political contexts. As we mentioned above, vulnerability should be understood as a shared condition that places us in relationships of dependence and linkage to others. We would like to initiate a transhistorical and cross-cultural discussion about the representation of vulnerable bodies in the dual sense outlined above in this seminar.

Contact the Seminar Organizers

Submit a paper for this seminar.

CFP – Kalamazoo – Before and After 1348: Prelude and Consequences of the Black Death

Session on Black Death at International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo), May 11-14, 2017

“Before and After 1348:  Prelude and Consequences of the Black Death,” organized by Monica Green, email:
Abstract:  The “new paradigm” of Black Death studies has adopted the findings of recent paleogenetics and evolutionary understandings of Yersinia pestis‘s late medieval genetic diversification to see the Black Death as a much broader epidemiological phenomenon than previously realized. Although Black Death narratives are usually told from the perspective of western Europe, it is in fact likely that much of Eurasia and North Africa was affected by the newly proliferating organism. And in many of those areas, we know now, plague “focalized,” becoming embedded in the local fauna and thus persisting for years, or even centuries, thereafter. This session invites work that looks both at the late medieval pandemic’s origins before 1348 (whether in China or other places in central Eurasia) and its after-effects, including the 1360-63 pestis secunda. Cultural as well as scientific approaches are welcome.

Please send proposals directly to me:  Paper proposals (a one-page abstract and a Participant Information Form) are due by September 15. The links to information on the submission process and the Participation Information Form may be found at For the statement on Congress rules, see:

You may wish to know that the newly created Contagions: Society for Historic Infectious Disease Studies will also be sponsoring two sessions, tentatively entitled “Historic Landscapes of Disease,” and “The Great Transition: Climate, Disease, and Society in the Late Medieval World: A Roundtable on Bruce Campbell’s New Book.” For info on those sessions, please contact Michelle Ziegler,


More information on the American Association for the History of Medicine website

CFP – VariAbilities III – The Same Only Different? – University of London – 6 & 7th June 2017

Call For Papers – VariAbilities III:

The Same Only Different?

Senate House, University of London (Malet Street, London, WC1E, England)

Tuesday and Wednesday 6 & 7th June 2017

In the third iteration of the Variabilities Series, we will take stock of the academic work done on the “body” in “history”.

When we study the “Body” should we restrict ourselves to impaired bodies or make comparisons with sports bodies? Or should a conference discussing the body entertain papers on both impaired and sports bodies?

When we consider “history” we must ask ourselves when did history begin, and has it ended? Variabilities III is casting its nets as widely as possible, with no methodological assumptions, beginning or end dates, with as wide scope for dialogue as possible.

Come and tell us what the “body” in “history” means to you.

Organiser announce that Prof. Miriam Wallace of New College Florida will be the keynote at Variabilities III: « The Spector of the Singular Body in Frankenstein (1818): Difference and Constructed Community ».

For accessibility purposes we welcome Skype Presentations

Please send your proposal (300 words) by November 30th 2016 [extended dealine th january 2017] to



More information here on the UCLA website !

and on the event website !

CFP – Sponsored Panel on « Gendered Experiences of Pain » at 52nd – ICMS Kalamazoo 2017

CfP – Sponsored Panel on « Gendered Experiences of Pain » at 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 2017

Panel title: “Everybody’s (Gender) Hurts: Gendered Experiences of Pain”

Sponsored by: Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship

Conference: 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, (MI, USA), 11-14 May, 2017


Following Elaine Scarry’s (1985) seminal work The Body in Pain, researchers from various disciplines have productively studied pain as a physical phenomenon with wide-ranging emotional and socio-cultural effects (e.g. Boddice 2014; Cohen et al 2012; Davies 2014; Morris 1991; Moscoso 2012).  Academics and scientist-clinicians have demonstrated that the experience of pain is highly gendered (see e.g. Bendelow 1993; Bernardes et al 2014; Hoffmann and Tarzian 2001). For example, the severity of women’s pain is often less readily accepted by medics. Women in pain are more likely to be dismissed as attention-seeking or suffering from psycho-somatic conditions than men. Painful conditions that affect many women, such as endometriosis, are woefully under-studied.

Medievalists have also analysed pain, including its’ gendered dimension, elucidating a specifically medieval construction of physical distress (see e.g. Cohen 1995, 2000, 2010; Easton 2002; Mills 2005; Mowbray, 2009). In particular, Caroline Walker Bynum’s ground-breaking feminist scholarship (see e.g. 1988, 1992) has shown the specific ways in which medieval holy women harnessed ascetic suffering as forms of empowering worship praxes.

This panel will examine the gendered experience of pain in the medieval period, engaging with, and moving beyond, the limited context of holy women established by Bynum. It will dissect the ways in which men and women experienced — or were understood to experience — pain differerently, to elucidate the wider framework of gender-specific suffering in the period. The subjective experiences of medieval men and women in pain will be unearthed, allowing their marginalised voices to add context and further urgency to contemporary debates about inadequate medical care for modern men and women in pain.


Relevant questions for this session include:

· How are the pains of  “women’s complaints” — including menstruation and childbirth — depicted, and understood in the medieval era? Are other forms of physical discomfort coded as predominantly feminineeven if they have no direct biological link to womanhood? Are there similar “male” forms of pain?

· How are men and women socialised differently to understand, to contextualise, and ultimately to experience their pain? How do men and women express their pain? And share their pain with those around them? Are specific patterns of lexis, imagery, or metaphor routinely used by either men and women, or both?

· What differences can we observe between the ways in which men and women in pain are treated by medical practitioners, the religious community, and their families? What was the contemporary rationale for classifying and treating men and women’s pain differently? As a counterpoint: what similarities are there in the treatment of pain for men and women? Does the pain experience ever unite suffering men and women as a cohesive group, a group in which pain — and not genderis the most important identity marker?
If you’re interested in speaking on this panel, please submit the following documents to the panel organiser, Alicia Spencer-Hall (a.spencer-hall [at], by 15 September 2017:

1) One-page abstract

2) Completed Participant Information Form (downloadable in .pdf and Word format from the Conference website)
N.B. Conference regulations stipulate that speakers may only present on one panel each year at Kalamazoo. As such, we cannot consider papers from individuals who have already submitted abstract proposals to other sessions at the conference. Nevertheless, if a paper submission is not selected for the “Gendered Experiences of Pain” panel, we will forward the submission to the Conference organisers for potential inclusion in a General Session.

View this CfP online , via @aspencerhall