New Publication – Fools and idiots? Intellectual disability in the Middle Ages by Irina Metzler

Fools and idiots?


  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9636-5
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £70.00
  • Published Date: February 2016
  • BIC Category: History, History of medicine, History & Archaeology, European history: medieval period, middle ages, CE period up to c 1500, HISTORY / Medieval, Medicine / History of medicine, Humanities / Medieval history, MEDICAL / History


Fools and idiots? is the first book devoted to the cultural history in the pre-modern period of people we now describe as having learning disabilities. Using an interdisciplinary approach, including historical semantics, medicine, natural philosophy and law, Irina Metzler considers a neglected field of social and medical history and makes an original contribution to the problem of a shifting concept such as ‘idiocy’.

Medieval physicians, lawyers and the schoolmen of the emerging universities wrote the texts which shaped medieval definitions of intellectual ability and its counterpart, disability. In studying such texts, which form part of our contemporary scientific and cultural heritage, we gain a better understanding of which people were considered to be intellectually disabled, and how their participation and inclusion in society differed from the situation today. This book will be required reading for anyone studying or working in disability studies, history of medicine, social history and the history of ideas.



1. Pre-/conceptions: problems of definition and historiography
2. From morio to fool: semantics of intellectual disability
3. Cold complexions and moist humors: natural science and intellectual disability
4. The infantile and the irrational: mind, soul and intellectual disability
5. Non-consenting adults: laws and intellectual disability
6. Fools, pets and entertainers: socio-cultural considerations of intellectual disability
7. Reconsiderations: rationality, intelligence and human status
Select bibliography

More informations on the editor website


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 – 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


CFP – Le CESCM à Kalamazoo en 2017 – Signs of Identity, Marks of Otherness: New Approaches to Visual Culture

Le CESCM à Kalamazoo en 2017 – L’altérité (sociale, religieuse, politique, linguistique) et ses implications dans le domaine du visuel – 11  au 14 mai 2017


Le Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale et l’International Medieval Society-Paris lancent un appel à communication pour une session de communications organisée dans le cadre de l’International Congress on Medieval Studies qui se déroulera à Kalamazoo (USA) du 11  au 14 mai 2017 et qui réunit tous les ans dans le Michigan plus de 3000 médiévistes venus du monde entier. Cet appel conjoint est l’occasion pour le CESCM d’organiser pour la première fois un événement scientifique lors de l’ICMS,  sur le thème de l’altérité (sociale, religieuse, politique, linguistique) et ses implications dans le domaine du visuel.

Les propositions de communication (CV et résumé) sont à adresser à Vincent Debiais avant le 15 septembre 2016 ; merci aussi de renseigner la fiche d’inscription de l’ICMS. Pour tout renseignement, contacter Vincent Debiais :

Signs of Identity, Marks of Otherness: New Approaches to Visual Culture

This session will explore new avenues of research on visual signs marking the identity of social, religious, and political groups in different spaces (real or imaginary), and the ways in which these groups distinguished themselves.  Recent advances in the auxiliary sciences, which take into account social phenomena in the origin, creation and usage of systems of signs, permit  to revisit questions posed by emblems, armor, inscriptions, and images that mark the landscape and establish hierarchical spaces, both separate and connected.  In the dialectic of inclusion/exclusion, signs become references of identity included, integrated, claimed or rejected in reaction to historical circumstances and power relations.  This session brings together specialists from different disciplines to explore how visual signs work in real spaces, such as cities, monasteries, and castles; and literary spaces where such signs appear frequently in motifs and narratives.

This session welcomes interdisciplinary submissions.  Scholars working on original approaches to signs of identity through social history, visual culture, and the auxiliary sciences are encouraged to submit abstracts.  In this way, the session will have very broad appeal to participants at Kalamazoo.  Possible themes are: disputes, divisions, and heraldic claims; banners, standards, and flags; epigraphic marking and destruction; the role of written culture/visual culture in the strength of social groups.


Voir l’appel sur les carnets du CESCM

CFP – Less than two weeks remaining to get your individual paper proposals for IMC Leeds on « Otherness »

The twenty-third International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 3-6 July 2017.

The International Medieval Congress (IMC) is organised and administered by the Institute for Medieval Studies (IMS). Since its start in 1994, the Congress has established itself as an annual event with an attendance of over 2,200 medievalists from all over the world. It is the largest conference of its kind in Europe.

Drawing medievalists from over 50 countries, with over 1,700 individual papers and 580 academic sessions and a wide range of concerts, performances, readings, round tables, excursions, bookfair and associated events, the Leeds International Medieval Congress is Europe’s largest annual gathering in the humanities.

The IMC provides an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of all aspects of Medieval Studies. Paper and session proposals on any topic related to the Middle Ages are welcome. However, 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.

‘Others’ can be found everywhere: outside one’s own community (from foreigners to non-human monsters) and inside it (for example, religious and social minorities, or individual newcomers in towns, villages, or at court). One could encounter the ‘Others’ while travelling, in writing, reading and thinking about them, by assessing and judging them, by ‘feelings’ ranging from curiosity to contempt, and behaviour towards them which, in turn, can lead to integration or exclusion, friendship or hostility, and support or persecution.

The demarcation of the ‘Self’ from ‘Others’ applies to all areas of life, to concepts of thinking and mentalité as well as to social ‘reality’, social intercourse and transmission of knowledge and opinions. Forms and concepts of the ‘Other’, and attitudes towards ‘Others’, imply and reveal concepts of ‘Self’, self-awareness and identity, whether expressed explicitly or implicitly. There is no ‘Other’ without ‘Self’. A classification as ‘Others’ results from a comparison with oneself and one’s own identity groups. Thus, attitudes towards ‘Others’ oscillate between admiring and detesting, and invite questioning into when the ‘Other’ becomes the ‘Strange’.

The aim of the IMC is to cover the entire spectrum of ‘Otherness’ through multi-disciplinary approaches, on a geographical, ethnic, political, social, legal, intellectual and even personal level, to analyse sources from all genres, areas, and regions.

Possible entities to research for ‘Otherness’ could include (but are not limited to):
• Peoples, kingdoms, languages, towns, villages, migrants, refugees, bishoprics, trades, guilds, or seigneurial systems
• Faiths and religions, religious groups (including deviation from the ‘true’ faith) and religious orders
• Different social classes, minorities, or marginal groups
• The spectrum from ‘Strange’ to ‘Familiar’
• Individuals or ‘strangers’ of any kind, newcomers as well as people exhibiting strange behaviour
• Otherness related to art, music, liturgical practices, or forms of worship
• Any further specific determinations of ‘alterity’

Methodologies and Approaches to ‘Otherness’ (not necessarily distinct, but overlapping) could include:
• Definitions, concepts, and constructions of ‘Otherness’
• Indicators of, criteria and reasons for demarcation
• Relation(s) between ‘Otherness’ and concepts of ‘Self’
• Communication, encounters, and social intercourse with ‘Others’ (in embassies, travels, writings, quarrels, conflicts, and persecution)
• Knowledge, perception, and assessment of the ‘Others’
• Attitudes and behaviour towards ‘Others’
• Deviation from any ‘norms’ of life and thought (from the superficial to the fundamental)
• Gender and transgender perspectives
• Co-existence and segregation
• Methodological problems when inquiring into ‘Otherness’
• The Middle Ages as the ‘Other’ compared with contemporary times (‘Othering’ the Middle Ages).

The Special Thematic Strand ‘Otherness‘ will be co-ordinated by Hans-Werner Goetz (Historisches Seminar, Universität Hamburg).


Please find by cliking this link or below all informations:

Session Proposal

Paper Proposal

Round Table Proposal