Moving Forms: The Transformations and Translocations of Medieval Literature
The movement of people and books across space and time – mobility and portability – were driving forces of medieval European literary and intellectual culture. Men and women, clerical and secular, constructed extensive social networks and communities through travel, written communication, and the exchange of texts. Shared literary practices and forms occurred at the regional and transregional levels, defining local identities and forging links between people separated by distance and time. Around the North Sea and Baltic littorals, legends from the Norse sagas, for instance, were taken up by writers. On a larger scale, people from north-western Europe to China exchanged stories of Barlaam and Josephat, while tales of Alexander are found from India to Ireland; in both cases, transmission was facilitated by the movement of people along the Silk Road. Rather than a full picture, often we are left with a set of trails, traces and clues that challenge us to create narratives out of the fragments.
This symposium aims to contribute to the understanding of medieval literature through the development of methodologies which examine the intersection of social networks and communities with literary forms. We welcome papers that attend to the agency of people (men and women), genres (literary, scientific, philosophical, legal etc.), modes (verse, poetry, prose), styles, texts and manuscripts (book types, layouts, images) in creating literary links across space and time. Building on the practices of both comparative literature and entangled history, the symposium will open up connections between literary cultures often considered to be separate. At the same time, and of equal importance, it will be alert to the absence of connections, to discontinuities, exposing the diversities and ruptures of medieval literature, as well as the commonalities.