Call for papers: Hybrid bodies at the edge of the human in the Middle Ages (Louvain, 19-20 April 2018)

Corps hybrides aux frontières de l’humain au Moyen Âge

Conference,  Université  de Louvain-la-Neuve, 19-20 April 2018

Call for papers

In the Middle Ages, the integrity of the body constituted a mirror of the universe and a model to understand nature and to reinforce current social and political structures. Deformation and metamorphosis posed a challenge to this understanding, and even more so when the human normative body encompassed species distinctions and crossed the border with the non-human, be it animal, plant or inanimate object.

In medieval literature, encyclopaedias and travel writing, the distance between human and non-human could be populated by a plethora of hybrid beings whose identity lingered between the two categories. Humanoid monsters or entire exotic populations with animal or vegetal features, human bodies integrating weapons or other artefacts in their flesh, animals or plants with disturbing resemblances to humans, traced a constellation of possibilities of life in the continuum.

Although scholarly research on teratology has often included these hybrids, these investigations have mostly focused on the monster as a representation of otherness. It is time for medievalists to approach these beings of medieval imagination from an alternative perspective, and highlight their role in a centuries-long meditation around an open and fluid concept of human.

This two-day conference will aim to explore the cases of transgression of the human morphology towards the inhuman, in order to answer the following questions: what is the function of the hybrid body in relation with the human? What does it teach or signify to the reader? How does the hybrid enter in the representation of political, social and ethnic identity?

Valenciennes, BM, ms. 320, f. 43. Thomas de Cantimpre, Liber de natura rerum, 13th C. Begining of the book on human monsters. On top: instruction for the illuminator: I. monstre demi homme demi beste

Valenciennes, BM, ms. 320, f. 43. Thomas de Cantimpre, Liber de natura rerum, 13th C. Beginning of the book on human monsters. On top: instruction for the illuminator: “I. monstre demi home demi beste”.

Proposal submission

Papers are welcome from researchers and scholars at all levels of their career in every field of medieval studies, especially literature, history, history of art, history of science and cultural history. Candidates interested in presenting a paper should send a title and an abstract (about 250 words) of their proposed paper, by the deadline of December 31, 2017, to the following address: antonella.sciancalepore@uclouvain.be. Please feel free to address any question to the same address.

Organizing committee

  • Baudouin Van den Abeele (Université Catholique de Louvain)
  • Antonella Sciancalepore (Université Catholique de Louvain)
  • Mattia Cavagna (Université Catholique de Louvain)
  • Craig Baker (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

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