2021 Congress Program in Progress

October 14, 2020 in Announcements, Business Meeting, Conference, Conference Announcement, Index of Medieval Art, International Congress on Medieval Studies, Societas Magica, Uncategorized

Activities of the
Research Group on Manuscript Evidence
Planned for the
56th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(13–16 > 10–15 May 2021)

Preparations

Following the Call for Papers due by 15 September 2020
and now the Announcement by the Medieval Institute on 16 October 2020

[Posted on 15 October 2020, with updates]

Update on 16 October 2020:

Today the Medieval Institute announced on its Congress page these changes for the 2021 Congress, which affect both the date-span and the activities, to occur only “virtually”:

Due to the ongoing health crisis, the 2021 International Congress on Medieval Studies hosted by Western Michigan University’s Medieval Institute will be held virtually, Monday to Saturday, May 10 to 15, 2021. More details will be released as they become available.

We will miss the camaraderie of the in-person experience. We look forward to hosting a vibrant and intellectually engaging virtual conference that offers plenty of opportunity for stimulating interaction at a distance. Please mark your calendar for these revised dates.

Watch this space.  We await instructions from the Congress Committee regarding the revised approach to Sessions.

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After the cancellation of the 2020 Congress (see our 2020 Congress Program Announced), preparations for the 2021 Congress permitted re-submitting the sessions which had been designed to take place in May 2020.  By popular request, we performed that re-submission for all 5 Sessions.  With approval by the Congress Committee, these Sessions joined the listings of all sessions on call on the Congress website — with additional details on our website, in our own 2021 Congress Call for Papers.  #kzoo2021.

New for this year, all proposals (or re-proposals from 2020) had to be made through a Confex system, as directed on the Congress website.  The new system imposed some teething problems for prospective participants, Session Organizers, and Sponsors.  These challenges emerged in several forms at various stages, including close to the several deadlines for submission of proposals for papers and of the proposed programs of the Sessions.

Especially under such conditions, it was helpful to have the benefit of collaborative consultations, among all our Organizers, and with our Sessions Co-Sponsor.  We thank Dr. Elizabeth Teviotdale of the Medieval Institute especially for her swift responses directly along the way, when our Director had to turn to her repeatedly for help, information, and advice.

In time, we will announce the Programs which we have chosen for the Sessions, now that the Call for Papers has completed on 15 September 2020, and following our choices for those Programs by 1 October 2020.  Before announcing our plans in detail, we await their Confirmation or adaptation by the Congress Committee.  We thank our Participants and Organizers for their contributions.

Adèle Kindt (1804–1884), The Fortune Teller (circa 1835). Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Image via Wikimedia Commons. A young lady, brightly lit and beautifully dressed, looks outward as an older woman, beneath a dark hood, holds a set of cards and stares at them with intent.

Adèle Kindt (1804–1884), The Fortune Teller (circa 1835). Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The Plan We Had for the 2020 Congress

The Announcement for our Sessions and other Activities at the 2020 Congress describes what we planned.  As customary, we published the Abstracts of Papers, so as to record the intentions of speakers for their presentations. The Abstracts are accessible both through that Announcement and through the Indexes of published Abstracts by Year and by Author.

The Sessions included 3 Sessions sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and 2 Sessions co-sponsored with the Societas Magica, in the 16th year of this co-sponsorship at the International Congress on Medieval Studies.

Like the 2015–2019 Congresses, we also planned for

  • an Open Business Meeting and
  • a co-sponsored Reception.

Even so, the Agenda for the postponed 2020 Business Meeting is available.  It takes into account the changes for Spring 2020:

The Plan We Have for 2021

We contemplate a similar approach to the 2021 Congress, conditions permitting.  [See Update above.]

For the 2021 Congress, we present the same Sessions, with a few changes.  Our pair of Sponsored Sessions dedicated to “Seal the Real I–II” remain as before.  The pair of co-sponsored Sessions dedicated to “Revealing the Unknown I–II” have some changes in the line-up.  One Session has a revised title (“Medieval Magic in Theory:  Prologues in Medieval Texts of Magic, Astrology, and Prophecy”).  For 2021, the Societas Magica has agreed also to co-sponsor this Session, so that the alignment of sponsorship has adapted to changing opportunities.

The 2021 Congress will be the 17th year of our co-sponsorship with the Societas Magica, in a constantly constructive partnership of friends, students, and colleagues.

As before, we have planned for an Open Business Meeting and a Co-Sponsored Reception.

For 2021, the co-sponsorship for a Reception joins the Research Group with the Societas Magica and The Index of Medieval Art, combining all 3 Sponsors in recent years.

[The virtual presentation of the Congress may allow for some form of Business Meeting and Reception.  Watch this Space.]

Our Sessions

Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, MS W.782, folio 15r. Van Alphen Hours. Dutch Book of Hours made for a female patron in the mid 15th century. Opening page of the Hours of the Virgin: "Here du salste opdoen mine lippen". Image via Creative Commons. At the bottom of the bordered page, an elegantly dressed woman sits before a shiny bowl- or mirror-like object, in order, perhaps, to perform skrying or to lure a unicorn.

Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, MS W.782, folio 15r. Van Alphen Hours. Image via Creative Commons.

Our events at the Congress, as always, are designed to represent, to explore, to promote, to celebrate, and to advance aspects of our shared range of interests, fields of study, subject matter, and collaboration between younger and established scholars, teachers, and others, in multiple centers.

Again we co-sponsor Sessions with the Societas Magica (3 Sessions this year). It will be the 17th year of this co-sponsorship.

Also, like the 2015–2019 Congresses, we plan for

  • an Open Business Meeting and
  • a co-sponsored Reception.

For the 2016–2018 Congresses, we co-sponsored a Reception with the Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University (formerly the Index of Christian Art), and we had planned a similar co-sponsored Reception in 2020.

Background and Foreground

Glimpses of our co-sponsored Receptions at the Congress appear in the souvenirs of our Celebrations and in the Reports for the individual Congresses

Agenda for 2017 Open Business Meeting of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence. 1-page Agenda set in RGME Bembino.

2017 Business Meeting Agenda

The Agendas for our Open Business Meetings are available for your inspection and perusal:

These 1-page statements serve as concise Reports for our Activities, Plans, and Desiderata. Some of these Agendas now stand among the Top 5 Most Popular Downloads on our site.

Poster 2 for 219 Anniversary Symposium, with symposium information and 2 images of cropped initials, from 12th-century Latin manuscripts, from the Princeton University Art Museum.The most popular downloads still remain our copyright and FREE multilingual digital font Bembino, and some Booklets from our Symposia and Colloquia. So far, those “best sellers” — they are FREE — include:

These publications, like most of our Publications, are FREE, but we welcome donations, both in funds and in kind, for our nonprofit mission, with the option of tax-deduction for your Donations.

We look forward to your contributions and participation.

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5 Sessions

Logo of the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence (colour version)I. Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence

Sessions 1–2

1–2. Seal the Real: Documentary Records, Seals & Authentications

Organizer

Mildred Budny (Research Group on Manuscript Evidence)
director@manuscriptevidence.org

Judgment of Arbitration by Philip I, Count of Savoy, of 28 May 1275 with Brown Wax Seal and with Docketing in French. Photograph by Mildred Budny.

Judgment of Arbitration by Philip I, Count of Savoy, of 28 May 1275
with Brown Wax Seal
and with Docketing in French. Photograph by Mildred Budny.

These sessions explore the presentation and attestation of documentary records in the medieval and early modern periods, in the long transition to the modern custom of signatures as autographs — as distinct (partly) from earlier ‘signatures’ often made by proxy, whether by cross-signs, names inscribed by others on behalf of the signatory, personal or official seals, or other forms. The fields of consideration include forgeries (‘signatures’, seals, and questionable documents), reported records of documents perhaps otherwise lost (as in cartularies, chronicles, and other narratives), and the occasional preservation of fingerprints upon the records themselves.

The time-honored human determination to establish recognized — that is, effective — modes of authenticating intentions and actions by individuals and institutions alike underpins the historical transmission (or disruption, willful and otherwise) of formal records of agreements, sales, transfers, decisions over grievances and feuds, and other impactful official arrangements across the centuries. Examining case studies for this session, we encourage multiple approaches, subject matters, and methodologies for analyzing the strategies adopted (successfully or otherwise) in the pursuit of such a quest for authentication.

The desire effectively to express identity and authenticity as a matter of record may well resonate with many participants. The Session considers aspects of the historical traditions, improvisations, inventions, and (it may be) occasional failures of earlier centuries in such a quest. Perchance we might learn instructively from the past.

[Note:  Our plans for these 2021 Sessions corresponds to the plans for the 2020 Congress.]

Part I:  Signed & Sealed

Equestrian Wax Seal of Philip I, Count of Savoy, Affixed to his Judgment of Abritration, 28 May 1275. Photograph by Mildred Budny.

Equestrian Wax Seal of Philip I, Count of Savoy,
Affixed to his Judgment of Abritration, 28 May 1275. Photograph by Mildred Budny.

Part II:  × Marks the Spot

Document in 5 lines on paper, dated 22 February 1345 (Old Style), with red wax seal. Image reproduced by permisison.

Document in 5 lines on paper, dated 22 February 1345 (Old Style), with red wax seal.

Also, see our blog for on-going discoveries in the study of documents, seals sometimes included:
Manuscript Studies.  See its Contents List.

II. Co-Sponsored with the Societas Magica

Logo of the Societas Magica, reproduced by permissionSessions 3–5

Session 3. Medieval Magic in Theory:
Prologues to Learned Texts of Magic

Organizer 

Vajra Regan (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)
vajra.regan@utoronto.ca

Hermes Trismegistus. Frontispiece image (Lyons, 1669) via Wikimedia Commons and Wellcome Images (Wellcome_L0000980).

Hermes Trismegistus. Frontispiece image (Lyons, 1669) via Wikimedia Commons and Wellcome Images.

The prologues to medieval texts of learned magic could serve a variety of functions.  They were a space for their authors to announce the theme of the work, to situate the work within a specific literary, philosophical, or theological landscape, and to lay special claim to the reader’s attention.  Consequently, these prologues have much to tell us about the traditions and beliefs underlying certain magical texts. Moreover, because many magical texts are substantially anonymous compilations, their prologues often provide unique access to the lives and contexts of the men and women behind the parchment.

The aim of this session is to explore these still largely understudied prologues which testify to the variety of medieval approaches to ‘magic’.  We are especially interested in how magic is theorized in these prologues.  What insights do these prologues offer into contemporary debates about the epistemological status of magic?  Moreover, what can they tell us about the social, religious, and institutional contexts of their authors and readers?

[Note:  Our plans for this 2021 Session adapts its plans for the 2020 Congress, as noted.]

Sessions 4–5:  Revealing the Unknown, Parts I–II

Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, MS W.782, folio 15r. Van Alphen Hours. Dutch Book of Hours made for a female patron in the mid 15th century. Opening page of the Hours of the Virgin: "Here du salste opdoen mine lippen". Image via Creative Commons. At the bottom of the bordered page, an elegantly dressed woman sits before a shiny bowl- or mirror-like object, in order, perhaps, to perform skrying or to lure a unicorn.

Baltimore, The Walters Art Museum, MS W.782, folio 15r. Van Alphen Hours. Dutch Book of Hours made for a female patron in the mid 15th century. Opening page of the Hours of the Virgin: “Here du salste opdoen mine lippen”. Image via Creative Commons.

4. Revealing the Unknown I:
Scryers and Scrying in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

Organizers

Sanne de Laat
English Department
Radboud University Nijmegen

László Sándor Chardonnens
English Department
Radboud University Nijmegen
The Netherlands

From the little boy on the lap of the priest to the astrologer physician Richard Napier, scryers have fulfilled a significant role in spirit communications throughout the Middle Ages and early modern period. That children were instrumentalized by clergy doubling as ritual magicians has been known for a long time. The activities of professional adult scryers, such as Edward Kelley and Sarah Skelhorn, are likewise well-documented. Recently, however, attention has moved to the scrying activities of medical and astrological professionals, as Ofer Hadass’s study of Richard Napier bears out. The autobiography of William Lilly and the manuscripts of Elias Ashmole suggest that early modern astrologer physicians utilized scrying in different ways from the medieval clerical underworld.

This session offers an opportunity to reassess older notions about scryers and scrying, and to engage with current research on the identity and activities of professional scryers. Topics for papers could feature, for instance, the techniques used by scryers, the necessary instruments for this craft, as well as the goals for which a scryer’s services could be used. Diachronic approaches to the topic are welcome, and papers that consider cross-cultural approaches, such as Jewish or Arabic scryers and scrying practices, are encouraged.

Magic mirror of Floron . Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Image via Creative Commons.

Magic mirror of Floron. Mathematisch-Physikalischer Salon, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden. Via Creative Commons.

5. Revealing the Unknown II:
Sortilège, Bibliomancy, and Divination

Organizer

Phillip A. Bernhardt-House (Skagit Valley College – Whitbey Island)
phillip.bernhardthouse@gmail.com

From earliest times, humans have sought methods to contact supernatural entities to obtain knowledge of the present or future, known as divination. In ancient and medieval contexts, two such methods that were sometimes connected were sortilège and bibliomancy: for example, the Lots of Mary, Sortes Astramphysychi, Homeric Oracles, and Virgilian Oracles.

These practices involved numerological processes to select specific passages from canonical texts in order to divine on desired topics. This session focuses on these and other methods of divination, so as to understand how textual and other authorities became invested with powers far greater than the impacts of their literary merits.

Adèle Kindt (1804–1884), The Fortune Teller (circa 1835). Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Image via Wikimedia Commons. A young lady, brightly lit and beautifully dressed, looks outward as an older woman, beneath a dark hood, holds a set of cards and stares at them with intent.

Adèle Kindt (1804–1884), The Fortune Teller (circa 1835), cat included. Antwerp, Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

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