The animal turn has become hugely influential in medieval scholarship over the last decade, with growing numbers of publications and conferences devoted to the role of the animal in medieval literatures. However, as some scholars have noted (Susan Fraiman, 2012; Greta Gaard, 2017), the contributions of ecofeminism and queer ecology have often been side-lined. Nevertheless, scholars are increasingly finding these modes of analysis to offer useful ways of exploring the role of the animal in medieval romance texts.
The Medieval Romance Society is hosting three sessions on romance and the animal turn at the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies 2020, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. We are accepting abstracts that explore the intersection of animality and nature with themes of gender, sexuality, and human identity in romances. All papers must be presented in English; however, we welcome submissions on romances from any region in the Middle Ages. We invite papers that respond to ecofeminist and queer ecological literary criticism; papers that respond to posthumanist and related philosophical theories; and papers which do not take a theoretical approach. Through these sessions, we aim to promote a vibrant discussion of the place of animals within medieval literary cultures.
Session I: Romance and the Animal Turn I: Romance and Ecofeminism
Ecofeminism has experienced a revival since 2014, with the reappraisal of older scholarship and new publications. As part of this renaissance, medievalists have embraced ecofeminist approaches to medieval literature. We welcome papers looking at representations of gender, masculinity and/or femininity in relation to animals and nature in romance texts. Example topics could include: the role of the horse in chivalric masculinity, animal foster-mothers for human children, or gendered discourses of meat-eating. We particularly encourage papers that respond to contemporary ecofeminist theorists such as Carol J. Adams, Greta Gaard, and Val Plumwood, although this is not required.
Session II: Romance and the Animal Turn II: Romance and Queer Ecology
Over the past decade, queer theory and animal studies have been brought into conversation in groundbreaking works such as Queering the Non/Human (2008) and Queer Ecologies (2010), and the special issue ‘Tranimalities’ of TSQ (2015). Scholars of medieval literature have been trailblazers of new methods of queer ecological criticism. For this session, we invite papers looking at representations of sex and sexuality and/or queer identity in relation to discourses of animals and nature in romance texts. Papers might explore the role of animals in the construction of heteronormative ideologies, queer animals in romance narratives, and species panic. We particularly encourage papers that respond to contemporary theorists of queer ecology such as Mel Y. Chen, Stacy Alaimo, Catriona Sandilands, and Bruce Erickson, although this is not required.
Session III: Romance and the Animal Turn III: Romance and Posthumanism
Posthumanism has been at the forefront of the animal turn. Over the last decade, posthumanist concerns with problematising binaries of human/animal and natural/unnatural have been eagerly received by medievalists and particularly by researchers of medieval literature. This session offers a forum for the discussion of a popular and timely theme in medieval romance studies. We welcome papers that explore discourses of human and animal identity in romance texts. Example topics could include: the role of the animal in ideologies of race, interspecies hybridity, and animal subjectivity in romance. We particularly encourage papers that respond to contemporary posthumanist theorists such as Donna Haraway, Bruno Latour, and Cary Wolfe, although this is not required.