Comparative Literature and English

AUP Hosts Gender and Medieval Studies Conference

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On January 5–7, 2022, the Gender and Medieval Studies (GMS) Group, a UK-based organization devoted to the study of medieval gender, hosted its annual interdisciplinary conference, which this year took the title “Resilience, Persistence and Agency,” at The American University of Paris. The conference, which is hosted in a different city every year in early January, has been running since the late 1980s. This year was the conference’s largest ever edition and the first time it had taken place in continental Europe. It was organized by Professor Elizabeth Kinne with support from her colleagues in the Department of Comparative Literature and English and others across the University. 

The 2022 edition of the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference invited papers that examined how resilience, persistence and agency were deployed during the global Middle Ages and how medieval studies can play an activist role in deconstructing the misperceptions of the period that buttress modern-day oppressive politics. The conference’s success owed much to the wide range of approaches, fields of study and geographical eras represented; over 100 scholars from countries as far afield as Australia, Japan, and India attended hybrid sessions either in person or online. This hybrid format brought both professors and postgraduates together for moments of community and conviviality as well as academic scholarship. 

Throughout the Middle Ages and around the world, the resilience of marginalized individuals in the face of adversity, their persistence overcoming obstacles created by hegemonic power structures, and the creative and subversive forms of agency exerted by feminine and queer actors were all just as prominent as they are in the 21st century. The conference drew on interdisciplinary academic theory to explore how gender impacted diverse societies in the Middle Ages. Intersectional feminist frameworks allowed speakers to explore how individuals can understand and subvert power structures in the face of oppression. Postcolonial studies broadened attendees’ understanding of what constitutes the “Middle Ages.” Critical race theory invited medievalists to interrogate the history of their discipline and the pernicious ends to which “medievalism” has been used in contemporary white supremacist discourses. 

Keynote talks presented the cutting-edge scholarship of Dr. Dorothy Kim (Brandeis University), Dr. Roberta Magnani (Swansea University) and Dr. Anna Russakoff (The American University of Paris). You can read more about Dr. Russakoff's work here.