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Calls for Papers

Profanity: The Obscene and the Secular in Early Cultures

2018 Early Cultures Graduate Student Conference

“Profanity: The Obscene and the Secular in Early Cultures”

University of California, Irvine

Conference Date: October 12th & 13th, 2018


Paper Proposal Deadline: July 1st, 2018

The Center for Early Cultures at UCI is pleased to announce our 2018 Conference – “Profanity: The Obscene and the Secular in Early Cultures.” Our keynote speaker will be Joel Slotkin, Associate Professor of English at Towson University, whose scholarship on monstrous bodies in his recent book, Sinister Aesthetics: The Appeal of Evil in Early Modern English Literature, will provide valuable insights into the nature of profanity and obscenity in the period.


Although we might colloquially understand “profanity” to be a term for obscene or offensive language, we ought not to overlook its etymological root in the “profane,” or the secular, more generally. Indeed, as this link exemplifies, coarse language seems to have been equated historically with worldly language, or the language of those who are tied to the profane world, as opposed to the sacred world, either circumstantially or by choice. This year’s Early Cultures Conference seeks to investigate the complex nuances of these dual definitions of “profanity” – at once a designation of obscenity and of secularity – and the way they relate to their opposing poles: decorum and the sacred.


I concord with these considerations of secularity and obscenity in the past, we are interested in work that investigates modern uses of profanity and the profane, especially the ways in which those uses knowingly or unknowingly draw upon the past to authorize them. Indeed, we hope that in a conference where we are continually considering the values and sensibilities of the past, we will also shed light on the moral, spiritual, and worldly attachments of the present. Building upon the interdisciplinary nature of the Center for Early Cultures at UCI, we hope to bring in papers that approach the nature of profanity and the profane from a variety of disciplines, including but not limited to History, Visual Studies, Comparative Literature, Classics, English, and Drama.


Possible topics for papers may include:


• Obscene, offensive, insulting, or inflammatory features in early works

Contemptus mundi thinkers who rejected the profane

• Works that develop or value the profane against sacred history

• Profane works that flaunt decorum or rhetorical conventions

• The tension between the sacred and profane in conceptualizations of political power

• The elision/restoration of obscenity in early works for modern audiences

We invite abstracts of 300 words or less, accompanied by a 1-2 page CV, to be sent to by July 1st, 2018.

Decentering the Global Middle Ages

February 8-9, 2019
University of Michigan

Deadline: September 17, 2018

The Department of History and Medieval and Early Modern Studies Program at the University of Michigan invite proposals for a February 8-9, 2019 symposium, “De-centering the Global Middle Ages.”

This symposium will contribute to the burgeoning body of scholarship on the meaning of the “medieval” and “Middle Ages” in increasingly interdisciplinary and cross-regional conceptions of the premodern world.

This symposium invites researchers to consider scholarly perspectives of the “global Middle Ages” by presenting research and resources that address the connectivity and mobility of the globe c. 500-1600 CE. What work does the idea of “the Middle Ages” do in our scholarship, and what do we gain from a shared or comparative notion of the medieval? Papers and presentations will aim to contribute to a more inclusive view of the premodern world that de-centers European interpretations of the Middle Ages and recognizes dynamic globalisms. A keynote address will be delivered by Valerie Hansen (Stanley Woodward Professor of History, Yale University), specialist in premodern China and Silk Road Studies, whose current book project is entitled: The World in the Year 1000: When Globalization Began.

Faculty and graduate students are welcome to apply to deliver a lightning talk + complementary paper and/or a primary source-based research presentation. Abstracts should be no longer than 300 words.

Lightning Talks

The symposium will hold two panels of lightning talks (8 minutes each) based on short, pre-circulated papers (approx. 4 pages) summarizing current work on globalized conceptions of and connections within the medieval world. Lightning talks will engage field- or region-specific conceptualizations of “the medieval/Middle Ages.”

Roundtable discussions with respondents will follow.

Primary Source-based Research Presentations

Submissions will also be accepted for 15- to 18-minute research presentations, each focused on a particular medieval primary source (text, image, object, etc.) that is useful for thinking in comparative or global perspectives. The source (an image or a selection from the source) should be pre-circulated to attendees.

Each talk will be followed by a moderated discussion.

All presenters are asked to submit a brief bibliography (5-10 entries) on resources related to their lightning talks or research presentations. After the symposium, these bibliographies will be uploaded to the Global Middle Ages Project website (, University of Texas at Austin) and contribute to the development of a canon of literature on the global Middle Ages.

Deadline: September 17, 2018

How to Apply:

Applications should be submitted in PDF form to conference organizers Paula R. Curtis ( and Amanda Respess ( by September 17. Those submitting both lightning talks and primary source presentations should prepare separate abstracts. Please include the following information:

Faculty/Graduate Student/Independent Scholar:
Regional Specialization:
Proposed Format (Lightning Talk/Primary Source Presentation):
Abstracts of no longer than 300 words.

Notifications of acceptance will be made by no later than October 15, 2018.

Medieval Art and Architecture at the Crossroads of the Latin, Greek, and Slavic Cultural Spheres

April 5-6, 2019
Princeton University

Organizers: Alice Isabella Sullivan, Ph.D. (University of Michigan)
                  Maria Alessia Rossi, Ph.D. (The Index of Medieval Art, Princeton University) 

Sumission deadline: August 15, 2018

Description: In response to the global turn in art history, this two-day symposium explores the temporal and geographic parameters of the study of medieval art, seeking to challenge the ways we think about the artistic production of Eastern Europe. Serbia, Bulgaria, and the Romanian principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania, among other centers, took on prominent roles in the transmission and appropriation of western medieval, byzantine, and Slavic artistic traditions, as well as the continuation of the cultural legacy of Byzantium in the later centuries of the empire, and especially in the decades after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

This symposium will be the first such initiative to explore, discuss, and focus on the art, architecture, and visual culture of regions of the Balkans and the Carpathians (c.1300-c.1550). We aim to raise issues of cultural contact, transmission, and appropriation of western medieval, byzantine, and Slavic artistic and cultural traditions in eastern European centers, and consider how this heritage was deployed to shape notions of identity and visual rhetoric in these regions from the fourteenth through the sixteenth centuries. This event will offer a comparative and multi-disciplinary framework, ranging from art history to archeology and from material culture to architectural history. We aim to create a platform where scholars at various stages of their careers can discuss their research and engage in dialogue regarding the specificities but also the shared cultural heritage of these regions of Eastern Europe that developed eclectic visual vocabularies and formed a cultural landscape beyond medieval, byzantine, and modern borders. Papers could address topics that include, but are not limited to:

  • How cross-cultural contact facilitated the transfer, appropriation, and transmission of ideas and artistic traditions across geographical and temporal boundaries in Eastern Europe (c.1300-c.1550)·        
  •  Artistic and iconographic developments as expressions of particular social, political, and ecclesiastical circumstances and dialogues in the Balkans and the Carpathians·        
  •  The intentions and consequences of diplomatic missions and dynastic marriages in the visual agenda of eastern European centers·       
  •   Workshop practices and traveling artists beyond medieval political and religious borders·        
  •  Patronage and new constructs of identity before and after 1453 

Interested scholars should submit a paper title, a 500-word abstract, and a CV by August 15, 2018 to the organizers at: 

Funds will be available to defray the cost of travel and accommodations for participants whose papers are accepted in the Symposium. So far, this event is supported in part by the International Center of Medieval Art (, the Society of Historians of East European, Eurasian, and Russian Art and Architecture (, the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (, and The Index of Medieval Art at Princeton University (