Call for Papers: International Medieval Congress 2020 (Kalamazoo, USA)

Thu 22 August 2019

Hosted by the Medieval Institute at Western Michigan University, the International Congress on Medieval Studies is an annual gathering of around 2,750 scholars interested in medieval studies.

The 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies takes place on the campus of Western Michigan University on 7 May - 10 May 10, 2020.

The congress features more than 550 sessions of papers, panel discussions, roundtables, workshops, demonstrations, performances, and poster sessions. There are also some 100 business meetings and receptions sponsored by learned societies, associations and institutions. The exhibits hall boasts nearly 70 exhibitors, including publishers, used book dealers and purveyors of medieval sundries. The congress lasts three and a half days, extending from Thursday morning, with sessions beginning at 10 a.m., until Sunday at noon.

Below are the details on call for papers for two seperate sessions taking place at the congress.


Psychoactive Ingredients and Intoxication in Medieval Magic

Organiser: Liana Saif (The Warburg Institute)

Deadline for abstract submission: 15 September, 2019

Studies of medieval magic have largely focused on the legitimacy and genealogies of magical theories and practices, and questions of textual and contextual coherence. This session will highlight “microscopic” elements of magical practice; namely, psychoactive ingredients and intoxicants, with the aim to understand the place of these substances in scientific and religious discourses through the study of magical texts, which are situated at the intersection of these “macroscopic” discourses. This session is timely when we consider the current rise of interest in psychedelics and psychoactive ingredients in the scientific and literary spheres, in addition to the current explorations of the notion of “consciousness” in the study of esotericism and occult sciences. Therefore, engaging in a discussion about mind-altering substances in the global “middle ages” fits within a growing academic engagement with this subject. 

We invite speakers from all kinds of disciplines who are able to shed light on: 

1. How widespread psychoactive ingredients and intoxication are in magical texts. 

2. How intoxication and psychedelic experiences are described in these texts. 

3. The relationship between ritualistic “set and setting” and these ingredients. 

4. The prospects and limits of studying ingredients and experiences in medieval texts and contexts that are classified as “psychedelic” and “mind-altering” according to modern understanding. 

5. The role of consuming psychoactive ingredient, intoxicants, and having hallucinations in witchcraft narratives. 

6. Devotional and magical experiences under the light of scientific advances in psychedelic research. 


Application details

To apply please send a 250-word abstract, in addition to title, name, affiliation and a brief bio to 


Astrology in Practice: Perspectives from the History of Visual and Material Culture

Organisers: Jordan Famularo, PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and Anna Majeski, PhD candidate, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University

Deadline for abstract submission: 15 September, 2019

Recent scholarship has proven the widespread prevalence and import of astrology in the medieval world. A dynamic area of research accentuates astrology not simply as a theoretical science or cosmology, but as a practice with a wide range of applications—from medicine to politics. A focus on astrological practice allows us to understand how abstract scientific theorems shaped lives, bodies, and lived experiences. This session invites papers to examine historical arenas in which theory was enacted, enhanced, and modified by medieval bodies, in concert with artifacts and monuments.

Material objects and monuments offered critical intermediaries in the performance of astrological practice by human subjects. This session aims to advance interdisciplinary research on the practice of astrology, with emphasis on intersections between histories of science and visual/material culture. The session is open to topics addressing the medieval period up to 1550 CE. The maximum length for each paper is 20 minutes.

Potential topics include:

  • the agency and import of the material astrological artifact;
  • political, medical, and magical uses for material objects in astrological practice; 
  • talismans;  
  • monumental astrological cycles and their relations to functions performed in specific architectural spaces;
  • astrological instruments: their construction, use, and depiction in art;
  • depictions of practicing astrologers;
  • manuscripts or other materials used by working astrologers;
  • manuscripts that incorporate astrological instruments (such as volvelles);
  • the role of human bodies, imagination, and cognition in symbiosis with artifacts and monuments in astrological frameworks.


Application details

To apply please submit the following files in PDF or MS Word format to Anna Majeski ( and Jordan Famularo ( by September 15, 2019: 

  1. Abstract of 250 words or fewer.
  2. CV. 
  3. Participant Information Form (available to download here)