Medieval Studies, as a discipline, often protests popular understandings of the medieval period as the ‘Dark Ages’. In an effort to counter this imagining of the Middle Ages, scholars have looked for medieval expressions of diversity and tolerance, as opposed to episodes of oppression, persecution, and violence (Gabriele and Perry 2021). Feminist medievalists in particular have adopted a ‘recuperative’ approach to the medieval past, seeking to recover women’s experiences and voices from the archive, in order to rectify enduring perceptions of the Middle Ages as a uniquely misogynistic period. Yet, recent critiques (Blurton and Johnson 2017; Rambaran-Olm 2022) have emphasized that in an effort to ‘recuperate’ the Middle Ages, medievalists often fail to reckon with ‘ugly’ moments or insufficiently proto-feminist figures, let alone the ‘bad feelings’ that medieval texts espouse or evoke for both contemporaneous and modern readers.
This panel, sponsored by Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship seeks to interrogate moments of ‘bad feelings’ in the Middle Ages, with the aim of thinking through how medieval expressions of negativity are entangled with discourses of race, gender and sexuality studies, and theories of embodiment. Although medievalists have long been interested in embodied forms of feeling, this discussion is often limited towards how coherent gendered and sexual identities were formulated through carefully-managed or culturally-comprehensible affects (Crocker 2017). This panel, in contrast, asks how attending to ‘ugly feelings’ – affects that do not consolidate into intelligible social identities – might nuance our understanding of medieval experiences of race, gender, sexuality, and embodiment (Ngai 2007). Following recent scholarship on queer affects (Halberstam 2011, Ruti 2018, Malatino 2022), this panel asks whether ‘bad feelings’ are not just idiosyncratic but are, in fact, constitutive of queer ways of being in the global medieval world.
Topics include but are not limited to:
- Who ‘feels bad’ in the Middle Ages? What ‘bad feelings’ arise at the embodied intersections of (dis)ability, race, gender, and class?
- Are there particularly queer ways of ‘feeling bad’? How are these specifically queer ‘bad feelings’ expressed in the medieval past?
- How are ‘bad feelings’ expressed within historical or contemporary receptions of the Middle Ages? How are the ‘bad feelings’ of medieval texts adapted or translated across medias or contexts?
- In what ways are ‘bad feelings’ entangled with medieval expressions of desire, love, and sexuality?
- What are the politics of ‘feeling bad’? Do ‘bad feelings’ have political possibility in medieval discourse?
Since this panel endeavors to offer medieval negative affects (and their embodiments, expressions, and entanglements) as sites of interdisciplinary inquiry, we welcome papers that articulate and interrogate ‘bad feelings from any area of Medieval Studies. We warmly encourage papers that further nuance our understanding of the place of negative affects in the medieval world and in the discipline of Medieval Studies, by engaging carefully and critically with disability theory, critical race theory, postcolonial theory, queer theory, and other allied frameworks.
Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent by email to the organizer, Basil Arnould Price (firstname.lastname@example.org) by the 25th of March 2022