Visual, material, and textual records reflect medieval bodies’ potential for fluidity, transition, and transformation. These transformations could affirm an identity or disguise it; reflect divine will or fairy magic; make visible internal conversions; anticipate the transformations of the body in death or transcend them. Transformation and change were at the heart of conversations surrounding critical aspects of human life: birth, death, gender, even (within Christianity) the miracle of the Host. We invite discussions of bodies that change or transform in any context in order to underscore the crucial role the concept of the transforming body played in the medieval world.
We aim for this panel to dovetail with the developing discourse of medieval transgender studies and open up further connections between this methodology and visual and material studies. Roland Betancourt’s research has established that practices of bodily transition and transformation were material realities in Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Gabrielle M.W. Bychowski has argued that experiences of gender and transition in the Middle Ages were conceptually expansive and nuanced. At the 2018 ICMS she called on medievalists to expand our own accounts of medieval gender transitions to encompass a more broad “breaking open of the binary.” With this work in mind, we aim to foreground and contextualize gender within the larger field of medieval bodily transitions and transformations. Can explorations of bodily transformation in the medieval period trouble the idea that states of being, including gender, holiness, monstrosity, even life or death, can ever truly be stable? When identity transcends the physical, what is its relationship to the material or the visible world?
We invite proposals of papers from any discipline or methodological approach that consider medieval bodily transitions and transformations, broadly defined. Please submit a completed Participant Information Form and an abstract of no more than 300 words to both organizers by Monday, September 9 for consideration. Per ICMS requirements, proposals not included in the final panel will be forwarded to the ICMS Program Committee for consideration for General Sessions.