Monday, September 20, 2010

CFP: Panel for International Congress on Medieval Studies

Call for Papers for the 46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, May 12-15, 2011, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI

Sponsoring organization: Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship (SMFS)
Panel Title: “Flaming Bodies in Ken Russell’s The Devils

Ken Russell's The Devils (1971) depicts a trial for witchcraft and heresyfrom early seventeenth-century France. Based on the book The Devils of Loudun by Aldous Huxley, Russell’s film recounts thehistorical case of cleric Urbain Grandier, accused by the Prioress of Loudon’sUrsline nuns of assuming various shapes of incubi, to seduce her and hersisters, leading to demonic possession throughout the convent. Articulating desire, the nuns endure torture and exorcism at the hands of a deputy of Cardinal Richelieu, who seeks to destroy the autonomy of Loudun, in an attempt tosolidify the power of the Catholic church and to unify France as a nation. Asprotector of Loundon--a city which deliberately maintains its medieval walls and its medieval style of governance--Grandier is burned at the stake,ultimately because of his tolerance for Huguenots and his insistence on thecity’s autonomy rather than capitulating to the developing nation-state.

This panel provides a forum for investigating a nexus of issues surrounding bodies, gender, and sexuality in Russell’s The Devils. Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following: Speakers could scruntinize the film’s representation of intersections between early nation-building and female bodies. With the prioress, the lead female role, played by a character who isphysically deformed, a deformity central to her subjectivity, the panel offers a forum for scholars of disability studies. With celebrated queer filmmaker Derek Jarmen as the head of art production for The Devils and with the clearly queer possibilities throughout Ken Russell's oeuvre, which, although obvious, have been understudied by film scholars, The Devils--offering autoerotic and lesbian nuns, drag-queen courtiers, and an opening scene of King Louis appearing as Botticelli's “Birth of Venus”--is ripe for queer analyses.The panel also provides a venue for topics of even longer-standing interest to medievalists and early modern scholars, such as mysticism and erotics, Jesus as Mother, and ritualssurrounding female bodies in witchcraft ordeals. In short, this panel welcomes paper proposals on gender and/or sexuality in The Devils from scholars of medieval or early modern studies, queer theory, and/or film studies.

Papers should be 20 minutes.Because SMFS will screen The Devils at the conference, speakers can assume that the panel’s audience members will have viewed the film. Please send proposals, along with the “Participant Information Form” (available at, by September 20, 2010 {Later submissions are welcome}, to

Dr. Lynn Arner
Centre for Women’s Studies
Department of English
Brock University
St.Catharines, ON L2S 3A1 Canada

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