CFP Leeds ’11: Economies of Monstrosity and Monstrous Gifts

September 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm (Uncategorized)

Calls for papers for two Leeds ’11 sessions sponsored by MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory And Practical Application).

CFP for Leeds 2011: Rich and Poor

SESSION I:  “The Economy of Monstrosity: Slaves, Human Traffickers, Bankers and Thieves”
Throughout the Middle Ages, certain groups have been associated with the exchange of money and the exchange of people for money. This panel welcomes submissions that deal with the monstrosity associated with both the buyers and the bought, with monstrous depictions of ethnic groups associated with economic exchange and/or the stigma attached to enslaved groups in medieval literature, history, art history or archaeology.

Please send abstracts of 250 words, with contact details and affiliation to
Dr. Larissa Tracy, kattracy@comcast.net by September 27th.

SESSION II:  “Monstrous Gifts”
As the Havamal states, friends should give gifts, and “gifts with gifts requite.”  But, as the Durham Proverbs caution, “every gift looks over its shoulder.”  When gift-giving creates bonds, maintains relationships, and redefines or adjusts status and power in relationships, the gift is anything but a simple object, anything but gratuitous.  As William Ian Miller’s study of gift exchange in medieval Iceland discusses, the gift often contains, transmits, and encodes something of the spirit and intention of its giver, for better and for worse.  The deeply symbolic nature of much medieval gift exchange makes it a rich field for examining the messages which gifts encode — the spurs with which Chretien de Troyes’ knight is given his identity, the Anglo-Saxon sword with its own genealogy, the saints’ relic bestowed upon a cathedral, or the reliquary given by a petitioner to a patron saint.  Anthropologists and poets alike have mused on how gift exchange sometimes blurs the distinction between subject and object, between giver, gift, and recipient, particularly when the item of exchange is animate (a bride circulating between households) or a body part (an enemy’s head as a trophy presented to the king).  As Debra Higgs Strickland has recently noted, when the gift is itself a sentient being, such as Herzog Ernst’s “sartorial monsters,” simultaneously his close companions but also possessions which he might give as pilgrim’s offerings or gifts to emperors, distinctions between subject and object are especially troubled – and the messages encoded in the gifts especially complex.  Papers in this session might explore poisonous gifts, monsters as gifts, perilous exchanges, the role of gifts in the formation of the subject or at critical life-cycle rituals, power roles and imbalances in gift exchange, media of exchange (and consumption) defining monstrosity, gifts of the body (blood, hair, relics), bodies as gifts, monstrous communicants, the theft of relics and saints’ bodies, or other examinations of sites where gifts or gift exchange figure as monstrous, poisonous, combative, transcendent, or abject.

Please send abstracts of 250 words, with contact details and affiliation to

Karma deGruy <karma.degruy@gmail.com> by September 27th.

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