Call for Papers, The Medieval Brain Conference. University of York, 9th, 10th & 11th March 2017.

As we research aspects of the medieval brain, we encounter complications generated by medieval thought and twenty-first century medicine and neurology alike. Our understanding of modern-day neurology, psychiatry, disability studies, and psychology rests on shifting sands. Not only do we struggle with medieval terminology concerning the brain, but we have to connect it with a constantly-moving target of modern understanding. Though we strive to avoid interpreting the past using presentist terms, it is difficult – or impossible – to work independently of the framework of our own modern understanding. This makes research into the medieval brain and ways of thinking both challenging and exciting. As we strive to know more about specifically medieval experiences, while simultaneously widening our understanding of the brain today, we much negotiate a great deal of complexity.

In this three-day conference, to be held at the University of York on Thursday 9th, Friday 10th and Saturday 11th March 2017* under the auspices of the Centre for Chronic Diseases and Disorders, we will explore the topic of ‘the medieval brain’ in the widest possible sense. The ultimate aim is to provide a forum for discussion, stimulating new collaborations from a multitude of voices on, and approaches to, the theme.

Confirmed keynote speakers:

Carole Rawcliffe (University of East Anglia)

Corinne Saunders (Durham University)

Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University)

This call is for papers to comprise a series of themed sessions of papers and/or roundtables that approach the subject from a range of different, or an interweaving of, disciplines. Potential topics of discussion might include, but are not restricted to:

  • Mental health
  • Neurology
  • The history of emotions
  • Disability and impairment
  • Terminology and the brain
  • Ageing and thinking
  • Retrospective diagnosis and the Middle Ages
  • Interdisciplinary practice and the brain
  • The care of the sick
  • Herbals and medieval medical texts

Research that grapples with terminology, combines unconventional disciplinary approaches, and/or sparks debates around the themes is particularly welcome. We will be encouraging diversity, and welcome speakers from all backgrounds, including those from outside of traditional academia. All efforts will be made to ensure that the conference is made accessible to those who are not able to attend through live-tweeting and through this blog.

Please send abstracts of up to 250 words for independent papers, or expressions of interest for roundtable topics/themed paper panels, by Friday 21st October, to Deborah Thorpe at: deborah.thorpe@york.ac.uk.

(image credit: Detail of a historiated initial ‘C'(erebrum) of the treatment of a brain disease. BL Royal 6 E VI f. 258v)

*This was originally aimed, and originally advertised as, a two-day workshop. However, due to interest, it was expanded to a three-day conference. So, hooray for brains!

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