Saint Mary’s to host 36th annual Conference of the Illinois Medieval Association
Genevieve Coleman | Friday, February 21, 2020
Saint Mary’s will host the 36th annual Conference of the Illinois Medieval Association on Friday and Saturday, free for all members of the tri-campus community.
Co-organizers and Saint Mary’s professors Jessalynn Bird and Sarah Noonan said conference plans began about two years ago.
“It got started when the Illinois Medieval Association sent out a call for host institutions … and I emailed the executive director of the Illinois Medieval Association and asked him if he’d be interested in venturing into Indiana, and he said he thought it was close enough,” Noonan said.
The University of Notre Dame and the Illinois Medieval Association sponsored the conference.
“The conference was supported by the Medieval Institute at Notre Dame … and the Illinois Medieval Association also kind of helps fund the conference in addition to registration fees for those who are outside of the Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame college community,” Noonan said.
The event “Medieval Futures” will focus on how ideas from the medieval era still connect to today’s problems.
“Medieval studies is having to wrestle with a lot of contemporary issues and with how it represents itself as a field,” Bird said. “I know the Medieval Academy, for example, has recently been issuing position statements explaining what it is that medievalists are all about, partly because folks from the alt-right have been trying to appropriate images of the medieval past to justify their agenda.”
The two scheduled plenary speakers are professors Bernard McGinn and Dot Porter.
“Professor Bernard McGinn [is] coming from the University of Chicago and Dot Porter [is] coming from University of Pennsylvania,” Noonan said. “Bernard McGann thinks more about the medieval past and conceptions of time and mysticism, whereas Porter has been engaged in digitizing medieval manuscripts and making them available. So, she’s worked on a variety of different projects that are making these resources more broadly available to communities around the world.”
The conference will also incorporate visits to both the Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s libraries for medieval manuscript tours.
“There’s also going to be two library sessions that are being organized,” Noonan said. “One is taking place at the University of Notre Dame [with] David Gura, the curator of Western manuscripts. [He] is going to be doing a special exhibit on time in medieval manuscripts. Then I’m leading a special session on the manuscripts and early printed works at Saint Mary’s at that same time for participants who want to stay on campus.”
The purpose of these library visits is to encourage more people to explore what the universities have to offer.
“Part of it was to highlight the holdings that are here at Saint Mary’s, which Sarah has been kind of instrumental in helping to catalog,” Bird said. “Notre Dame, of course, has a wonderful rare books collection that we also wanted to highlight and try and get students to cross over and use more frequently.”
The event is for students who wish to attend the conference for the whole two days or come to a specific session.
“There have been quite a few students from Saint Mary’s who have expressed interest and registered and are going to some of the special library sessions, but also planning to attend one of the plenary talks or one of the sessions,” Noonan said.
Bird encourages anyone interested in medieval studies to attend the conference.
“I would just stress the accessibility of it in that it’s meant to be a conference that involves anyone who would like to come, be it a first-year student, sophomore, junior, senior or faculty member.”