History and Personhood

The Sewanee Medieval Colloquium is pleased to announce our theme, History and Personhood, for the 49th Colloquium, which will take place in-person, April 5th-6th, 2024, on the campus of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee.


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The understanding of identity, in the medieval as in the modern, rests within discourses of science, medicine, religion, visual representation, literary imagination, legal definition, and historical record, among many others. Personhood is both imagined and policed by historical actors in a given time period -- but also by those looking back to uncover narratives and images of the past. This conference asks participants to consider how we construct the history of people and persons, as well as how people, in turn, construct history. We invite conversations around the ideas of persona, personhood in historical chronicle, visualizations of identity-categories, the limits of the anthropocene, voicing as subjectivity, and more. 
Papers might be interested in the construction of royal identity, of personhood marked by faith, in legislated systems of inclusion or exclusion, or how sensation determines what it means to be human. Panels might address the role of ‘the historical turn’ in modern scholarship, the nature of literary biography, or how we address personhood as a contested category in our classrooms. The conference welcomes papers focusing on any area or region of the globe and encourages participation from faculty working on material from Asia, Africa, or the Americas. Finally, we hope for interdisciplinary work addressing how categories or discourses around personhood disrupt our familiar, modern departmental divisions. 

How to Participate:

Propose a Thread (Due: Aug 1)

If you are inspired by our theme and would like to propose a thread that would gather together papers around an aspect of the theme, you may propose a thread. Abstracts will be submitted to the thread, and you will select those you think best fit the sub-theme you envision. Proposals due August 1st, 2023.

Submit a Paper Abstract (Due: Nov 1)

Proposals for papers can touch on any aspect of the general theme, and we encourage proposals from medievalists of any discipline and any geographic area. Scholars can apply to the general call, or to specific sub-themes (available here). We accept proposals from anyone with a Ph.D. or who is in the process of gaining a doctorate. Abstracts should be submitted by November 1st, 2023.

Propose a Panel (Due: Nov 1)

We also invite participants to submit whole panels of papers, that is, a pre-organized panel. Professional organizations often submit panels from among their membership, but individuals or institutions are also invited to do the same. To submit a full panel, you need to send a description of the panel, a CV and abstract for the papers you would like to include, and suggestions for possible respondents. Panel proposals are due November 1st, 2023

Colloquium Format: One of the unique elements of the Colloquium is its use of a respondent-format. Papers for each panel are pre-circulated to a selected respondent 1 month before the conference meeting. The respondent takes this time to read each paper and create a response that addresses the individual papers and poses questions for the panelists. This guarantees that each presenter has the opportunity for an established scholar to engage with their work, and the responses set the initial terms for the questions and conversation at the end of each panel.

Commenters are generally established figures in the field with a significant record of publication; participants in the Colloquium are generally limited to holders of a Ph.D. and those currently in a Ph.D. program. 

Conference Details

Plenary Speakers

We have two exciting plenary speakers for this year's event. Our plenary lectures will come from Dr. Marion Turner (The University of Oxford) and Dr. Kristina Richardson (The University of Virginia). 


Here is where you can find information about the sub-themes that have been organized as part of the Colloquium for 2024. You may submit to one of these themes, or to the general call for papers.