Not Congress Congress.* Unless you are a medievalist. Then yes, Congress Congress.**
Specifically, I’ll be presenting as part of MEARCSTAPA‘s “Monsters II: De/Coupling Monstrosity and Disability” panel at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, aka “Kalamazoo.” This is the first paper proposal I’ve submitted in my academic career, and the first accepted (though whether this will be the first conference I present at depends in part on how some other proposals come through in the next few weeks). It’s a great opportunity; Congress is a big deal, and because it’s in Kalamazoo, I get to sleep in my own bed.
My paper is workingly titled “Whose Kids Are You Calling Monsters?: Capacious Concepts of Childhood Disability in Medieval Literature.” Here’s how I described it recently to a colleague, via Facebook:
“The paper argues that conflating conceptions of disability with portrayals of the monstrous in analyzing medieval literature is actually a mistake of the modern, post-eugencis-era mind’s understanding of disability as “other-than-human”, and that if we look at the texts (particularly Gregory of Tours, who did some remarkable writing about cases of disabled children), we find that in fact disabled medieval people did pretty much all the same things non-disabled medieval people did – and that their communities treated them as members, not Others.”
Among other things, I’ll be exploring Gregory of Tours’s various portrayals of disabled children and adults, as well as stories of disabled and/or “wild children” and/or “changelings” who were absorbed into communities as foundlings and raised there.
The supreme irony is that, today, I am working on a paper on Ortnit and Wolfdietrich arguing that conceptions of changelings, wild children, and “kids born under weirdo circumstances” (in this case, with a cross-dressing father) are precisely what mark Wolfdietrich out as “different” – although I do want to explore the shakiness of the line between “bad-Other” and “good-Other.”
*Contrastive reduplication: my new language toy obsession.
**Sessions of the U.S. Congress would be greatly improved by the addition of medievalists giving papers, though.