Call for Papers/Sessions – International Medieval Congress 2016
The IMC seeks to provide an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of all aspects of Medieval Studies. Paper and session proposals on any topic related to the European Middle Ages are welcome. However, every year, the IMC chooses a special thematic strand which – for 2016 – is ‘Food, Feast & Famine’. The theme has been chosen for the crucial importance of both phenomena in social and intellectual discourse, both medieval and modern, as well as their impact on many aspects of the human experience.
Food is both a necessity and a marker of economic and social privilege. Who cooks food, who consumes it in the Middle Ages? How and what did people from different social levels or religious commitments eat? How did eating change? How were these issues contested and represented? What does food reveal about differing aspects of medieval society and culture?
The aim is to cover the entire spectrum of famine to feast through multi-disciplinary approaches. Study of the medieval economy raises issues about standards of living and nutritional health. Both archaeological as well as textual evidence have been used to explore crop yields, agricultural methods, transport problems, dearth, and famine. Geographical and social variations in diet are important for understanding medieval taste and the era’s definitions of sufficiency and luxury. Food is an expression of international relations and trade, as shown in the intercultural influences between Christian Europe and Islamic Spain, North Africa, the Eastern Mediterranean, and India.
Across medieval Europe the acquisition, preservation, and storage of food was a struggle for much of the population, but food consumption was also a means for a clerical and noble elite to display taste and ostentation. In popular culture, feasting is perceived as one of the major activities of the medieval elite. The religious significance of food and fasting in the Middle Ages was part of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish practice. Fasting and food had wide-ranging interconnections with piety and charity, and could involve renunciation of an exceptional intensity. Spiritual and physical nourishment and its absence can be explored in many disciplines from the theological, legal, and literary to the art historical and linguistic.
Areas of discussion could include:
Almsgiving – food as charity
Cookbooks and cooking practice
Dearth and famine
Drink – wine, ale, and water
Food and social class
Food in monastic and other religious communities
Food supply and population
Food supply and transport
Fresh and saltwater fish
Medical ideas of food, digestion, and humoral pathology
Medieval haute cuisine
Religious and spiritual feasting and fasting
Spices and other edible luxury trade items
Standards of living
The Special Thematic Strand ‘Food, Feast & Famine’ will be co-ordinated by Paul Freedman (Department of History, Yale University).