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8 sept. 2015, Kalamazoo (USA) : Writers as Builders. Alcuinus and the Carolingian Monumental Poetry – Medieval Ekphrasis, between East and West, Antiquity and Modernity

The sessions would like to explore the formal connections between the poetic production of medieval writers and the works of art they describe, evoke or invent in these texts.

The academic separations of visual studies from the textual ones have been erasing for many years the relationship existing between the two kinds of com-position. From the 5th to the end of the 12th century, from Paulinus of Nola to Baudri of Bourgueil, a rich corpus of these texts has been composed by some of the most prestigious writers of their time and stages some of the richest works of art from medieval Europe : the wall paintings in St Gall abbey and Mainz cathedral, the Bayeux tapestry, the stained glasses in St Denis basilica…

They often use epigraphic forms whether they were supposed to be inscribed in the churches or on the artifacts or not ; they display the formal features of the Latin titulus, with dense and elliptical verse constructions and a vivid and visual vocabulary. If the form, topic, and length of the poems are different from one author to another, their use of common rhetorical displays and their constant attention to the sensorial and aesthetic values of the objects and images they describe, or evoke, establish this production as a true “literary genre” in which the poet acts as if he also was an architect, a painter, a sculptor… This production draws from the Antique and Late Antique tradition of ekphrasis and periegesis, but it has been inventing and creating its own literary tools and images to make the reader of the poem be a spectator of the work of art described in the verses.

The sessions would like to explore two different aspects of this corpus, focusing on :

1) in the Carolingian period, because of the scale and influence of the poetical production by Alcuinus, Rabanus Mauro, Micon of St Riquier, Walafrid Strabo ;

2) in the common features of this production throughout the Middle Ages from East to West, and in the way they can reveal a “medieval originality” in the practice of ekphrasis.

Because the poets and their texts have been blurring the distinction between what is written and what is built or painted, these sessions equally invite philologists, art historians, historians, epigraphers, in order to focus on the medieval creativity wherever it appears.
Submission guidelines

Proposals and abstracts must be sent before September 8th, 2015 at Vincent Debiais, Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale (Poitiers, France) : vincent.debiais chez

This international congress on Medieval Studies will take place at Kalamazoo (USA) – May 12-15, 2016

Selection Committee

Francesca Dell’Aqua, professeur, Université de Salerne – Marie Curie Research fellow, Université de Birmingham.
Vincent Debiais, chargé de recherche, Centre d’études supérieures de civilisation médiévale, Poitiers.