Geographies of Desire:
A Medieval and Early Modern Interdisciplinary Conference
University of Maryland, College Park -- April 27-28, 2012
Keynote Speaker: Valerie Traub, Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at the University of Michigan
Where do we go to get what we want? Mandeville to the kingdom of Prester John, the Littlewits to Bartholomew Fair, Antony to Alexandria, Henry VIII to the Field of the Cloth of Gold: the fulfillment of desire, or the negation of an interior lack, is frequently a plotted movement from here to there. “Geographies of Desire” seeks papers that explore how desires are mapped across spatial planes; how do spaces such as markets, shrines, bedrooms, and courts produce material, spiritual, erotic, and political desires?
Geography is produced by an invested interest in the world, such that the mapping out of one’s desires is a precondition for mapping out the world. The desire for geographies both literal and figurative results from having outgrown local, national, imperial, and earthbound spaces. And yet, satisfaction often eludes us: the geography of desire pursues a sense of completion but risks corruption in the process.
Geography assimilates space and erases conceptual difference between separate worlds within the confines of a controllable physical representation. But even as the fog lifts from the exterior world, a strange desire keeps pulling us toward things monstrous and divine. How, then, does the geography of desire upset or reinforce the economic, political, erotic, and cosmological centers of our universes? How do literature, the visual arts, travel narratives, histories, religious writings, natural philosophy, and theater imagine these geographies? How and why do we imagine ourselves into the personal, cultural, ecological, and political spaces of others?
The Graduate Field Committee of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the Department of English at the University of Maryland invite papers that explore these issues for “Geographies of Desire,” a graduate-faculty conference to be held April 27 and April 28, 2012 at the University of Maryland, College Park. This two-day interdisciplinary conference aims to foster insightful and vigorous conversation on this topic through an innovative format that includes graduate paper panels, roundtables, and plenary sessions with local scholars. Participants and attendees can look forward to a seminar led by Ricardo Padrón (University of Virginia), a digital humanities panel with Martin Foys (Drew University), Elizabeth Rodini (Johns Hopkins University), and Ben Tilghman (George Washington University), and plenary sessions with Theresa Coletti (University of Maryland), Katherine Jansen (Catholic University of America), Frances Gage (Buffalo State College), and Ralph Bauer (University of Maryland), with more panelists to be announced.
In addition to traditional papers, we are soliciting proposals for workshops related to the conference theme. Digital Humanities workshops centered on new research tools, pedagogy tools, or digital archives are especially welcome.
We expect this theme to be interpreted broadly, but invite participants to consider some of the following approaches:
Exclusionary geography: Anchorites, xenophobes, isolationists, land enclosure
Desire in Transit: pilgrimages, war and territorial expansion, diplomacy, colonization, tourism, travel literature, captivity narratives, slave narratives
Shipwrecked Desires: lost coasts, desert islands, Hellesponts and Maelstroms, Mermaids and Sirens
Are You Going to Scarborough Fair?: local economies, fair circuits, foodsheds and market villages, new views on Von Thünen
Scientific Desire for Geography: telescopes, cartography, geohumoralism, new technologies, cosmography, describing nature—natural philosophy v. poetry, properties
Great Reckonings in Little Rooms: domestic economies, decoration of interior spaces, mapping the home
Long is the way / And hard, that out of hell: religious desires, missions, conversion, priest holes and monuments, spreading reform, spreading heresy, redemption
Art and design: cartography (veracity v. subjectivity), mapping the canvas, perspective, architecture, urban planning
Romantic and Erotic desires: exogamy, queer spaces, gendered spaces, courtly love, private / public, forests and cityscapes: green worlds and grey worlds
Abstracts of 400-500 words for workshops or 20-minute papers related to the conference theme should be emailed to (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than January 31, 2012.