Strand Definitions: Language and Literature - Comparative

To those new to medieval studies, it is often a surprise how medieval literatures are international. To study them requires interdisciplinary skills and knowledge of one body of literature often informs knowledge of another. While much 'single discipline' medieval literature study is, of course, already comparative in a broad sense, this strand exists specifically as a forum within which to discuss how cultures and their narratives speak to one another across linguistic, political, chronological, and institutional demarcations and boundaries.

Current research in this area is particularly conscious of how the process of comparative study – 'literary', but also interdisciplinary – can illuminate both the subject of the investigation and foreground the very methodology of the inquiry. There is a lively interest in, for example, the close analysis of literary genres across languages and countries; the historical conditions for the production of literature; the nature and effects of translation, and the relation of translation studies to questions of orality and literacy; the constitution of different audiences for literature; investigations that draw on what modern sensibilities categorise as different disciplinary approaches, such as how literature reflects and refracts philosophical ideas; the interrelation of literature with other arts; literary encounters between different philosophies and religions in the Middle Ages; post-medieval re-workings of medieval texts.

In any given year, in addition to comparative literature sessions that address the conference theme specifically, sessions in this strand seek to investigate the interface between classical and vernacular languages; the mapping of a particular genre or theme across cultures; the transformations of texts in their retelling; what literature reveals about cultural attitudes; how literature illuminates historical events.

This strand will continue to provide a testing-ground for new ideas, and a forum for their exchange and development. The strand welcomes especially proposals for papers, sessions, and roundtables that address current comparative approaches to languages and literatures.