Strand Definitions: Language and Literature - Middle English

Middle English studies (covering, chronologically, language and literature from the immediate post-Conquest to the late-medieval period) are increasingly wide-ranging. Increasingly there is a heightened consciousness of the linguistic situation in the British Isles, where Latin, English, Anglo-Norman, Anglo-French, continental French, and Celtic co-exist and variously inter-relate, on the historical specificity of textual production, and on the means of its dissemination and a focus on how this needs to be taken into account in any assessment of the impact of writing in Middle English. These include Middle English's function in relation to society (as entertainment, polemic, religious instruction, philosophical tool. . .), its status and its audiences, and its claims to authoritativeness. Recent research has focused on how Middle English as a vernacular 'authorizes' itself, in relation to other languages, and as a medium for the transmission of technical (for example, medical) and religious and philosophical ideas.

These emphases bring a new urgency to questions about translation and authorization, gender and culture, power relations, the relations between clerical and lay devotional and religious writings, and discourses of the self, as well as to investigations of the use of English in scientific and other specialist registers. A renewed awareness of Middle English's place in a highly complex literary and linguistic cultural dynamic also forces a reconsideration of the cultural placing of 'canonical' authors, as well as of lesser-known texts.

The Leeds International Medieval Congress attracts contributors with a wide diversity of critical approaches and disciplinary skills, especially in the area of material culture, and their expertise offers Middle English language and literature specialists some exciting opportunities to exchange ideas productively and to view their own work from innovative perspectives. We would especially welcome submissions from historical linguists, and from those working on the inter-relation of Middle English language and literature, and from those who would like to use the congress as a space to experiment with and discuss new research, with other language and literature scholars and with specialists from other disciplines alike.