Interiority and Topographies of Self from Late Antiquity to the Middle Ages

50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo MI, May 14-17 2015

How can we locate and interpret the constituent elements of a premodern self, and what are the processes by which articulations of the self were asserted? Scholars of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages have recently highlighted the importance of studying the interior worlds, emotions, and experiences of individuals and intellectual communities. While we once heard of an “age of anxiety” (E.R. Dodds), increasingly we hear of the “invention of the inner self” (Phillip Cary), “inwardness and selfhood” (Pauliina Remes), “varieties of selves” (Richard Sorabji), “consciousness and introspection” (Suzanne Stern-Gillet), the “corporeal imagination” (Patricia Cox Miller), and “inward turns” (Peter Brown, Kerem Eksen). This panel aims to assemble and place into dialogue interdisciplinary studies on the premodern self by inquiring into the constitution of selfhood, individual experience, identity, emotion, memory, and nostalgia. How are interior worlds represented in our sources? What is the relationship between self-reflection and physical and imaginary spaces? How do strategies of self-representation change over time and space? Most frustratingly, did non-elites have “selves” or did they take their selves for granted?

A focus on interiority invites exploration of the role of memory, mobility, and space on the constitution of self. A topography of self suggests that, like memory, assertions of the self could be embedded in the built environment through procession, pilgrimage, patronage, and inscription. This panel therefore invites studies of literary, documentary, and material culture that elucidate premodern interiors, anthropologies, or maps of the self.

Please send paper titles, one-page abstracts, and a completed participant information form for 15-minute papers to Jason Moralee ( by September 15, 2014. This panel is sponsored by the Five College Medieval Seminar. Participant information form:

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