Recent Opportunities


CFP: Sessions at ICMS 2017 (Kalamazoo, 11-14 May 17)

Urban Planning:
Buildings, Planning, and Networks of Medieval Cities  
AVISTA sponsored sessions

Broadly defined, urban planning is today a process one might describe 
as half design and half social engineering.  One engaged in this 
process considers not only the aesthetic and visual product, but also 
the economic, political, and social implications, not to mention the 
underlying or over-arching environmental impact of any given plan.
While it appears that this sort of broad, multifaceted planning did not 
take place in the middle ages because we do not have left to us the 
tangible evidence—the maps, the drawings, the reports, recent 
scholarship employing the methodological lens of Cultural Geography 
seems to suggest otherwise.  Monastic historians, archaeologists, and 
art historians have long demonstrated, based on the famous plan of St. 
Gall, that monasteries, particularly those of the Cistercian order, 
were very much concerned with planning in the rural sense. From the 
intricacies of the water infrastructure, to the ordered logic of the 
space, to the esoteric qualities of metaphysical light, to the seasonal 
inter-dependence of pigs and pollarded oak trees, there is ample 
evidence to support a claim that the various components of an “urban 
plan” were understood within the monastic realm during the Middle Ages.

But what of the integration of these various parts? This session seeks 
to explore and expand our comprehension of how those in roles of 
authority—both within the monastic confines and the more secular 
enivorns—saw the big picture.  Was there a plan or a planning process?  
What can we say by way of an analysis of architectural complexes beyond 
the monastic enclosure about this planning process?  Are there hints in 
literary sources that indicate sensitivity to the correlation between 
climate, architectural orientation and positive social interaction, or 
indications in religious documents to illustrate a planned confluence 
between visual or aural stimulation, water features and physical 
well-being?  In the broader context of the secular built environment, 
where historians frequently demonstrate the economic and political 
interaction between monastic leadership and the local or regional 
authorities, can we detect a specific replication or modeling of the 
integrated concern with materials and aesthetics seen in the monastic 
complex?  Similarly, where philosophic and religious scholars highlight 
the mirrored nature of heaven and earth in medieval texts, can we find 
evidence of this theoretical “ordering” being planned or integrated 
into the secular world in the same way we can see it in the monastic 
enclosure?   What can we learn by bringing together the views of the 
architect, the archaeologist of infrastructure, and the environmental 
biologist with those scholars of literature, sculptural ornamentation 
and liturgy?  With these questions in mind, we seek papers from the 
broadest interdisciplinary point of view, where we can identify 
glimpses of a plan or, in the modern sense of the term, a planner.

In the Middle Ages European and eastern Mediterranean/western Asian 
cities developed from myriad situations, their cityscapes exhibiting a 
variety of types, as Wolfgang Braunfels outlined in Abendländische 
Stadtbaukunst: Herrschaftsform und Baugestalt (1976; English version, 
Urban Design in Western Europe: Regime and Architecture, 900-1900, 
1988). While much scholarship still focuses on archaeology and 
individual sites, since Braunfels's publication research with a greater 
breadth of perspectives is being tackled. This examines not only the 
role of ecclesiastical architecture within civic society, but also on 
secular building, the functions of which always interacted with 
religious values of medieval culture. The proposed session invites 
papers showing innovative research and discussing specific examples or 
topics understood within a broad framework, on such issues as the forms 
that medieval cities and buildings took and why, what infrastructure 
was necessary to facilitate cultural growth, what pre-existing 
buildings and spolia conveyed to the social network of urban 
development, and why, as well as how, people moved about and operated 
within urban contexts (including the ex-urban and rural Hinterland). 
Within an urban setting—whether Christian, Jewish, Islamic, or some 
combination thereof—structures that might be investigated include city 
halls and courts, market halls, shops, merchants' hostelries (fondaci), 
entertainment venues, hospitals, prisons, etc., as well as 
infrastructure such as bridges, roads, and hydraulic elements, and 
natural features such as topography, geological phenomena, and 
environmental impacts, which might question how the rural was 
integrated and/or maintained as attributes of the urban.

Papers that view specific constructions as part of the whole social 
fabric are welcome, as are those that consider how political, 
geographical, economic, and social issues affected the built 
environment, or conversely were affected by it, during this period when 
a public sphere was emerging for the first time since the Roman Empire. 
Send abstracts of 300 words to:
Mickey Abel

Deadline: September 15, 2017
The Material, Visual, and Cultural Life of Scholasticism

Organizer: Martin Schwarz, University of Chicago
Chair and Respondent: Alex Novikoff, Fordham University

This panel explores the cultural dimensions of Scholasticism, a topic 
of study that has been largely confined to the realm of intellectual 
history and the history of ideas. The term principally denotes the 
profound revolution of knowledge and learning that swept across Europe 
during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, most notably through the 
reception of Greco-Arabic learning, the development of new intellectual 
methods and pedagogical practices, and the institutional formation of 
higher education in universities. Broadly speaking, standard narratives 
have traditionally cast Scholasticism as a purely intellectual and 
therefore immaterial discourse dissociated from its immediate material 
and cultural surroundings. More recently, however, scholars have begun 
to question the disciplinary isolation of the study of Scholasticism, 
challenging its reach from a variety of angles. In investigating, for 
instance, Scholasticism’s dimension of sound and its relationship to 
polyphonic music, the performative character of scholastic 
disputations, its physical and aesthetic presence and expression in 
urban space and architecture, or its dependence on literary forms and 
visual representation, this new approach has in many respects sharpened 
our perception of the co-dependence between intellectual and material 
worlds—and has, consequently, demonstrated the need for an expanded, 
integrative account that reckons both with the Scholasticism’s cultural 
life and its centrality to the scholastic production of knowledge. 
Accordingly, this panel invites contributions that address the 
material, visual, spatial, and sonic dimensions and qualities of 
Scholasticism from the twelfth to the fourteenth century. We aim to 
bring together scholars from different backgrounds such as Art History, 
Material and Visual Culture, Theatre Studies, Sound Studies, Urban 
Studies, Musicology, and Literature to open new lines of inquiry and 
reflect upon the disciplinary and methodological complexities of their 

This panel will feature 15–20min papers. Please submit a 150-word 
abstract with your paper title and a short CV by Sept 9, 2016 to Martin 
Schwarz ( and Alex Novikoff 
SAH 2018 St Paul Conference

SAH thanks The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Fund at The Chicago Community Foundation for its operating support.
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