Title Background

IPPS Meeting 2018: Kalamazoo


The IPPS is sponsoring or co-sponsoring five sessions at Kalamazoo 2018. Bring on your proposals! Please contact the organizers directly with questions and proposals; contact information is in the official WMU cfp . And please share widely!

Twenty-First Century Piers: Reading Piers Plowman with Contemporary Theory (A Roundtable)

Organizers: Justin Barker, Dana Roders, and Ingrid Pierce

Recently, Piers Plowman scholars have begun to explore the merit of studying the poem with contemporary theory, with increasing interest over the past few years in how certain theoretical approaches can enrich our reading of the poem. Building on this burgeoning interest in merging Piers Plowman studies and theory, our roundtable session invites panelists to present short papers on theory-driven methods for reading Piers. Presentations might apply particular theoretical perspectives to the poem, consider how specific passages or aspects of Piers lend themselves to theoretical work, discuss the potential for blending newer theories (for example, new materialism, object-oriented ontology, affect studies) with more traditional approaches, or reflect more broadly on the benefits and challenges of using critical theory to read Piers.

Teaching Piers Plowman: Bringing Langland into the Classroom (A Paper Panel)

Organizer: Noelle Phillips

Recent work by noted Piers Plowman scholars has focused on making Piers Plowman, a poem often seen as intimidating and challenging, accessible to undergraduate students. This poem addresses questions of social justice, labour, gender, and how to live a good life – issues that resonate with a wide range of students – and yet it is rarely taught at the undergraduate level. This panel invites submissions that consider how we can develop useful and exciting pedagogical strategies for introducing Piers Plowman to our students. Papers might address solutions for the stigmas that are still attached to Piers Plowman in scholarly circles, consider ways in which the poem can be taught in excerpted form, or offer unique and/or experimental strategies for engaging students in its complexities.

The following two panels were developed in acknowledgement of Anne Middleton’s recent passing and recognition of the significance she has had in the field of Piers Plowman studies.

In Memory of Anne Middleton I: Life the Margins (A Paper Panel)

Organizer: Katharine Breen

This panel invites submissions concerned with the relationship between literature and commentary. It thus welcomes papers examining the commentary tradition within medieval literature, including Langland’s Piers Plowman (characterized by Middleton’s teacher, Morton Bloomfield, as “a commentary on an unknown text”) and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (characterized by Middleton as “a commentary on an unacknowledged text”). But it is also concerned with the affordances of commentary as a modern literary critical genre, exemplified by the ongoing Penn Commentary on “Piers Plowman,” the third volume of which Middleton had nearly completed at the time of her death.

In Memory of Anne Middleton II: The Idea of Public Poetry (A Roundtable)

Organizer: Katharine Breen

This roundtable draws its inspiration from one of Middleton’s foundational articles. It will provide an opportunity for a wider range of assessments of Middleton’s influence on medieval literary studies, including her conception of the role of vernacular poetry in public life, her understanding of the complex and often contingent nature of authorship and authority, and, most recently, her appreciation of the importance of gossip.

Social Justice in the Piers Plowman Tradition (cosponsored with The Lollard Society)

Organizers: Elizaveta Strakhov and Michael Calabrese

“Social Justice” is generally understood as the quest for empowerment, equality, and equity in all matters of civics, law, and labor, and extending as well to nature and the environment. Many universities are focusing their curricula on 21st century themes of social justice due to the rising demand placed on academia to help make sense of the rapid pace of social change in the modern world. Following on recent Kalamazoo panels, of the last three years in particular, that have looked to medieval literature as a site to explore issues of contemporary urgency such as rape culture, misogyny, and ableism, this panel investigates how the great 14th-century poem Piers Plowman both treats issues of social justice in its own time and invites, in pedagogy, dynamic engagement with issues relevant to today’ world. One particular site inviting such engagement between the medieval and the modern is labor. Piers Plowman asks questions about sustainability, gainful employment, disability as it relates to labor and access, the role of institutions (e.g., governmental or ecclesiastical) and charity as it pertains to work, the integrity of labor, and a host of other issues. The session also welcomes broader constructions of Langland and social justice issues that mediate the medieval and the modern, such as: the rhetorics of patient poverty; the visibility of disability, reimagining class distinctions; the ethics of animal-human labor; and the ongoing relation between humankind and the natural world.