Friday, July 20, 2012

Communis at Kalamazoo, 2013: Call for Papers

Defining the Boundaries of Religious Communities
Session at the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI: May 9–12, 2013

Communis is organizing two panels on the theme of “Defining the Boundaries of Religious Communities” for next year’s ICMS at Kalamazoo, and welcomes proposals for papers that articulate new ways of framing the study of religious communities during the Central and Later Middle Ages.

Instead of assuming that the distinctions between different modes of religious life were always clear-cut to medieval people, papers should focus on exploring the complexities of defining the boundaries that differentiated various forms of religious life, for example between

  • religious and “non-religious” communities
  • clerical and lay forms of religious community
  • “regular” communities from communities comprised of “secular” clergy
  • monastic and canonical communities
  • monastic and mendicant communities
  • “Observant” and “non-Observant” communities
  • male and female forms of religious community
  • single-sexed and mixed-gender religious communities
  • different levels of membership or participation within a religious community
  • shifts in a religious community’s self-identity over time

These sessions seek to open up new research possibilities by “de-constructing” the categories through which modern scholars have traditionally approached the study of medieval religious life, categories which scholars have perhaps too readily assumed were clearly demarcated for medieval people.

Submissions are welcome on both Christian and non-Christian religious communities in medieval Europe, western or eastern. We also invite proposals for papers that focus on religious communities in other cultural regions during the “medieval” period, whether Byzantine, Islamic, East Asian, South Asian, etc. Our intent here is to provide a comparative perspective to enrich discussion of the methodological and philosophical issues raised by the problem of defining religious communities, including to query the actual boundaries and distinctiveness of Latin Christendom as a category of analysis.

Please send paper proposals consisting of a one-page abstract and a complete ICMS Participation Information Form ( by September 15 to the Communis organizers at monasticstudies at gmail dot com

For further information, you may also contact the coordinator for the sessions, Scott Wells, at swells2 at calstatela dot edu

Communis at Leeds, 2013: Call for Papers

Holy R&R: Rest, Recreation, and Retreat within the Religious Orders

John Cassian famously declared that, like a hunter’s bow, the hermit must not remain taut: just as a bow must be unstrung to retain its flexibility, so must the holy man relax at times to retain his spiritual suppleness. Benedict had structured leisure time into daily life in his Rule, and periods of recreation and ludi were allowed in the constitutions and traditions of every order. However, recreation could also be abused, licit leisure transformed into acadia and idleness; this problem was compounded by scholastic debates over the moral problems of leisure activities. (When was play a virtue? When a vice?) Institutional attempts to regulate recreation similarly reveal a tension between strict interpretations of the orders' rules and more permissive attitudes toward food, conversation, enclosure, and even vacation time.

In keeping with the IMC 2013 theme of “Pleasure,” Communis: The Consortium for Medieval Monastic Studies seeks to organize a session on recreation in professional religious life. To that end, we solicit proposals on any aspect of rest, leisure, and recreational activities within the religious orders. Possible topics might include

  • Licit and/or illicit pastimes within or across the orders
  • Daily leisure and/or "special occasion" festivities (e.g., festivals, dramas, musical performance, royal visits)
  • Extended retreats at granges or hermitages
  • The carnivalesque in religious recreation
  • The relationship between lay pastimes and those of the religious orders
  • The use of space (e.g., cell, cloister, garden, countryside) in restorative activities
  • The gendering of leisure activities and/or differing regulations for nuns vs monks, canons, and mendicants
  • Literary representations of monastic or mendicant leisure
  • The perceived benefits to health, emotional well-being, and/or communal harmony of regular recreation

Seeking to broaden the study of medieval religious life by placing scholarship on different orders, regions, and eras in dialogue, we are particularly interested in projects that cross traditional scholarly boundaries or that invite comparison among the orders.

Please submit 100 word abstracts, by 10 September 2012, for 20 minute papers (via email, as Microsoft Word or PDF documents) to Cynthia Turner Camp, Assistant Professor of English, University of Georgia (ctcamp at uga dot edu).

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Communis at Kalamazoo, May 2012

Communis is sponsoring two sessions at the 47th International Congress on Medieval Studies, to be held on the campus of Western Michigan University from May 10 to 13, 2012.

Foundations, Re-foundations, and Failed Foundations: The Challenges of Establishing a Monastic Community
Presider: Alison Locke Perchuck (Occidental College)

John B. Wickstrom (Kalamazoo College), "The Many Lives of a Monastic Cult Center: The Abbey of Glanfeuil from A.D. 830 to 1130"

Kathryn L. Jasper (University of California, Berkeley), "A Reforming Network: Peter Damian and the Congregation of Fonte Avellana, 1043-1072"

Michelle Herder (Cornell College), "The Troubles of Vilanera: A Failed Monastic Foundation in the 14th Century"

Nina Chichinadze (Ilia State University, Tbilisi, Georgia), "The Miracle-Working Icon of the Transfiguration from Zarzma: Monastic Dimensions"

Competing Visions of the Religious Life in the Later Middle Ages
Presider: James D. Mixson (University of Alabama)

Damian Zurro (University of Notre Dame), "By Their Boots You Shall Know Them: The Lay Brother Revolt at Schönau and the Problem of Monastic Unity"

Sherri Franks Johnson (University of California, Riverside), "Alms to Mendicant and Monastic Houses in the Statutes of Medieval Bologna"

Michelle Garceau (College of Charleston; visiting scholar, University of Washington), "A Case of Competition? The Cults of Bernat Calbó (d. 1243, bishop of Vic) and Ramon de Penyafort, OP (d. 1275)"

Cynthia Turner Camp (University of Georgia), "Augustine the Hermit or Augustine the Canon? The Fraternal Hagiography of Osbern Bokenham"

For further information, please contact Communis at monasticstudies(at)

If you are attending the Congress, you are also invited to attend the Communis business meeting on Thursday, May 10 at 5:15 p.m. (room location TBA).


Welcome to Communis, a forum for discussion, collaboration, and networking among all who research aspects of medieval monasticism and the regular life, whether in Western or Eastern Christianities, or in non-Christian traditions. Interested scholars and students from all disciplines are welcome.

Communis was innaugurated at the 45th International Congress on Medieval Studies (Kalamazoo). The co-founders and current co-ordinators of Communis are Scott Wells (California State University, Los Angeles) and Katherine Allen Smith (University of Puget Sound).

For further information, contact Communis at