Existing scholarship on madness in medieval (mostly English) literature is dedicated predominantly to typological schematization or to clinical descriptions of medieval madness, either in terms of medieval theories of insanity or from a more modern, often Lacanian, perspective. More properly literary accounts, notably Sylvia Huot’s excellent Madness in Medieval French Literature (2003), tend to privilege the ways in which madness constructs, deconstructs, and problematizes individual and collective identities and their articulation with each other. Without excluding these issues, this panel seeks to build on such readings by paying closer attention to the function of madness–or madnesses, for they are strikingly heterogeneous–as a narrative device, or, better, as a mechanism for creating and managing avenues of narrative and discursive possibility in all domains of Old French and Provençal fiction and lyric poetry.
Of particular interest is the connection between insanity as gender trouble (a much-emphasized dimension of medieval literary madness) and insanity as genre trouble. Does the “liminal” state marked by madness permit, while also perhaps concealing and legitimating, textual forays into the ambiguous borderlands where generic conventions and possibilities mingle and interact with generative results’ Does the madman’s or madwoman’s discursive and embodied performance enable passages, either temporary or permanent, between overdetermined systems of representation and ethical evaluation, that is, between various ways of reading and being read’ How do characters, readers, and texts register and respond to such mad play« Pushing this line of inquiry to its limits, can madness be a formal or ontological as well as a psychological phenomenon’ Might texts themselves be read as “mad”, or, like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, “mad in craft” »
Please send abstracts of approx. 250 words to Lucas Wood (email@example.com) as soon as possible. Official deadline is Sept. 15, but participation in the session is limited.