Call for Papers: International Medieval Congress 2025 – ‘Worlds of Learning’

The IMC provides an interdisciplinary forum for the discussion of all aspects of Medieval Studies. Proposals on any topic related to the Middle Ages are welcome, while every year the IMC also chooses a special thematic focus. In 2025 this is ‘Worlds of Learning‘.

Histories of learning have transformed fundamentally over the last generation: older research mainly investigated educational institutions or specific intellectual traditions, typically privileging forms of learning which could be connected to modern Western institutions and disciplines. More recent scholarship takes a broader approach, historicising the production and circulation of different forms of knowledge, including many non-Western cultural traditions, as well as practical knowledge, oral traditions, and types of technical or artisanal expertise not represented in the modern canon. As a result, new interdisciplinary research fields have broadened the thematic and geographical scopes of investigation and developed new comparative frameworks.

Perhaps most importantly, different cultural traditions and historiographies of learning across the globe are increasingly discussed in relation to each other or on the basis of interdisciplinary exchange on methodologies. The increasingly global scope of academic exchange enables us to think more productively towards connected histories of learning, whether global or regional in scope, and including non-elite and non-traditional forms of learning.

Processes of learning and resulting written traditions have also been re-situated in their social and material contexts, deepening our understanding of the cultural embeddedness of knowledge. Various recent approaches question the meaning of institutional descriptors like ‘schools’ and challenge the dividing lines between ‘scholarly’/’expert’ or ‘elite’ and ‘popular’ cultures. Frameworks discussing ‘communities of learning’, ‘communities of interpretation’, or ‘communities of practice’ highlight the role of exchange and conflict between different communities and social strata in the production of knowledge. They also allow for a much broader integration of different forms of practice, performance, and oral communication into the study of intellectual production.

On a methodological plane, our understanding of the use, distribution, and long-term differentiation of specific bodies of knowledge profits greatly from a greater appreciation of their mediality and materiality, with new approaches to genre, communicative uses, and the circulation of manuscripts and printed books, but also to a variety of images, objects, and (architectural) landscapes. A growing toolkit of digital approaches has proved to be both a boon and a challenge, as the gathering, analysis, and visualisation of relevant data promises innovative new insights, but also raises questions about standardisation and access to costly infrastructures.

Against this background, IMC 2025 invites a plurality of viewpoints investigating the manifold social, intellectual, and geographical ‘worlds of learning’ shaping pre-modern societies. Seeking to stabilise the trend of the previous years, the strand particularly encourages sessions focusing on non-European worlds of learning. It also invites sessions which address the challenges inherent in the highly diverse disciplinary landscape and the asymmetries shaping extant historiographies of learning, which come from both different global regions and separate disciplines with different emphases.

Themes to be addressed may include, but are not limited to:

  • Ideals, practices, and rituals of teaching and learning
  • Gendered ideals of learning and gender in learning
  • Pedagogical techniques for different age groups
  • Technical and artisanal knowledge
  • Oral transmission, practice, and performance in learning processes
  • Medieval epistemologies and systematisations of knowledge
  • Religious conceptualisations and interpretations of learning
  • Forms of learning and/about the self
  • Languages and their role in the acquisition of learning
  • Representations of learning in literature and art
  • Learning materials, including instructional objects, texts, images, and diagrams
  • Schools and universities and their local and regional networks
  • Financial and political networks supporting communities of learning
  • Lieux de savoir and locales of learning, including (permanent or situational) material and spatial arrangements
  • Printing and publishing learned materials
  • Distribution and circulation of knowledge traditions
  • (Digitally) Mapping intellectual networks
  • Cross-cultural and inter-religious learning
  • Cultural transfer and cultural appropriation
  • Different national and confessional/religious historiographies of learning, their continuing impact, and their problems

The IMC welcomes session and paper proposals submitted in all major languages.

The Special Thematic Strand ‘Worlds of Learning’ will be co-ordinated by Sita Steckel (Historisches Seminar, Goethe-Universität Frankfurt).

Key Dates

Paper Proposal Deadline: Saturday 31 August 2024
Session Proposal Deadline: Monday 30 September 2024
Notification of Acceptance: November 2024
IMC 2025: 07-10 July 2025