conference 2022

The 2022 New England Medieval Consortium conference will meet on 8 October 2022 at Colby College (Waterville, ME). We are cautiously planning for an in-person event.

Medieval Ecologies

This conference will provide an opportunity for medievalists working across a range of disciplines and geographic areas to join in conversation about premodern ecologies and their literary historical representations, as well as their material and cultural entanglements. We interpret “ecologies” broadly as interaction and interrelation within and between human, animal, and material worlds. Accordingly, we invite papers that may ask such questions as: How can the textual and material evidence of the past inform our understanding of human interactions with the natural world, including anthropogenic impacts, practices of care, cultivation, environmental remediation, and the longue durée of environmental change? How can ecocritical approaches enrich our understanding of the Middle Ages? What do the philosophical and theoretical perspectives of premodern thinkers offer to the environmental humanities? How might medieval ways of knowing the world shape understandings of contemporary environmental crises? Might premodern epistemologies and ontologies disrupt contemporary understandings of biodiversity, practices of care, and our interconnectedness to animal, vegetal, and fungal critters?

Our keynote speaker is Jeffrey J. Cohen, Dean of Humanities at Arizona State University and former co-president of the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment. Dr. Cohen’s pathfinding scholarship includes Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman, which received the 2017 René Wellek Prize from the American Comparative Literature Association; Earth, authored with Lindy Elkins-Tanton; and The Cambridge Companion to Environmental Humanities, edited with Stephanie Foote. With Julian Yates he is currently writing Noah’s Arkive: Towards an Ecology of Refuge, a project that questions the story of Noah’s ark as a master myth for understanding and intervening in climate change.


We regret that remote participation will not be possible. To register, please click here. While there is no charge for registration, we do ask that all attendees register in advance before October 3.

Location and transport

Colby College is located in Waterville, ME, and is easily accessible by car, plane, or bus. To learn more about the campus and its environs, see this page.

Our conference will take place at the Schair-Swenson-Watson Alumni Center. Visitor parking is available immediately behind the building, and in other lots nearby. See the campus map.


There are a number of hotels in and around Waterville. Note that fall in central Maine is a popular destination and that rates may be higher and availability may be lower than at other times of the year. For a non-exhaustive list of local options, please see this page.


Breakfast and lunch will be provided for registered participants, along with an afternoon reception. Attendees who plan on staying in the area for dinner may want to consult the list of local restaurants maintained by the college.


If you have questions, please contact organizers Megan Cook and Anita Savo. We look forward to you joining us!


The Medieval Academy of America
Center for Arts and Humanities, Colby College
Office of the Provost, Colby College
Department of English, Colby College
Department of Environmental Studies, Colby College
Department of History, Colby College
Department of Spanish, Colby College


8:30-9:30am registration


9:15-10:45am session 1: Elements

  • Sarah Harlan-Haughey (University of Maine), “Catching Fire: Lawman’s Arthur”
  • Max Wade (Boston College), “Relation and Resemblance: Gersonides and Crescas on the Sun’s Heating of the Air” 
  • Andrew Richmond (Southern Connecticut State University), “Beach Read(ing)s: Navigating Seaside Environments via Romance Models in Sir Eglamour of Artois and Torrent of Portyngale” 
  • Nancy Thebaut (Skidmore College), “Ideologies of Plumbing: The Canterbury Waterworks Drawings”


11:00am-12:30pm session 2: Human and Nonhuman Agencies

  • Benjamin Tilghman (Washington College), “Sanctified Stillness in a Dynamic World”
  • Joseph Taylor (University of Alabama at Huntsville), “‘Roynyshe were þe resones’: St. Erkenwald and the Politics of Ruins”
  • Mikaela LaFave (University of Georgia), “Between Life and Death: Graveyards, Decay and Lydgate’s Danse Macabre”
  • J. Alden (Boston College), “On the Inner Worlds, Agency, and Ecologies of Bulls and Fairies”


1:30-3:00pm session 3: Fauna

  • Myra Wright (Bates College), “As the Crow Sings: Corvid Voice in the Domestic Sphere of the ‘Manciple’s Tale’”
  • John Kee (Harvard University), “Snakes in Medieval Greek Aesthetics: Toward a Conceptual Ecology”
  • Áine Palmer (Yale University), “Human Voices, Animal Eyes, Divine Ears: Understanding the Experience of Medieval Devotion through a Thirteenth-Century Lyric”
  • Eric Weiskott (Boston College), “Recognizing Nature, Recognizing the Human: Literary Disguise and Social Meaning in William of Palerne (1336–1361)”


3:15-4:45pm session 4: Flora

  • Sarah Breckenridge-Wright (Duquesne University), “‘The rain of passing time’: Arboreal Identities in Sei Shonagon’s Makura no Sōshi
  • Patrick Meehan (Dartmouth College), “When the Tilting Tree Fell: Negotiating Boundaries in a Late Medieval Settler Society”
  • Cat Brassell-Mills (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign), “Forests, Fields, Wastelands, and Climate Change in the Tale of Gamelyn


5:00-6:15pm keynote

  • Jeffrey J. Cohen (Arizona State University), “Beginning to Begin Again”

[Dr. Cohen’s keynote address deals with the sorting and preserving that must be done in the face of catastrophe, using medieval Noah’s ark stories as the archive.]


The 2023 New England Medieval Consortium conference will meet on 25 March 2023 at The College of the Holy Cross (Worcester, MA).


According to NEMC’s regional rotation, the 2024 conference will meet at an institution in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island.