Medieval Laws and Lawlessness: Modern Reception (The Forty-Fourth Annual Sewanee Medieval Colloquium, April 13-14, 2018, The University of the South, Sewanee, TN)
Organizer: International Society for the Study of Medievalism (Usha Vishnuvajjala, American University (firstname.lastname@example.org))
Medieval English laws continue to exert a strong influence on legal culture in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the entire Anglo-American world today. For example, in the recent Supreme Court case Wrenn vs. District of Columbia, the District’s argument drew on the 1328 Statute of Northampton and the way it was interpreted in the seventeenth century. Similarly, in 2012, three originalist New Hampshire legislators proposed that all legislation in the state addressing individual rights and liberties be based upon direct reference to the 1215 Magna Carta. And in 2015, there was a serious effort to establish a new law against “high treason” on the 1351 Treason Act established during the reign of Edward III.
At the same time, and somewhat paradoxically, public perception that the Middle Ages were a violent and lawless time persists, as evidenced by the frequent descriptions of terrorist groups and other violent non-state actors as “medieval,” something medieval scholar Eric Weiskott has documented on twitter (@ericweiskott). The supposed lawlessness of the Middle Ages is often used to excuse the violence, especially the violence against women, in media perceived as medievalist, such as Game of Thrones.
This panel seeks papers that engage with some aspect of the continuity or discontinuity between medieval laws and modern reception of those laws. In addition, it encourages case studies from other countries in which positive reference to medieval law is extremely rare (France, Italy, Germany, for example). Speakers may examine the uses or eschewal of medieval laws in post-medieval societies, or consider popular perceptions of medieval legal systems, or the lack thereof, in post-medieval culture.
Comment: Richard Utz, Georgia Institute of Technology
Please submit an abstract (approx. 250 words) and brief c.v., via the colloquium website (http://medievalcolloquium.sewanee.edu), no later than 26 October 2017. Completed papers, including notes, will be due no later than 13 March 2018.