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Medieval Association of the Midwest
Iowa Memorial Union
Iowa City, IA
September 16 and 17, 2010

Keynote Speakers

Carolyn Dinshaw

Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and of English at New York University, Carolyn Dinshaw is one of the foremost voices in medieval feminist and queer literary studies. Her 1989 book Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics (U of Wisconsin P) was awarded the John Nicholas Brown prize by the Medieval Academy for its epoch-defining reading of Chaucer, while her 1999 book Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (Duke UP), has helped define queer theory’s engagement with the past and is one of the most talked-about works in the field, subject of an essay cluster in Journal of the History of Sexuality and point of departure for much recent postmodern engagement with medieval studies.  Dinshaw is inspirational for graduate students and scholars alike.  Her current project, entitled How Soon Is Now? Problems of the Present, Medieval and Modern, investigates the nature of time itself, as it is represented in medieval works and as it is experienced by readers of those works. 

John D. Niles

The Frederic G. Cassidy Professor of Humanities at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, John D. Niles is a leading scholar of oral literature, folklore, and mythology, as well as of Old English poetry.  His combination of these interests is apparent in the groundbreaking Homo Narrans: the Poetics and Anthropology of Oral Literature (U Penn P, 1999, paperback reissue 2010).  His broad interests in Old English poetry are displayed in a recent pair of volumes, Old English Enigmatic Poems and the Play of the Texts and Old English Heroic Poems and the Social Life of Texts (Brepols, 2006 and 2007).  In the last few years, he has cemented his authority as the leading voice on Beowulf as co-editor of the only real scholarly edition of the poem, Klaeber’s Beowulf, 4th edition (Toronto UP, 2008, generally known as Klaeber 4), as editor of a version of the best translation, that by Seamus Heaney, which he brings alive with accompanying visual materials in Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition (Norton, 2007), and as editor and major author of the most important volume for grounding the poem in the landscape of Denmark, Beowulf and Lejre (ACMRS, 2007).  It is no surprise that Niles’s 1993 essay on Beowulf was republished in the groundbreaking casebook, The Postmodern Beowulf (WVUP, 2006).  Professor Niles has served on the executive committee of the MLA Old English Division and is currently President of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists. 

Special Performance: Beowulf

Chris-VChris Vinsonhaler brings the gift of the bard to create a vivid new approach to this ancient poem, performed with harp in modern translation. Her work in performance and translation, awarded a fellowship funded through the National Endowment for the Arts, has been hosted by universities, conferences, and community groups--including the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Sewanee Medieval Colloquium, and the University of Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies.

“Chris Vinsonhaler’s translation bristles with an energy and enthusiasm that is both captivating and infectious. While existing versions (including those of a Nobel Laureate, academics, and widely-published poet) tend to stultify and strait-jacket the poem, making it seem somber and distant, this first truly dramatic rendering amply transmits the passion and verve of the original.”
Andy Orchard, Director
Toronto Centre for Medieval Studies
Author, A Critical Companion to Beowulf