“Pirate Fiction in the Middle Ages, 500- 1500 AD”

– The Image of the Sea-Warrior in Medieval Texts from the Factual to the Fantastic –

21-22 September 2017, University of Southern Denmark, Odense

Keynote Speakers: Sebastian Sobecki, University of Groningen, & Emily Sohmer Tai, CUNY.

In the recent years the study of plunder at sea in the Middle Ages, more popularly known as piracy, has received increased interest in medieval studies. Most research up to now on medieval piracy has so far approached the subject from a politico-legal point of view. This has yielded important insights into the legal status of piracy and its practice in the Middle Ages. However, investigations into the perception of pirates and piracy in medieval Europe, and possible changes in this perception over time, are mostly lacking. This is an unfortunate state of affairs. Although pirates and piracy in legal terms denote criminals and crime, these terms in much literature and popular fiction designate rebellious heroes against tyranny and injustice. While law and state power are most certainly vital to the study of piracy and plunder at sea by neglecting the image, perception and contemporary discussion of this maritime culture only half the story is told.

Inspired by the works on “fiction” in the archives by Natalie Zemon Davis and Claude Gauvard this conference seeks to address this lacuna by bringing historians and scholars of literature and art together to explore ‘pirate narratives’ not only in historiography and law but also in medieval romances and novels, hagiography, chronicles, diplomatic correspondences and iconography. We therefore invite scholars to contribute to the discussion of medieval sea warriors, pirates and piracy by the study of the various narratives of illustrious and/or infamous persons such as Ragnar Lothbrok, the Jomsvikings, Eustace the Monk, William Smale and John Hawley, Don Pero Niño, Gadifer de la Salle, Klaus Störtebeker, and Benedetto Zaccaria. This list is by no means exhaustive and we welcome papers on any men, women (factual or fictive) or themes of war and plunder at sea in the medieval Atlantic, the North Sea, the Baltic Sea and the Mediterranean in the ‘long’ Middle Ages.

Deadline for paper proposals (max. 200 words including paper title) should be send to Thomas Heebøll-Holm thee@sdu.dk no later than 31 January 2017. There will be no registration fee.

This conference is a collaboration between Thomas Heebøll-Holm, Assistant Professor, University of Southern Denmark and the Centre for Medieval Literature (CML), Odense & York. It is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation.

Centre for Medieval Literature




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