I don’t want to miss this: Text and Image in Medieval England, a conference this October at the University of Minnesota. I’ve been out of the medieval history scene for the last several years and miss it a bit. I tend not to like to do things half-heartedly, and this is one area that could quickly consume my life if I let it. Still, an occasional refresher is in order. This conference is right up my alley.

It usually comes as a surprise to those who know me only in the web world or at work that my academic background is in French and linguistics. What I don’t usually mention is that it’s actually in French, linguistics, religious studies, and medieval history. I spent an inordinate amount of time struggling to bring those disparate worlds together, time that I now think was wasted but that nevertheless led me to a fascinating study of the Danse Macabre des Femmes. The Danse Macabre was a fifteenth century memento mori, often containing both text and illustrations, in which Death danced with people from all walks of life, reminding the reader what awaits those who do not lead a good (i.e. Christian) life. The Danse Macabre des Femmes, as the title indicates, was a version in which Death danced with women, usually female counterparts of the male characters in the Danse Macabre des Hommes but also including roles specific to women.

I was drawn to this work in part because the imagery in both the poem and the accompanying illustrations reveal a great deal about the attitudes toward women in 15th century France. Study of these manuscripts involved creative attention to minute details drawn from a variety of disciplines (skills that serve me well in the work I do now — ah, the beauty of the liberal arts). You can see, then, why a conference that addresses text and image and what they reveal about medieval society might hold some small interest for me. Gotta go.