- Medieval Futures
Saint Mary’s College hosted the 36th annual meeting of the Illinois Medieval Association on 21–22 February 2020. The theme of this conference was “Medieval Futures,” and participants were invited to consider medieval perspectives of futurity from a range of disciplinary perspectives. Through this topic, the conference organizers sought to bring together historical, literary, and religious interrogations of how medieval individuals planned for and conceived of the future—and to use this medieval foundation as inspiration for conversations about modern conceptions of futurity and the current challenges facing the field of medieval studies, writ large.
The conference had thirty-one paper presentations and fifty-eight registered participants. Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago) and Dot Porter (University of Pennsylvania) delivered the two plenary lectures. The shadow of the coronavirus pandemic was beginning to extend across the global horizon as this conference was taking place, and although the conference theme was not developed in the anticipation of a global pandemic, the essays included in this volume nonetheless resonate with pandemic-inspired conversations. From examinations of the contingent nature of perceptions of time, to discussions of how one might prepare for an extended absence—or for eventual death, these essays speak to our ongoing efforts to navigate an uncertain future as we attempt to respond to events outside of our control. It is testimony to the enduring resilience of the human spirit that our twenty-first century authors, following in the footsteps of their medieval predecessors, weathered a pandemic while preparing their papers for inclusion in this volume. [End Page v]
We would like to thank everyone who helped to organize the conference and who contributed to the production of this issue of Essays in Medieval Studies, especially: the Illinois Medieval Association, the departments of English and Human-istic Studies at Saint Mary’s College; the Medieval Institute of the University of Notre Dame, which generously funded one of our plenary speakers; the Cushwa-Leighton Library at Saint Mary’s College, its director, Joseph Thomas, and its librarians, including Catherine Pellegrino, Kitty Marschall, and Jill Hobgood; the Rare Books and Special Collections at the Hesburgh Library, especially David Gura, curator of ancient and medieval manuscripts; Sara Georgi, managing editor, West Virginia University Press; many staff members of Saint Mary’s College, including Michele Marlow, Richard Baxter, Laura McCormack, and Kristee Dampeer; our fabulous student workers, including Alex Bradley, Amory Descoteaux, Sarah Catherine Caldwell, Olivia Propheter, and Sarah Schlecht; and our generous colleagues who chaired sessions during the conference, including John Van Engen (University of Notre Dame), Molly Gower (Saint Mary’s College), Leonardo Francalanci (University of Notre Dame), and Sr. Eva Hooker, CSC (Saint Mary’s College).