This week Kalamazoo becomes a virtual time machine as hundreds of scholars arrive for the annual International Congress on Medieval Studies. The 48th gathering at Western Michigan University will include serious academic discussions along with some that are more accessible to the public. The latter category includes sessions on medieval themes in the Harry Potter books and recent movies like The Hobbit.
In cooperation with Fontana Chamber Arts the congress will also feature a concert by the world renowned vocal group Anonymous 4. They will perform on Friday, May 10th, at 8 p.m. in Stetson Chapel at Kalamazoo College.
James Murray, the director of Western’s Medieval Institute which hosts the congress, says the Middle Ages may once have been thought of as “a thousand years without a bath”. But he says the notion of a “dark age” between the fall of Rome and the European Renaissance has long been discarded by scholars. And Murray says it should not be a surprise that medieval times continue to echo in our lives today.
“I’ve always said that the Middle Ages, the millennium from 500 to 1500, are both the seats of our collective dreams and nightmares”
Murray says many of the themes in modern literature, music, film, and even video games, have their roots in the Middle Ages. People in the medieval world also shared the modern fondness for conspiracy theories. That’s yet another topic that will be covered during the Medieval Congress. Murray says the Middle Ages also saw the invention of the universities and professors responsible for the longest unbroken period of knowledge creation in human history.
The Congress is open to members of the public in the Kalamazoo area who can attend sessions for free if they registered before April 24th. Residents can still register at the congress, but must pay a $50.00 late fee. Murray says there will also be historical reenactments including a demonstration of medieval iron smelting techniques. More information is available at (269) 387-8745.