2015 Conference
Gender, Dirt and Taboo

7-9  January, 2015
Bangor University  

To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure
Odo of Cluny

The Middle Ages are synonymous with dirt – bodily, spiritual, linguistic and literary. People lived in closer proximity to the material reality of filth: privies, animal waste, the midden, and while walking city streets. Keeping one’s body and clothes uncontaminated by filth would have represented a challenge. The Church took great pains to warn about the polluting effect of sin, and the literal and metaphorical stains that it could leave upon body and soul. The Middle Ages remains (in)famous, to some, due to the perception that its comedy is simply ‘latrine humour’. Women, with their leaky and pollutant bodies, lie at the heart of the medieval materiality of filth. Throughout her life course, a woman engaged with dirt; in bearing children, caring for the sick, working within the household and outside of the home, listening to sermons in church and to literature in a variety of contexts. In the misogynist discourse of Churchmen such as Odo of Cluny, woman was little more than dirt herself. Odo of Cluny did not acknowledge that manure is, of course, essential to healthy new growth.   

We welcome abstracts from postgraduates and colleagues on all aspects of gender, dirt and taboo and from a broad range of disciplines, including history, archaeology, book history, literature, art history, music , theology and medicine.    

Papers are particularly welcome on, but are not limited to:

  • The language of dirt
  • Dirt in texts/ ‘dirty’ texts
  • Landscapes of dirt
  • Bodily dirt
  • Dramatising dirt
  • Dirt and spirituality
  • Dirt and sexuality
  • Controlling/cleansing dirt
  • The comedy of dirt
  • The science of dirt

Please end abstracts of 200-300 words, for papers lasting 20 minutes, no later than 30th September, 2014 to Dr Sue Niebrzydowski (School of English, Bangor University), s.niebrzydowski@bangor.ac.uk  for consideration. Please also include your research area, institution and level of study in your abstract. It is hoped that the Kate Westoby Fund will be able to offer a modest contribution (but not the full costs) towards as many student travel expenses as possible.