The twentieth International Medieval Congress will take place in Leeds, from 7-10 July 2014. Proposals are sought for a panel entitled “Visions, voices and other hallucinatory experiences in the Middle Ages.”

This session, sponsored by the Wellcome-funded Hearing the Voice project and the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University, seeks to explore how hallucinatory experiences were described, regarded and explained in medieval culture and society. Reports of phenomena redolent of hallucinatory experiences recurrently appear in both religious and secular literature of the period. Unlike contemporary clinical culture which regards such phenomena as pathological symptoms of psychosis, the experience of seeing visions or hearing voices was, to a large extent, socially and culturally integrated, particularly within religious contexts. While not explicitly connected to madness or insanity, visions, voices and anomalous perceptual events lay along a similar fault line, an experience which set recipients apart from the rest of society. In this session we are seeking to start a conversation about how hallucinatory experiences were apprehended by both recipient and wider society. Prospective contributions might address (among other possibilities) the following:

  • The ineffability of hallucinatory experiences and the nature of the metaphors or imagery used in their description
  • The social context in which these descriptions appear
  • Contemporary cognitive explanations for hallucinatory experience which address the phenomenon in the context of the faculties of perception, memory and imagination
  • The relationship between hallucinatory experiences and dreams
  • Premonitions
  • Hallucinatory experiences in the sane and insane, or how these phenomena relate to mental disorder
  • Multimodal aspects of the experience, extending the discussion beyond visions to consider auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile sensations
  • The vouchsafing of the reality (or lack thereof) of the representation
  • Hallucinatory experiences as a source of inspiration for creative or intellectual endeavour

Depending on the response we receive we will look into the possibility of arranging a double session. Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words to Hilary Powell by September 6 2013.


Hearing the Voice · August 2, 2013 at 10:54 am

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