GLAS is the sponsor of two panels in the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, to take place on the campus of Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI on May 10–13, 2018.

Jinn, Dragons, and Divs: Supernatural Beings in Medieval Islamicate Literatures

This panel will address medieval Islamicate literary approaches to creatures who are neither ordinary humans nor ordinary animals. A plethora of spirits, monsters, and other enchanted beings play key roles in Persian, Arabic, and Turkish texts ranging from cosmological, geographical, and medical treatises to works of history, romance, and lyric poetry. How did the intellectual and cultural heritage of Islamic societies, including elements such as Hellenistic learning, pre-Islamic mythology and folklore, and Judaeo-Christian demonology, create a unique environment for writers to explore non-human ontologies? At the same time, authors could employ the explicit invocations of jinn, ghouls, and magic serpents in the Qur’an and hadith as defenses against charges of indulging in mere fantasy. In what ways did these references serve as intellectual justifications for literary curiosity regarding the extreme cases of created life—the invisible, magical, or extraordinary inhabitants of sites both local and exotic? How did situating these entities in either a distant haunted past and a perceptible present shape writers’ relationships to temporality? Open to contributions from scholars of literature, history, religion, and culture, amongst other disciplines, this panel seeks to provide a space for the discussion of these and related questions.

Jahān-sāzī: Text, Space, and Place in Medieval Islamicate Literary Worlds

This panel will consider the relation of physical environments, real or imagined, to literary production and historiography. As Islam spread to encompass a vast variety of climates and landscapes, both the cultures that it brought in its wake and the indigenous cultures it encountered worked to negotiate the relationships between humans and their environment through literary productions. In later centuries, shifting borders brought narratives of loss, nostalgia, and destruction into play. In literary terms, what did it mean to gain, lose, create or destroy places? How did the lived or perceived conditions of cities, provinces, and wildernesses — both distant and familiar — affect the depiction of those places in literature, or the invention of new places in speculative or fantastical works? How did the spaces through which writers traveled or migrated shape their creations? What role did wider environmental shifts, such as urbanization and climate change, play in the development of literary traditions? By considering perspectives from fields as broad as literary studies, cultural history, geography, and historical ecology, this panel aims to create an interdisciplinary conversation on the building of medieval Islamicate literary worlds.