The Great Lakes Adiban Society (GLAS) is the sponsor of two panels at the 2019 International Congress for Medieval Studies, to convene in May 9–12, Kalamazoo, MI. Our two themes for this year are writing and seduction in Islamicate literature. Please note that we conceive of both these terms in very broad ways; by no means are they limited to belles-lettres, or works written in Arabic, Persian, or Turkish. Read below for panel descriptions and instructions for submitting a paper; for more information about our group, and to join our mailing list, visit

Inscribed Bodies, Etched Surfaces: The Written and Unwritten in the Medieval Islamicate World

Torrents have exposed the desert traces, like writings revived by their reed pens;
or a tattooist’s retracing, with her ink that fills hand palms, the design plain from above.

These lines by Labid, one of the earliest poets in Arabic, remind us of the variety, physicality, and historicity of writing. Here, the badlands of Arabia, rather than parchment or leaf, encode a moment of past time through the ruins of an erstwhile campground revealed by the rain, invoking at the same time the inky designs of a tattoo, etched on human skin. Such an overflow of symbolic associations invites deeper questions about the nature of writing as a material and historical process. Within the context of medieval and early modern Islamicate societies, this panel questions the role of material objects (books, paper, papyrus) in the fashioning of “text,” alongside its immaterial (spoken, recited, memorized, performed) properties. It also considers how medieval and early modern writers saw “texts” in the material world all around them, from the breathtaking sights of nature, to the monumental works of societies past, to the stories writ on living flesh—all speaking languages that confounded the human tongue, defied mortal interpretation, or legitimated heavenly-ordained rule.

How do we define writing, and how does the process of definition shape our epistemic categories? Who (or what) writes, and for whom? How does writing engage with reading, or not-reading? What surfaces admit of writing, and with what materials? How does new research into inscriptions, epigraphy, papyri, illumination, miniatures, and other underexplored media confirm or challenge our narratives about writing? What are the intellectual, sociocultural, ethical, aesthetic, and symbolic implications of writing in pre-modern Islamicate Eurasia? We invite papers on these and related topics to be presented at the International Congress of Medieval Studies, May 9–12, 2019.

Fifty Shades of Green: The Islamicate Art of Seduction

In pre-modern sources, desire, regardless of its object, reconfigures the individual. But with every spark of attraction comes a risk of failure; as the tenth-century poet Mutanabbi wrote, “The heart exposes itself only to be struck.” The perennial struggle of love, of the yearning to possess a beloved that may reject the lover’s advances—or lie beyond reach altogether—creates bodily, social, and epistemic dilemmas intrinsic to erotic relationships: old men forget their piety; kings and slaves subvert social hierarchies; elite courtiers throw their riches to professional beloveds in the market. In part to illustrate and in part to resolve such dilemmas, a vast corpus of literature dealing with the risks, ethics, and strategies of seduction, of which stories like Yusuf and Zulaikha or Shaykh San’an are only some of the more famous examples, came into being across centuries of Islamicate writing. This panel invites an exploration of this literature, and a renewed consideration of the ways in which we theorize seduction in our work. How is desire accounted for in medical and philosophical thought, and what are the tools and stratagems available for its management? How do such solutions (and narratives thereof) interact with, or possibly upset, broader codes of sociability and publicity? What are the non-human, subliminal, and social agents at work in the act of seduction? By raising these and other questions, we aim to break down the barrier between scientia sexualis and ars erotica by closely reading the settings, both literary and historical, in which pre-modern authors construct competitive tensions, productive ambiguities, and normative ideals for the pursuit and enactment of erotic love. Papers accepted to this panel will be presented at the International Congress of Medieval Studies, May 9–12, 2019.

Submission Instructions

To submit a paper to either of these panels, go to, where you can find and fill out the Participant Information Form. Please send this, along with a one-page abstract of your paper, to Cameron Cross at The due-date for all submissions is September 15, 2018. We will inform you of our decision within a week, and per ICMS guidelines, papers not accepted for this panel will still be passed on to the Medieval Institute to be considered for inclusion in the General Sessions.