Title: What a World! (A Roundtable)
The issues inherent in fictionalized worlds, so beautifully encapsulated in this scene from The Wizard of Oz film, have much to offer studies of medieval literature. This session invites papers that consider all aspects of engendered worlds, but is especially invested in exploring how contemporary notions of “worldbuilding” — so often associated with high fantasy and science fiction— as well as Heiddeger’s “worlding” (in all its various theoretical manifestations and adaptations) can be appropriated to discuss the creation of fictive worlds in medieval literature. The session seeks to explore worlds built through varying states of incredulity, wonder, a desire to control and contextualize, or even built out of nostalgia and/or a desire to escape (however briefly) one’s own circumstances — from the translocated Holy Land of the mystery cycle plays, to the worlds encountered through chronicles, histories, and travel narratives, to the landscapes and cultures of Arthurian romance. How might the concept of “worldbuilding” invite fresh considerations and interrogations of medieval literature? How does it simultaneously reflect the desires authors have to create something new even as they (or their texts) admit the impossibilities of such projects? To what extent do engendered worlds allow and invite contemplation upon the many ways in which humans, as readers and receivers of texts, ineffably participate in this process of creation?