The field of Medieval Studies has undergone a period of reckoning, including a greater awareness of histories of race and racialization, an increasingly fraught relationship of religious and racial identities, and the effects of the ’global turn‘, which has met with varying degrees of success. Beyond these challenges, attentiveness to Indigenous writers, artists, and knowledge-keepers requires those of us in literary studies to look critically at our disciplinary structures and foundational methods, and invites us to consider what we might mean by ’canonicity‘ and the ’canonical‘. If we do continue to read canonical writers — such as Dante, Chaucer, and Christine de Pizan — on what ground will we read them? This talk explores the process of writing a ’Handbook‘, drawing on the experience of co-editing the Oxford Handbook of Chaucer and commenting on the new Oxford Handbook of Dante, and sketches out what future approaches to these writers — and their canonical status — might entail.

Suzanne Conklin Akbari is professor of medieval studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Her books are on optics and allegory (Seeing Through the Veil) and European views of Islam and the Orient (Idols in the East), and she’s also edited volumes on travel literature, Mediterranean Studies, and somatic histories, plus the Open Access collections How We Write and How We Read. Her most recent book is The Oxford Handbook of Chaucer (2020), co-edited with James Simpson. Akbari is involved with two global medieval studies projects, the ‘Practices of Commentary’ and ‘The Book and the Silk Roads’, with which she is co-Principal Investigator. A co-editor of the Norton Anthology of World Literature, Akbari co-hosts a literature podcast called The Spouter-Inn.

In English
How to Attend
  • Video-meeting with the possibility of audiovisual participation (please register below).
  • Public livestream on this page with the possibility to ask questions via chat (no registration required).
Organized by

Manuele Gragnolati

A lecture on the occasion of the publication of The Oxford Handbook of Dante in cooperation with Équipe littérature et culture italiennes (Sorbonne Université)

Moderated by Elena Lombardi and Francesca Southerden