Pearl-poet Society at ICMS … 2021

UPDATE: With the cancellation of the 2020 International Congress on Medieval Studies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Pearl-poet Society has taken the ICMS organisers’ invitation to re-submit this year’s panels for the 2021 Congress; all participants who were to present this year are automatically accepted for May 2021. We ask, however, that participants contact our VP, Ashley Bartelt, so that we know if we have any openings to fill during the summer proposal season.

(original post below)


With the team at Western Michigan University posting the sneak preview of the schedule for the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies, the International Pearl-poet Society is pleased to announce our line-up of six sponsored sessions for the 2020 gathering, including a co-sponsored session with the Medieval Association of the Midwest.

Always insightful, lively, and collegial, the Society’s sessions this year explore a wide range of topics, from the materiality of the Cotton Nero A.x manuscript to gender issues, the mystical tradition, and modern adoptions adaptations of Sir Gawain across several genres.

All our sessions are organised by the brilliant Ashley E. Bartelt (Northern Illinois University). A PDF of the info posted below is available here.

The Pearl-poet Society is looking forward to yet another exciting and thought-provoking year at Kalamazoo!


(Cotton Nero A.x, ff. 94v-95r)

Friday @ 3.30 PM (Session 270)

Bernhard 209

Form and Structure in MS Cotton Nero A.x. (A Roundtable)

Presider: Kimberly Jack, Athens State Univ.

‘More New Light on the Gawain-Manuscript: Multispectral Imaging and British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x.’

Murray McGillivray, Univ. of Calgary

‘Manicules and More: Scribal Ordinatio in British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x.’

Kenna L. Olsen, Mount Royal Univ.

‘“Wer I as hastif as Þou”: Protrepsis and Audience Identification in Patience

Caleb Molstad, Univ. of Minnesota–Twin Cities


Saturday @ 10.00 AM (Session 332)

Bernhard 210

Ain’t Misbehaving: Medieval English Women Doing Good Works by Nefarious Means

co-sponsored with Medieval Association of the Midwest (MAM)

co-organised with Mickey Sweeney

Presider: Alison Langdon, Western Kentucky Univ.

‘The Midwife in Lay Le Freine: The Misuse of Power for the Preservation of Souls’

Kimberly Tate Anderson, Wittenberg Univ.

‘Good Women, Bad Men: The Cost of Saving Souls’

Mickey Sweeney, Dominican Univ.

‘Malory’s Dame Brusen: Good or Evil?’

Katharine Mudd, Northern Illinois Univ.


Saturday @ 12.00 PM

Fetzer 1060

 International Pearl-poet Society Business Meeting


Saturday @ 1.30 PM (Session 408_

Schneider 1235

The Final Frontier: Embodied Space in the Works of the Pearl-poet

Presider: Matthew Boyd Goldie, Rider Univ.

‘What Happens on the Frontier . . . : Morgan LeFey, Feminist Outreach, and Agency in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Kara Larson Maloney, Canisius College

‘Dancing in Place: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Arthurian Dance Spaces’

Clint Morrison Jr., Ohio State Univ. (Karrer Travel Award Winner)

‘Penance, Labor, and the Land in Cleanness and Pearl

Rafael Jaime, Univ. of California–Los Angeles


Saturday @ 3.30PM (Session 459)

Schneider 1235

The Pearl-poet: Modern Connections, Adaptations, and Evolutions

Presider: Lisa M. Horton, Univ. of Minnesota–Duluth

‘Young Brightblade and the Green Knight: An Appropriation of the Pearl-Poet in Modern Fantasy Fiction’

Carl B. Sell, Oklahoma Panhandle State Univ.

‘Women’s Presence and Power in Children’s Versions of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Amber Dunai, Texas A&M Univ.–Central Texas

‘The Mysterious Affair at Camelot: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Whodunit Narrativity’

Celine Vezina, Yale Univ.


Sunday @ 8.30 AM (Session 485)

Bernhard 208

Acceptance and Resistance: Emotional Tension in the Pearl-poet

Presider: Amber Dunai, Texas A&M Univ.–Central Texas

‘“In a Stonen Statue Þat Salt Sauor Habbes”: Anger and the Lithic Body of Lot’s Wife in Cleanness

Christopher David Queen, Univ. of California–Riverside

‘Virtue and Activity in Patience

Joseph Turner, Univ. of Louisville

‘“Suffering Sele”: Jonah and the Worm’

Jo Nixon, Univ. of Chicago

‘Chivalric Performance and Hollow Faith: Gawain’s Three Confessions in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Elise Robbins, Purdue Univ.


Sunday @ 10.00 AM (Session 508)

Bernhard 208

“In aventure þer mervayles meven”: The Mystical Tradition in the Pearl-Poet and Analogues

Presider: Kristin Bovaird-Abbo, Univ. of Northern Colorado

‘The Pearl-Poet in the Platonic Mystical Tradition’

Matthew W. Brumit, Univ. of Mary

‘Teaching the Ineffable: Mysticism and Instruction in the Pearl-Poems’

Rachel A. Shunk, Univ. of Dallas

‘“Hit is to dere a date”: Mystical Language and Its Limits in Pearl

André Babyn, Univ. of Toronto

Respondent: Ann F. Brodeur, Univ. of Mary



CfP: Int’l Pearl-poet Societ @ ICMS 2020

The International Pearl-poet Society once again has a strong presence at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, with five sponsored sessions at the 2020 gathering at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. We’re also proud to once again be co-sponsoring a session with the Medieval Association of the Midwest (MAM).

Thanks to our new VP, Ashley Bartelt (Northern Illinois University), for the snazzy poster! (Full text below, too).

2020 Flyer

International Pearl-poet Society Sessions for ICMS 2020

Abstracts (max. 300 words) and a completed PIF are DUE 01 SEPTEMBER 2019

Send to:

Ashley E. Bartelt

  • Form and Structure in the Cotton Nero A.x. Manuscript (Roundtable)

Beyond tightly structured narratives and precise poetics, Cotton Nero A.x. contains diverse material from 12 illustrations and marginalia to ornate initials. Recent scientific and technological advancements from pigment analyses to multispectral imaging have begun to reframe our understanding of these paleographic details. Building on analyses from scholars like Murray McGillivray and Christina Duffy (2017) and Piotr Spyra (2014), this session invites participants to reconsider the connection between the intricate paleographic and narrative forms of this dynamic manuscript.

  • “In aventure þer mervayles meven”: The Mystical Tradition in the Pearl-poet and Analogues

In Pearl, struggles to comprehend and accept the ineffable, torn by his overwhelming grief and attachment to the material world. This tension recurs throughout the Pearl-poet’s works and has fascinated scholars from Nicholas Watson (1995) to Cecilia A. Hatt (2015) as they explore the poet’s relationship to, and understanding of, the Church. Renewed critical attention to movements like the medieval mystics calls for a reexamination of the poet’s other religious influences, so this session will explore the intersection of the mystical tradition and the works of the Pearl-poet and analogues.

  • The Pearl-poet: Modern Connections, Adaptations, and Evolutions

As one of the more prominent poets from the fourteenth century, the Pearl-poet continues to captivate audiences with his nuanced and timeless narratives, inspiring centuries of writers and artists. This session will explore the resonances and continued relevance of this prominent poet’s work in modern renderings, films, stage productions, and other media.

  • Acceptance and Resistance: Emotional Tension in the Pearl-poet

From a distraught Dreamer and a wrathful, anthropomorphized God to a petulant prophet, the Pearl-poet’s characters are often complex figures struggling not just in morally complex situations but also with tumultuous emotions. Some find peace with their experiences while others remain besieged by or succumb to their inner demons. This session will delve into how the poet’s complex characters resolve or resist their deep emotional turmoil.

  • The Final Frontier: Embodied Space in the Works of the Pearl-poet

The Wilderness of Wirral, a green woodbine, a bejeweled stream, the Green Chapel. Well-known for intricate spatial descriptions, the Pearl-poet often uses these locations as the focal points of significant human experiences, forging an intimate connection between mental and physical environment. This session will explore the spaces and places in the Pearl-poet’s works and what they reveal about the characters who inhabit them.

  • Aint’s Misbehaving: Medieval English Women Who Do Good Work by Nefarious Means

This panel is co-sponsored with the Medieval Association of the Midwest (MAM), and proposals should be submitted to their contact, Alison Langdon. For more information, including the official CFP, see the MAM website

International Pearl-poet Society ICMS 2019 Sessions

This promises to be an excellent year for the Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University. We have five very exciting panels scheduled for Kalamazoo next May. Please do keep in mind that the IPpS Business Meeting is held at 12.00 PM on the Saturday (May 11). We will elect a new Vice-President and plan our proposed sessions for the 55th ICMS in 2020.


Is there a class in this text? Teaching the Gawain-poet (Roundtable)

Chair: B.S.W. Barootes (Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies)


“The Pearl-poet and Non-Conformist Religious Ideas in the First Year Seminar”

Felisa Baynes-Ross (Yale University)


“Playing the Manuscript: Teaching the Games of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Julie Nelson Couch (Texas Tech University) & Kimberly Bell (Sam Houston State University)


“An Intertextual Approach to Courtliness and the Divine in Pearl

Amber Dunai (Texas A&M University—Central Texas)


“Defamiliarizing the Pearl-poet: Rejecting Translation and Broadening the Course”

Stephen D. Powell (University of Guelph)


“Teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Context of Rhetorical and Linguistic Traditions of the Middle Ages”

Scott Troyan (University of Wisconsin—Madison)


Gender and Engendering in the Works of the Pearl-poet

Chair: Kimberly Jack (Athens State University)


“Nurturing Fathers and Supportive Authorities: Reconsidering Paternal Affection in the Pearl-poet’s Works”

Ashley E. Bartelt (Northern Illinois University)


“Untying and Re-tying the ‘Endles Knot’: Retroactively Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a Woman’s Narrative”

Jonathan Juilfs (Redeemer University College)


“‘He Said, She Said,’ He Said: Gendered Dialogue in Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

Florence Newman (Towson University)


“The Emotional Intelligence of Pearl: Purging the Jeweler of his Gendered Irrationality?”

William M. Storm (Eastern University)


Visual Rhetoric in the Works of the Pearl-poet I: New Frontiers

Chair: Denise A. Stodola (Kettering University)


“The Green Knight Without the Green: Re-Investigating the Multispectral Illustrations of MS Cotton Nero A.x art. 3”

Matthew R. Higgins (Georgia State University)


“Visible Thoughts: The Spontaneous Gesture and Imaging Identity in the Pearl-Poems”

Misho Ishikawa (UCLA)


“Peripheral Vision: Choreographing Description through Dance in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Clint Morrison, Jr. (Ohio State University)


“Crashing by Dasein: Neurorhetoric Supplying the Vision for “Being There” at the Green Chapel”

Scott Troyan (University of Wisconsin—Madison)


Visual Rhetoric II: Looking Closer

Chair: Julie Nelson Couch (Texas Tech University)


“Spaces for Seeing: Sight as a Function of Moral Space in the Works of the Pearl-Poet”

Andrew Bell (University of Connecticut)


“Inside the Whale and Outside the Ark: Reconsidering Enclosure in Patience and Cleanness

David K. Coley (Simon Fraser University)


“Visual Rhetoric and Argumentation in Pearl

Denise A. Stodola (Kettering University)


Of schyr goulez: Red as Complement to Green in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Witt Womack (Independent scholar; University of Leeds)


Fifty Shades of Green: Hagiography and Demonology in the Pearl-poet Corpus

Chair: Ashley E. Bartelt (Northern Illinois University)


“Confessing to Fairies”

Richard Firth Green (Ohio State University)


“Romance in St. Erkenwald: Blending the Pagan Past and Christian Present”

Jenna Schoen (Columbia University)

Cleanness Cotton Nero A.x fol 56

London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A.x (art. 3), fol. 56r

ICMS 2019: Pearl-poet Society CfP

The International Pearl-Poet Society is sponsoring five sessions at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 9–12, 2019) at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.

1. Is there a class in this text? Teaching the Pearl-poet (Roundtable)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has long been a mainstay of Brit Lit surveys and introductions to medieval literature. However, the recent anthologising of Pearl, both in the Middle English and in translation, and the rise of pedagogical interest in vernacular religious traditions such as those exemplified by Cleanness and Patience, calls for a fresh appraisal of classroom strategies for approaching these texts.

2. Visual Rhetoric in the Works of the Gawain-poet

From the description of shining, jewelled New Jerusalem to the blazons of Sir Gawain and the Pearl-maiden to the Pearl-dreamer’s inability to ‘see’ clearly, the Gawain-poet reveals himself to be a writer who depends on visual metaphors, imagery, and motifs. Seeking to renovate earlier work by Sarah Stanbury (1991, 2007), Maidie Hilmo (2001), and Tony Davenport (2008), this session will explore the ways that the poet deploys motifs of sight and seeing to shape the meaning of his texts.

3. Gender and Engendering in the Works of the Pearl-poet

Morgan le Fay, Hagar and Sarah, Lady Bertilak, the Pearl-maiden, Lot’s unnamed wife and daughters, Queen Guinevere. Shrinking Gawain, wayward Jonah, ‘beardless’ Arthur, the gentle Jeweller, the Green Knight with his half-giant chest and shoulders to match. Households hoping for heirs; kingdoms that shall never know one. The Pearl-poet presents a broad spectrum of gendered characters. This session invites participants to consider how the poet plays with tropes of gender in the Cotton Nero A.x poems and St. Erkenwald.

4. Beyond the Codex: Extraliterary Influences on the Texts of the Pearl Manuscript

The Pearl-poet was, without a doubt, widely read. But what other cultural ‘texts’ and contexts influenced his poetry? How did architecture, the liturgy, political upheaval, religious debates, economic anxiety, international affairs, and epidemic outbreak weigh on mind of the poet as he composed his works?

5. Fifty Shades of Green: Hagiography and Demonology in the Pearl-poet Corpus

Between the celestial city and the shady Green Chapel, the miracles of a London bishop and the Leviathan-underworld in the belly of a sea beast, the works of the Pearl-poet explore the full range of the divine and the infernal. The papers in this session will interrogate the poet’s use of hagiographic tropes as well as material from folk traditions as he crafts his supernatural narratives.

⊕   ⊕   ⊕   ⊕   ⊕

We invite abstracts from scholars of all levels. Papers may deal with one or all of the poems by the Pearl-poet. Paper sessions will consist of either three twenty-minute or four fifteen-minute presentations; all paper sessions will afford at least thirty minutes for discussion. As lively conversation and collaboration are key goals, the pedagogical roundtable can accommodate up to six participants presenting for seven or eight minutes, with approximately half the session reserved for discussion.

Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) and the completed Participant Information Form by

15 September 2018 to

Benjamin Barootes

Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies

59 Queen’s Park Crescent East

Toronto, Ontario

Canada    M5S 2C4

SGGK illustration and first page

(BL, Cotton Nero A.x fols. 94v-95r)

Decorated Initials in Pearl (BL, Cotton Nero A.x)

I’ve been working on my Kalamazoo-ICMS paper on Pearl and Holy Name devotion. Part of my discussion has involved the decorated capital at the top of fol 49r (line 721; opening of Section XIII), where the name Jesus–Ihs in the manuscript–replaces the refrain word from Section XII, Ryght. My interest in the Ihs in Section XIII led me to look for scholarly treatments of the decorated capitals in Pearl (and the Cotton Nero MS more generally), of which there are few. The best treatment that I have come across is A.S.G. Edwards’ essay in the Companion, which deals with the capitals in about a page. Thanks to the University of Calgary’s wonderful Cotton Nero A.x Project , anyone can explore this small-but-so-important and fascinating manuscript at their leisure (or under deadline duress), but I have compiled my own notes and observations about each of the decorated capitals–21 in all–for you here.

Each entry includes a link to the folio on which the capital appears. I’ve tried to be systematic and consistent throughout, but I also confess this started as a haphazard collection of jotted notes. This document is a work-in-progess, so please let me know if you spot any errors or have further insights to add. Comment below or email me at bsw [dot] barootes [at] utoronto [dot] ca.

The materiality of the Cotton Nero manuscript, too often passed off as nothing to write home (or on the internet, or in the journals) about, is worth exploring further. Often laughed off for its seeming shoddiness–one early commentator shat on the illustrations’ coarse execution while many other critics point to the 400-odd scribal errors–its contents, quality (or qualities), and size–it’s the same size as the postcard my sister sent from Portugal, the same size as the framed picture of your kids on your desk–speak to an interest in reading and rereading, an interest in frequently engaging with important topics that have local and universal resonances.