Call for Papers: Women and Architecture in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds

2020 conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Seattle, USA

Deadline: 5 June 2019

In recent decades scholars including Emily Hemelrijk, Leslie Brubaker, and Therese Martin have examined the roles and agency of women as viewers and patrons of ancient and medieval monuments, but there remains an underlying assumption in the field of architectural history that ancient and medieval monuments were made by and for men. This assumption is so pervasive that when a monument has a female patron, it is either considered the work of a male relative or labeled an anomaly. The dedicatory inscription of the second-century nymphaeum at Olympia, for instance, records that Annia Regilla built it, yet scholars routinely attribute it to her husband, Herodes Atticus, erasing her legacy as patron. The architectural legacies of female rulers and imperial family members are often similarly treated. Additionally, female viewers of architecture are typically ignored in the analysis of buildings. For example, few publications on the twelfth-century Chartres Cathedral discuss the peasant mothers who asked the Virgin Mary for cures for themselves and their children at a sacred well in the crypt, a practice that likely continued local pagan healing rituals. Recognition of these female viewers provides insight into how medieval Church authorities harnessed persistent pre-Christian cultic activities while also framing them as the marginal concerns of women.

We invite papers that either address theoretical or methodological questions about how female agency or the category of gender can be productively embedded in the analysis of ancient and medieval architecture, or present case studies engaging with female patronage, production, and/or use of architectural monuments or urban landscapes. The session’s goal is to discuss the legacy of women in the construction and maintenance of architectural spaces, and to shift the conversation of agency and audience away from the presumption that ancient and medieval architecture is masculine in intent and reception.

Session Co-Chairs: Brenda Longfellow, University of Iowa, and Kriszta Kotsis, University of Puget Sound

For more information about the conference, other panels, and submission guidelines, see https://www.sah.org/2020/call-for-papers. Abstracts are due: June 5, 2019.