Penn Arts & Sciences Logo
A Conference in Honor of David Wallace
  • Thursday, April 25, 2024 - 3:00pm to 7:30pm
  • Friday, April 26, 2024 - 9:00am to 6:30pm

Thursday: Class of 1955 Conference Room, Van Pelt Library and Kelly Writers House

Friday: Van Pelt Library, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Please join us for a two-day symposium in honor of the career of Professor David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania. The symposium brings together more than thirty of Professor Wallace’s former doctoral students for a forward-looking consideration of the future of medieval literary studies, with special emphasis on the recent global turn in premodern studies and other emerging theoretical and methodological frameworks. In addition, the event features a reading and roundtable discussion related to Professor Wallace’s most recent project National Epics (Oxford University Press, forthcoming), a multivolume work that produces a global literary history of how nations have used ‘epics’ to tell stories about their place in the world. 

Professor Wallace joined the Penn faculty in 1996, served as English Department Chair from 2001-2004, and is core research and teaching member of the Program in Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, Italian Studies, and founding faculty of Penn’s vibrant Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies. He is also founding editor-in-chief of the Penn journal Bilblioteca Dantesca: Journal of Dante Studies. He was elected President of the New Chaucer Society 2004-2006 and President of the Medieval Academy of America for 2018-19. Professor Wallace’s contributions to medieval studies have been recognized by election as a Fellow to the Medieval Academy of America and the English Association, and the award of the British Academy’s Sir Israel Gollancz Prize in 2019 for his lifetime contributions to the study of Geoffrey Chaucer and medieval Europe.

Professor Wallace is the author and editor of twelve books, including Chaucerian Polity (Stanford, 1997), winner of the MLA James Russell Lowell Prize, the Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature (Cambridge, 1999), and the collaborative literary history Europe: A Literary History, 1348-1418 (Oxford, 2016, paperback 2021). With over eighty collaborators, including many Penn colleagues and in conjunction with the Price Lab for Digital Humanities, he is currently editing National Epics (Oxford, forthcoming).

Professor Wallace’s research shows us how literary history tells stories of interconnection, collaboration, and exchange. Rather than being a retrospective of his career, this conference in his honor will be an intentionally forward-looking event that considers the roles that Professor Wallace’s work will play in the future of medieval studies. In bringing together Professor Wallace’s current and former students, we are assembling a group of scholars at the forefront of premodern literary studies today. The 30+ papers will showcase not only the vitality of new theoretical and methodological approaches within the well-established fields of Chaucer studies and Middle English studies, Italian Studies, and Women’s Gender and Sexuality Studies, but also the new possibilities for comparative analysis afforded by recent global turn in medieval studies. 

The event is free but for planning purposes, we do ask that you pleas register by April 20th.

Thursday, April 25

Class of 1955 Conference Room, Second Floor, Van Pelt Library





Aylin Malcolm, 'Chaucer's Dogs'

Shoshana Adler, 'Multicultural Chaucer'

Jacqueline M. Burek, '"English Gaufride" in Wales'

Matthew Aiello, 'Loss in Translation in The Squire's Tale'

Noa Nikolsky, 'Living Room Lobbyist: Wifely Counsel in Chaucer's Merchant's Tale'

Moderator: Dan Birkholz




Kelly Writers House


National Epics Roundtable

Christopher Atwood, Rita Barnard, Thadious Davis, Deven Patel, D. Vance Smith, Michael Solomon, and David Wallace

Moderator: Herman Beavers




Friday, April 26

Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, Sixth Floor, Van Pelt Library


Breakfast and welcome


Premodern Places

Jonathan Hsy, 'Remaking Medieval Contact Zones: Touch, Travel, Disability'

Rob Barrett, 'The Wives of Noah and Qiu Shu: Performing Female Resistance on Premodern English and Chinese Stages'

Jamie Taylor, 'De-allegorizing Constance'

Erika Harman, 'Mapping European Exchange Through Scribal Solutions to The Speculum Humanae Salvationis'

Michelle Karnes, 'Comparative Literature and the Case of the Fish-Knight'

Moderator: Mariah Min




Middle English Literature

Jennifer Jahner, 'Crisis and the Humanities: A Medical History'

Rosemary O'Neill, 'Friends in Low Places: The Meanings of Friendship in Later Medieval England'

Lawrence Warner, 'David Dabydeen, Maureen Duffy, and Middle English Alliterative Creole'

Tekla Bude, 'Risk, Rhetoric, and the Adjacent Possible'

Ian Cornelius, 'What Do We Want From An Index of Middle English Verse?'

Moderator: Caz Batten




Strong Women

Courtney Rydel, 'Reading the Saints: Lady Margaret Beaufort and Cecily Neville'

CJ Jones, 'Vernacular Manuals, Liturgical Expertise, and Women's Authority'

Jessica Rosenfeld, 'Wonder Women'

Lydia Yaitsky Kertz, 'Narratives of Precarity in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde'

Sarah Wilma Watson, 'Early Women and Their Books: The Story of Elizabeth Northe, A "Dutchwoman" in London'

Moderator: Holly Barbaccia




European Literature

Kara Gaston, 'Shadow Selves in Chaucer and Dante'

Elizaveta Strakhov, 'Translating The Secreta Secretorum Tradition into England'

Daisy Delogu, 'Good Shepherds and "Sheep of Human Descent": Towards a Medieval Biopolitics'

Stephanie AVG Kamath, 'Envisioning First-Person Allegorical Narrative: A Survey of Pélerinage de Vie Humaine Illlustration'

Mario Sassi, 'Boccaccio the Anti-Preacher'

Moderator: Eva del Soldato


Roundtable: Collaboration and Community

Crystal Bartolovich, Susan Crane, Bruce Holsinger, Ralph Rosen, James Simpson, Paul Strohm, and Nicolette Zeeman

Moderator: Rita Copeland


Closing Remarks and Reception

Premodern Literature and Global Histories is sponsored by the School of Arts and Science, the University Research Foundation, the Department of English, Kelly Writers House, the University of Pennsylvania Libraries and the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, the Department of Francophone, Italian, and Germanic Studies, Penn Global Medieval Studies, Paul Cobb, Emily Steiner, and Rita Copeland.