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Mapping the Past: travel, migration, and pilgrimage in the early periods

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Organizer: Elizabeth Liendo

Co-Organizer: Colin Fewer

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In Inferno 26, Dante-pilgrim stops to speak to the archetypal voyager, Ulysses. In his enthusiasm to transgress the boundaries of the known and unknown, the damned spirit tells Dante, “We made wings of our oars in a wild flight.” Medieval and early modern literature has always tracked movement, both temporal and spatial. Premodern texts obsessively imagine and reimagine the seductive appeal of travel, the fantastic pleasure of discovery—even the ecstatic experience of pilgrimage. These experiences are not only pleasurable, but they carry with them the potential for the traveler to make contact with the ineffable, the unknown, and the intangible past. In early period narratives, journeys or travel transform both the traveler and the world they experience (both real and imagined). For example, on his voyage to the East, Marco Polo re-maps the known world. In Inferno, Dante rewrites the classical past and figures of his literary fantasies into a Christian cosmography, literally rewriting time and space. On pilgrimage, the wanderer meditates on the holy mysteries of the past, venerates the relics of a past world, and imagines himself as a part of a living tradition without end. This seminar asks how narratives of travel, translatio, migration, exile, and pilgrimage map the medieval and early modern world. How do depictions of movement and transmigration encourage readers to re-interpret the past or look to the future? How does the voyage connect isolated communities, both temporally—the classical with the medieval, the medieval with the early modern—and spatially? We especially welcome proposals that explore any of the following topics: Mapping and cartography Exile and despair Foreseeing death and the afterlife Contact with the wondrous/divine Migration and immigration Travel narratives Fantastic voyages and wondrous beasts Pilgrimage routes and relics Translatio studii and translatio imperii Trojan diaspora Originary and prelapsarian fantasies Intercultural contact Trade, exchange, and circulation

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