Summer School 2016

Reading Pleasure
Pleasure Reading

medieval approaches to reading

Summer School
23–28 May 2016
Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul

For a writeup of the 2016 summer school, see this post at the Nordic Byzantine Network!

This summer school will explore discourses and strategies of reading and pleasure in the Middle Ages. From what appears to have been a primarily pious, learned, and/ or legal use of reading in the early medieval period, books and texts came to be gradually and increasingly associated with notions of pleasure. On the one hand, different kinds of explicit or implicit pleasure made up literary motifs and became a literary theme; on the other, pleasure came to be thought of – at least by some – as fundamental to reading. This tendency concerns not just narrative fiction and poetry, traditionally associated with reading for pleasure, but also genres such as epistolography and historiography. And patterns turn out surprisingly similar in both Persian, Arabic, Byzantine and Western medieval environments.

In theory as in practice, pleasure is easily sought, but equally easily slips out of grasp. The aim of the summer school is to engage with and develop specific approaches that will enable us to discuss medieval developments – of great impor- tance for later premodern and modern literary thinking – across the time gap, but also across the spatial gap between east and west. Aiming for conceptual clarity, we encourage participants to consider the pleasure of storytelling and narrative urges, but also the modern pleasure of reading medieval texts. We wish to open up for a wide range of genres – such as romance, drama, chronography, court poetry, and letters – and numerous perspectives, for instance performance, text/image recog- nition, book production, genre questions, author-narrator position, or gendered roles in and outside the text.

Some possible themes include Persian, Arabic, Byzantine and Western literature; Middle Ages; reading and storytelling; translations; romance; drama; poetry; letters; chronography; court culture; book history; illuminations; gender studies.


Monday, 23 May
10.00 Introduction and presentation round
11.00 Coffee and poster session
12.30 Lunch
14.30 Bo Utas, The uncovering of the veiled beauty – an Iranian and a European reading
16.30 Tea and fruit
17.00 Student led presentations in groups)
19.00 Reception at the Swedish Institute

Tuesday, 24 May
9.00 Tutor led groups
14.30 Virginia Langum, Physiology, Pleasure and Reading
16.30 Tea and fruit
17.00 Student led presentations
20.00 Joint dinner

Wednesday, 25 May
 9.00 Tutor led groups
14.30 Pernilla Myrne, Reading (for) pleasure in Abbasid Baghdad: Readership and erotic narratives
16.30 Tea and fruit
17.00 Student led presentations

Thursday, 26 May
10.00 Excursion/free time

Friday, 27 May
9.00 Tutor led groups
14.30 Stratis Papaioannou, Readers and Reading in Byzantium
16.30 Tea and fruit
17.00 Student led presentations
20.00 Joint dinner

Saturday, 28 May
9.00 Tutor led groups
13.00 Evaluation, final discussion and joint lunch

reading pleasure/pleasure reading poster


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