Each year the Center for Medieval Studies holds an annual conference based on a particular theme; this year’s conference teases its theme from the life’s work of Fordham English Professor Mary Erler, PhD.
The daylong conference, “Reading and Writing in City, Court, and Cloister,” will be held on March 7 at 10 a.m. at Lincoln Center’s Corrigan Conference Center.
Maryanne Kowaleski, the center’s director, said that Erler has served on the medieval studies executive committee, helped to organize conferences, and taught a wide range of interdisciplinary courses in the field.
“She’s an internationally renowned scholar and she has helped the conference to become a distinguished venue for new research in the field,” said Kolaleski, the Joseph Fitzpatrick, SJ, Distinguished Professor of History and Medieval Studies.
Martin Chase, SJ, associate professor of English said there has been a desire to honor Erler over the last few years and “it seemed a natural thing to do.”
In assembling the conference, organizers asked Erler’s colleagues and collaborators to submit papers that slanted toward her interests, which include late medieval women’s reading and book ownership, early English printing, devotional literature, and early English drama—to name but a few.
Speakers include: Michael Sargent, Joyce Coleman, Kathryn A. Smith, Caroline Barron, and Sheila Lindenbaum.
Erler began her graduate work after she raised her two children and saw them off to high school. Contextualizing medieval literature was a fairly new practice when she started her research in the early 1980s, said Father Chase.
“As a feminist scholar, she is pioneer in researching what women studied, what books they owned, and who they were,” he said.
The program’s five distinguished presenters are all Erler’s collaborators, colleagues, and friends. And the chairs of each session will be former mentees and students of Erler, each whom has started their own academic careers.
“Mary is a key attraction for grad students to come to our program to begin with,” said Father Chase. “They come here because they want to work with her and she’s just really good at it—a real pro.”