The Blood Conference

The Blood Conference

Theories of Blood in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Literature and Culture

St Anne’s College, Oxford: 8th-10th January, 2014

Conveners: Laurie Maguire, Bonnie Lander Johnson, Eleanor Decamp

Blood in the medieval and early modern periods was much more than simply red fluid in human veins. Defined diversely by theologians, medics, satirists and dramatists, it was matter, text, waste, cure, soul, God, and the means by which relationships were defined, sacramentalised and destroyed. Blood was also a controversial ingredient in the production of matter, from organic and medical to mechanical and alchemical. Between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries debates about the nature and function of blood raised questions about the limits of identity, God’s will for his creatures, science’s encounter with the self, and the structure of families and communities, and its impact was felt in artistic constructions on stage, in print, and on canvas.

This two and a half day conference will gather early modern and medieval scholars from English, history, art history and medical history, to ask: ‘What is Renaissance blood?’

Plenary addresses by Frances Dolan (UC Davis), Patricia Parker (Stanford), Helen Barr (Oxford) and Elisabeth Dutton (Fribourg).

Discussions will cover a range of topics including blood and satire, blood and revenge, blood and gender, blood and genre, queer blood, royal blood, blood and wounding, William Harvey, blood and race, blood on the stage, blood and witchcraft, blood and alchemy, bloodlines, blood and sacrifice, blood and friendship, blood and disease, and blood and automata.

The Blood Conference will feature a professional production of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament directed by Elisabeth Dutton, and a session led by David Fuller, with the help of Oxford singers, on sacramental theories in music (Tallis, Byrd), poetry, and sermons. Wellcome Trust archivists will also be offering a session on blood material in their collection and Mike Murphy of Oxford University Hospitals will be presenting on modern blood transfusion practice.

More speakers are now warmly invited. We are particularly interested in interdisciplinary papers, and those with an emphasis on art history and medical history. But any innovative approaches to historical blood are most welcome!