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Why Mester de Clerecía in 2015?

The thirteenth century was a dynamic time in the Iberian Peninsula, as political and cultural changes were occurring throughout the realms that occupied what is now Spain and Portugal. Much of the literature of this period was learned in nature and composed by clerics, and although the works were read and studied individually from the time of composition, they did not see collective examination until the nineteenth century. It was in 1865 that the Spanish scholar Manuel Milà i Fontanals used the term “mester de clerecía” (the cleric’s craft) for the first time to refer to this learned literary production.

The study of the mester de clerecía is now 150 years old, and an international conference entitled “The Cleric’s Craft: Crossroads of Medieval Spanish Literature and Modern Critique” will be convened in 2015 to mark this important milestone, to reassess this literature and its study, as well as to chart new directions for the field.

Invited Speakers


These pre-organized “Focus Sessions” are made up of papers by the conference’s invited speakers. The submission deadline for the Call for Papers has passed. If you have questions about late submissions, or if you failed to receive an email confirmation of your abstract submission, please contact the organizers at clerecia150@utep.edu.




Texts and Contexts in the 13th Century


Elena González Blanco García

Elena González Blanco García is Assistant Professor in Medieval Literature at the Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) and the academic director of the recently created Digital Humanities Innovation Lab at that institution. Her recent book La cuaderna vía española en su marco panorámico (2010) considers the poetry of 13th-century Spain in the context of a larger European medieval literary culture inflected and integrated by a still vigorous Latin inheritance.


Clara Pascual-Argente

Clara Pascual-Argente is Assistant Professor of Spanish at Rhodes College. She specializes in medieval Castilian literature and culture, particularly their relationships with other European literatures through textual and visual translation and adaptation, and currently holds the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship in Medieval Studies at Notre Dame. She is preparing a monograph entitled The Invention of Medieval Antiquity: Memory and Anachronism in the Iberian Roman Antique.


Anthony John Lappin

Anthony John Lappin is Professor of Spanish and Head of Department at the National University of Ireland Maynooth. He is currently a EURIAS fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsalas Universitet. He has published extensively on 11th- to 13th-century Iberian hagiography, with particular attention to the works of Gonzalo de Berceo. His latest book is an edition and translation of Robert of Ketton’s 12th-century Alcoran latinus (2011), the first surviving translation of the Qur’an into a European language




Mester de Clerecía and the Poetics of Crossing


Olivier Biaggini

Olivier Biaggini is Associate Professor in Spanish Medieval Literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle—Paris III in Paris, France. He has worked extensively on hagiography and clerical literature of the Spanish Middle Ages, dealing with questions of authority, exemplarity, fiction and truth. His most recent publication is Miracles d’un autre genre. Reécritures médiévales en dehors de la hagiographie (2012), co-edited with Bénédicte Milland-Bove.


Fernando Baños Vallejo

Fernando Baños Vallejo is Associate Professor of Spanish Medieval Literature and Chair of the Department of Hispanic Philology at the Universidad de Oviedo, Spain, and has been visiting professor at the Université de Toulouse, France, and most recently, at Columbia University in 2011. His research focuses on medieval saints’ legends, on which he has published numerous articles and the monograph Las vidas de santos en la literatura medieval española (2003).


Pablo Ancos

Pablo Ancos, Associate Professor at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, focuses on the formal properties of mester de clerecía verse and their intersection with larger literary-historical currents. His book Transmisión y recepción primarias de la poesía del ‘mester de clerecía’ (2012) investigates the transmission and reception of the narrative poetry of 13th-century Spain.


Carina Zubillaga

Carina Zubillaga is Director of the Practicum Program in Spanish Literature at the Universidad de Buenos Aires whose research interests include textual scholarship and manuscript studies. Her critical edition Antología castellana de relatos medievales (2008) bridges a scholarly interest in the literary cultures of the 13th century with a technical interest in scholarly editing.




Exchanges and Influences Among Mesteres

Emily Francomano

Emily Francomano, Associate Professor at Georgetown University, has published several articles on the Libro de buen amor. Her most recent book (2013) is Three Spanish Querelle Texts: Grisel and Mirabella, The Slander, and The Defense of Women Against Slanderers; A Bilingual Edition and Study, and she has published a monograph on of gender and epistemology, Wisdom and Her Lovers in Medieval and Early Modern Hispanic Literature (2008).


Gregory Kaplan

Gregory Kaplan is Lindsey Young Professor of Spanish in the Modern Foreign Languages & Literatures Department at the University of Tennessee (Knoxville). His work has been particularly influential in the study of the converso literature of medieval and early modern Spain: he is the author of The Evolution of Converso Literature: The Writings of the Converted Jews of Medieval Spain (2002) and the editor of Marginal Voices: Studies of the Converso Literature of Medieval and Golden Age Spain (2012).


Michelle Hamilton

Michelle M. Hamilton is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities where she offers courses on religious studies, Jewish studies, and Spanish literature and culture. She has published widely on multi-confessional Iberia. Recent publications include Beyond Faith: Belief, Morality and Memory in a Fifteenth-Century Judeo-Iberian Manuscript (2014) and In and Of the Mediterranean: Medieval and Early Modern Iberian Studies (2014). She is currently working on a project examining the intersections of translation, ruins and wonder in the Iberian Arabic and Romance traditions.



Properties of Knowledge and Power

Amaia Arizaleta

Amaia Arizaleta is Professor of Medieval Spanish Literature at the University of Tolouse-Le Mirail. Her research interests include the intersection of juridical documents with hagiographic and poetic texts, the sources and compositional techniques of the Libro de Alexandre, and its relationship to the medieval models of organizing knowledge, the trivium and the quadrivium. Her 2010 book Les clercs au palais. Chancellerie et écriture du pouvoir royal (Castille, 1157- 1230) analyses the writing that proceeded from Castilian chanceries of the late middle ages.


E. Michael Gerli

E. Michael Gerli is Commonwealth Professor of Spanish at the University of Virginia. He has authored some 150 publications on medieval and renaissance literary and linguistic themes and serves on the editorial boards of numerous journals and presses in both the U.S. and abroad. His most recent book, Celestina and the Ends of Desire (2011), was awarded the Modern Language Association of America’s twenty-second annual Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for an outstanding book in the field of Latin American and Spanish literatures and cultures.


María Cristina Balestrini

María Cristina Balestrini is a professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires. Her research interests include medieval hagiography as well as 13th-century poetry, and she has published widely on the poetic and cultural production of medieval Spain.


Julian Weiss

Julian Weiss is Professor of Medieval and Early Modern Spanish Studies and Director of the Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies at King’s College London. He has produced numerous critical editions of medieval and early modern texts as well as many highly influential works of criticism focusing on medieval Spanish literary culture.  His 2006 book The ‘Mester de clerecía’: Intellectuals and Ideologies in Thirteenth-Century Castile was awarded the annual international book prize from the journal La Corónica.


The Utility of the Mester de Clerecía
Patricia Grieve
Patricia Grieve is Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She has published widely in all areas of medieval literary history, most recently exploring literary representations of the mythic-historical figure of La Cava in The Eve of Spain: Myths of Origins in the History of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish Conflict (2009).


Matthew V. Desing
Matthew V. Desing is Assistant Professor of Spanish at the University of Texas at El Paso. His research focuses on travel, gender, and authority 13th-century texts. He has published on hagiography and medieval romance, and his book Mester de Romería: Travel and Ideology in the Literature of Medieval Spain is forthcoming.


Mary Jane Kelley
 Mary Jane Kelley is Associate Professor of Spanish at Ohio University. Her research focus is 13th-century narrative poetry in the cuaderna vía form, and she has published widely in the area of mester de clerecía’s depictions of vision and blindness, as well the representations of the textual and oral transmission of narratives.





The Libro de buen amor Reads Clerecia

Angel Gómez Moreno
Angel Gómez Moreno is a Professor at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid, Spain. He has authored and edited multiple volumes and many articles on diverse areas of medieval Spanish letters. His most recent book in the field is Claves hagiográficas de literatura española (del Cantar de mio Cid a Cervantes) (2008).


Ryan Giles
Ryan Giles is Associate Professor at Indiana University. He has published in many areas of medieval and early modern Spanish literature, and has been awarded the John K. Walsh Prize for outstanding essay in the field. His book, The Laughter of the Saints: Parodies of Holiness in Late Medieval and Renaissance Spain (2009) analyzes parodic energies in religious literature and culture.


Simone Pinet
Simone Pinet is Associate Professor of Spanish and Medieval Studies at Cornell University. Her publications bring theories of space, theories of fiction, cartography, and critical theory to bear on medieval and early modern prose fiction. Her most recent book is Archipelagoes: Insularity and Fiction in Medieval and Early Modern Spain (2011), and she has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship towards the completion of a monograph on the Libro de Alexandre.




Materiality, Corporeality, and Clerecía Poetry


Connie Scarborough
Connie Scarborough is Professor of Spanish at Texas Tech University. Her research has spanned textual scholarship, literary criticism and theory, and Marian devotion. She has produced critical editions as well as scholarly studies of medieval and early modern works. Her most recent book (2009) is A Holy Alliance: Alfonso X’s Political Use of Marian Poetry.


Robin Bower
Robin Bower is Associate Professor of Spanish at Penn State, Beaver, specializing in medieval and early modern literature. She has published on the hagiographies of Gonzalo de Berceo, and is interested in modern reception and transformation of medieval aesthetic and ideological categories.


Andrew Beresford 
Andrew Beresford is Reader, Head of Department, and Director of Education in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Durham, UK. He has published widely on a variety of topics related to hagiography and gender, early poetic and narrative theory, and the vernacular reception of Latin hagiography in Spain. His most recent book is The Severed Breast: The Legends of Saints Agatha and Lucy in Medieval Castilian Literature (2010).


Martha Daas 
Martha Daas is Associate Professor of Spanish at Old Dominion University. Her research interests include popular manifestations of religion in the Spanish Middle Ages and religious parody. Her book, The Politics of Salvation: Gonzalo de Berceo’s Reinvention of the Marian Myth, was published in 2011.







The conference will be held over the course of three days in late October of 2015 on the campus of the University of Texas at El Paso. Twenty-two international experts in the field have been invited to participate in a series of six focus sessions that will revolve around themes of broad interest to the study of thirteenth- (and fourteenth-) century clerical verse. A broader call for papers will be distributed widely a year in advance of the conference to solicit proposals for papers on specific texts, groups of texts, or themes, which will be organized into panels for the conference’s numerous concurrent sessions. A number of special events, including performances, receptions, and banquets have been organized in conjunctions with the academic sessions.


Wednesday, October 21
Travel/Arrival Day


5:30-7:30   Reception for early arrivers at the hotel
7:30-?   Dinner (at the participant’s venue of choice)



Thursday, October 22
Day One


8:00-8:30     Breakfast Buffet
8:30-9:00 Opening Remarks: Bower, Desing, Pascual-Argente; President Natalicio’s Welcome
9:00-10:30 Concurrent Sessions A (in individual meeting rooms)
10:30-11:00 Morning Coffee Hour
11:00-12:30   Focus Session One
12:30-1:45    Lunch (at the participant’s venue of choice) 
1:45-3:15       Concurrent Sessions B (in individual meeting rooms)
3:15-3:45   Afternoon Coffee Hour
3:45-5:45   Focus Session Two
6:15-7:15 Clerecía in Performance: An Introduction to Medieval Spain
(a free event open to the public)
7:15 – ? Dinner (at the participant’s venue of choice)
  NOTE: All activities will take place in the Tomás Rivera Convention Center unless otherwise noted




Friday, October 23

 Day Two


 8:00-8:30    Breakfast Buffet
 8:30-10:00    Concurrent Sessions C (in individual meeting rooms)
 10:00-10:30    Morning Coffee Hour
 10:30-12:00   Focus Session Three
 12:00-1:00    Lunch (at the participant’s venue of choice)
 1:00-3:00    Focus Session Four
 3:00-3:30   Afternoon Coffee Hour 
 3:30-5:00    Focus Session Five
6:30-7:15    Reception with open bar and entertainment
7:15-9:00    Conference Banquet


Saturday, October 24

 Day Three


 8:30-9:00   Breakfast Buffet
 9:00-10:30   Concurrent Sessions D (in individual meeting rooms); Educational Outreach Event (Session 1)
 10:30-11:00   Morning Coffee Hour
 11:00-12:30   Focus Session Six
 12:30-1:45   Lunch (at the participant’s venue of choice); Business Meeting: Planning for Future Clerecía Endeavors
 1:45-3:15   Concurrent Sessions E; Educational Outreach Event (Session 2)
 3:15-3:30   Afternoon Coffee Hour
 3:30-5:30   Focus Session Seven
 5:30-6:00   Closing Remarks: Bower, Desing, Pascual-Argente
 6:15 – ?   Optional excursion and reception in downtown El Paso


Sunday, October 25

Departure/Travel Day


10:30-12:00 Optional brunch for participants with late departures








Much of the early vernacular poetry from the Northern Iberian Peninsula that has survived to our day was written in a very structured poetic form and was thought to have been composed by clerics due to its learned nature. The Spanish scholar Manuel Milà i Fontanals was the first modern critic to use the term “mester de clerecía” to describe this poetry when he pronounced it in an academic address in 1865. Soon after, the phrase “mester de juglaría” was coined to refer to the minstrel poetry that preceded clerecía and for a time coexisted with it. Although not all of the poetic production of this period fit neatly into the two categories, this bipartite nomenclature fostered an emphasis on the differences between
what was termed the two Spanish mesteres. The phrases entered common usage in the study of medieval Spanish literature by the beginning of the twentieth century, but then came to be questioned, prominently in the 1960s and 1970s. Much exciting scholarship has been done in the field, both before and after the controversies over the names used to distinguish them. Now is the perfect time, as the 150th anniversary of the coinage of the term mester de clerecía approaches, to reassess this literature and its study.



Who is eligible to present at the Conference?

Everyone interested in the field of medieval Spanish literature, including graduate students, scholars in related fields, and independent scholars.


Will proposals be considered exclusively from the field of medieval Spanish literature or will related fields be considered?

The conference organizers encourage proposals from fields related to ALL aspects of 13th and 14th century Iberia, but especially those with a connection to the mester de clerecía broadly defined.


How do I register for the Conference?

Registration for the Conference will be available in spring 2015.  Please register your email address on this website in order be notified when the registration system is open.


May I present a paper in more than one session?

No. Only one formal presentation will be permitted per participant. Presenters may preside over an additional session in which they are not presenting.


Will the Conference accept proposals for complete sessions or only for individual papers?

Each individual paper proposal will be evaluated on its own merits, and therefore the Conference will accept only individual paper proposals.


What is the cost of the Conference, and are there any discounts available?

The information regarding the cost will be available when registration opens. Please register your email so you will be notified as soon as this information becomes available. The cost for presenters in general sessions will be set on a sliding scale by academic rank (full, associate, and assistant professor, lecturer/adjunct professor, or independent scholar) and graduate students will receive a special discount.


May a paper be read in absentia?

Papers may be read in absentia under extenuating circumstances, but prior arrangements must be made with the Conference organizers.


How can I volunteer to preside over/chair a session?

The registration website will have a field to indicate whether or not you would like to chair or moderate a session.


Do I have to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn?

No. This is the Conference hotel, which will have special services for the conference attendees. Participants will also receive a discount on rooms at the Hilton Garden Inn. The Hilton Garden Inn is the only hotel adjacent to the UTEP campus, but there are a few other hotels located at a ten-minute car ride from the campus.





Female Saints and Heroes
May 15 - November 6, 2016
Dorrance and Olga Roderick Gallery

The retablo exhibition focuses on the representation of female saints. The El Paso Museum of Art has become the second largest repository of 19th-century Mexican retablos in the United States, with a collection of 900. Out of the entire retablo collection only 5% showcase female saints as the main subject. Though the subject matter is considered hard to find in retablo art, it is an important theme present in the Museum’s collection. Female Saints and Heroes celebrates the piety, wisdom, and physical suffering of female saints and also highlights their influence on the lives of 19th-century Mexican women.

Devotional images created in the 19th century of female saints were specifically targeted towards a female audience. They were used as practical role models and served to reassure the viewer that she could achieve an intimate spiritual association with Christ. Female saints were portrayed in retablos in a manner that would illustrate the accomplishments of the saints’ labor and determination and highlight their purity and connection with God. Female Saints and Heroes includes the representation of ten saints who encompass this idea: Saint Anne, Saint Barbara, Saint Hedwig, Saint Helen, Saint Gertrude the Great, Mary Margaret Alacoque, Saint Rita of Cascia, Saint Rosalie of Palermo, Saint Teresa, and Saint Wilgefortis/Saint Librada.

A special feature of this exhibition is the representation of women in ex-votos. Ex-votos are narrative images displayed publicly in churches or shrines and used to commemorate a miracle and give thanks to a particular religious figure. They usually include an image of the saint being thanked and a portrayal of the person who commissioned the retablo. The depiction of female donors in ex-votos is important because it showcases women as patrons of the arts in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It also provides proof that commissioning art was an important aspect in the devotional life of Mexican women.

The existing EPMA retablo collection has come from a variety of sources, but most importantly thanks to gifts from the following major patrons: Nancy Hamilton, Dorrance and Olga Roderick, Frank and Sara McKnight, as well as the McKnight couple’s children, Dr. Steven McKnight, Elizabeth McKnight Manning, and Nancy McKnight Howell. This retablo exhibition celebrating an uncommon category of retablo art represents a continuation of this generosity within one of the most important realms of our institution’s collection and collecting mission.

For more information call (915) 212-3059.

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MAMA XL Anuual meeting of the Mid-America Assosiation
Emporia State University, 7 September 2016

Papers are invited on any medieval topic, including, of course, those aligned with the conference theme. “Other Worlds” can be construed to encompass many other worlds indeed, spiritual, supernatural, imaginary or fanciful, social, physical, metaphysical, psychological, gendered, ethnic, geographical—with Paradise, Purgatory, Hell, the past, the future, the cloister, the college, the East, Islam, Judaism, social classes other than one’s own, lands other than one’s own, Camelot, Avalon, and faerie, itself, representing only a few of the possibilities.

Please send 250-word abstracts of papers on any medieval topic to: mstorm@emporia.edu

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In the beautiful fall weather of the U.S Southwest, scholars from a variety of disciplines and from across the globe will gather at the bilingual campus (Spanish and English) of The University of Texas at El Paso to mark this important milestone, to reassess this literature and its study, as well as to chart new directions for the field.


The submission deadline for the Call for Papers has passed. If you have questions about late submissions, or if you failed to receive an email confirmation of your abstract submission, please contact the organizers at clerecia150@utep.edu.







Welcome to the Cleric’s Craft Registration Process


The conference organizers are excited that you have decided to register for this first-of-its-kind academic meeting on the mester de clerecía. Before you begin with the registration process, we would like you to know about the kinds of information that you will provide, as well as to be informed of the tiered pricing for the conference.


Registration for the conference is a multi-page process. You will first be asked for some basic biographical information (name, title, institutional affiliation, address, etc.), before continuing on to pages about meal preferences, special accomodations, and pricing. The final stage of the process is the payment page; the registration site is secure, and we recommend payment with a credit card.


You will have the choice to register for the conference banquet, which is a flat fee of $30. Otherwise, we have a tiered pricing scale for the conference which varies based on the academic rank of the participant and the date of registration. Register early for the best price!


Registration Prices for the Cleric’s Craft Conference


Early Registration: Until July 15
Students/Adjunct Faculty/Independent Scholars: $80
Assistant Professors/Postdocs: $150
Associate/Full Professors: $180


Regular Registration: July 16-August 31
Students/Adjunct Faculty/Independent Scholars: $110
Assistant Professors/Postdocs: $180
Associate/Full Professors: $210


Late Registration: September 1-October 16
Students/Adjunct Faculty/Independent Scholars: $140
Assistant Professors/Postdocs: $210
Associate/Full Professors: $240


On-site Registration
Students/Adjunct Faculty/Independent Scholars: $170
Assistant Professors/Postdocs: $240
Associate/Full Professors: $270



A Note About the Conference Hotel
The official conference hotel is the Hilton Garden Inn, located approximately two blocks from the UTEP Union East where the conference will be held. The Hilton Garden Inn has given the conference special pricing; to get the special conference rate, please provide the promotional code CSMLC when reserving your room. Hotel reservation is not part of the registration process on the following site. If you plan to stay at the conference hotel, you must book your room separately.


By clicking the following link, you will begin the registration process:










Spain's Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport logo


Thank you to the sponsors who made this landmark conference possible:


  • Spain’s Ministry of Education, Culture, and Sport
  • UTEP’s Department of Languages and Linguistics
  • UTEP’s Program for Religious Studies
  • UTEP’s College of Liberal Arts
  • UTEP’s Graduate School
  • UTEP’s Office of Research and Sponsored Projects
  • UTEP’s Provost Office
  • UTEP’s Graduate School
  • UTEP’s Office of the President