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POSTPONED – Law and Disorder: Fools, Outlaws, and Justice in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
TO BE RESCHEDULED SPRING 2021 – CMRS Symposium
The word “fool” is itself a performer, a loaded term prone to an explosion of meaning even when handled with care. Even before the Middle Ages, this figure of ambiguity—called variously jongleur, jester, madman, storyteller–was both castigated as vulgar and heralded as purveyor of literary art, derided for revealing humanity’s foibles and yet welcomed for speaking wisdom in the guise of nonsense. In the early modern period, virtually all fools wore the mantle of outsider and rule-breaker. Modern comedians still dance on the razor’s edge, remaining an errant, unstable force, criticizing social bulwarks while wielding one of humanity’s most powerful weapons: humor.
This symposium, organized by CMRS Associate Sharon Diane King, PhD, hones in on the multivalent role of fool as a being outside the bounds of law and justice while pointing to an often-transcendent vision of humanity. Scholars from various disciplines—literature, history, art, and performance–will offer their perspectives on the Fool and the permissibility of comedy vis-à-vis lawfulness and social order. Ideally, the symposium will probe the very nature of justice itself within human society, both past and present. The medieval theatre troupe Les Enfans Sans Abri will perform a translation of a short medieval French sottie, “No Fooling with Justice,” to contribute to the discussion.
Funding is provided by the Armand Hammer Endowment for the UCLA Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.