Biennial New College Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Disrupted by the Pandemic in 2020, Returns This Week

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- by Abby Weingarten


It is an opportunity to share scholarly perspectives and find intellectual camaraderie. The conversations are fascinating, for sure, but not only to academics in specific subfields.

Hundreds of attendees come from numerous countries and disciplines. Some industry experts travel from across the globe. Others are simply lifelong learners who live in Sarasota-Manatee. This year, they will congregate from Thurs. March 3 to Sun. March 5, both in person and virtually.

“For a lot of people in our field, this conference is the reason people have heard of New College,” said New College Professor of Medieval and Renaissance History Carrie Beneš, Ph.D., who co-chaired the 22nd event with Professor of English and Theater & Performance Studies Nova Myhill, Ph.D. “They look forward to it every two years [although it was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic].”

One of the largest regular conferences in the southeastern United States, the New College Conference on Medieval and Renaissance Studies is internationally recognized as a preeminent venue for researchers. Three full days of panels will cover European and Mediterranean history, literature, art and religion from the fourth to the 17th centuries.

“The conference prides itself on creating a collegial atmosphere that is conducive to developing intellectual community,” Myhill said. “And we’re so glad to be a part of recreating some of the personal and academic connections that the pandemic disrupted.”

While there has often been a misconception that this conference is akin to a “medieval fair” (it is not), there is more to it than a roster of speakers and lectures. The turkey legs and jousting matches may be absent, but there is still plenty of entertainment (including associated performances of literature works and medieval music, and tours of The Ringling Museum of Art).

Beneš and Myhill have been co-organizing the event since 2006, and the amount of preparation involved is enormous. The two painstakingly organize the lineup, making sure the topics do not overlap at concurrent times, and that the program is sufficiently varied content-wise. They seek out dynamic speakers who not only have compelling research to share but who can share it in such a way that it is digestible to various listeners.

Several of the presenters come from surrounding institutions like the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and Ringling College of Art and Design, and multiple New College professors will be presenting.

“It’s a great way to try out ideas for books and papers you’re working on, for grad students to share dissertation ideas, and for students to meet the authors they read in class,” Beneš said.

There will be 45 panels involving more than 150 speakers, three performances, and plenary lectures by three leading scholars. Jonathan Phillips, Ph.D., “Writing the History of Saladin”; and Mary Floyd-Wilson, Ph.D., “The Habitation of Airy Nothings,” will serve as the usual two keynote talks.

But the 2022 Conference is also hosting the annual meeting of the Dante Society of America, whose chosen theme is “Dante and the Global Middle Ages,” with a plenary by the Jamaican poet laureate Lorna Goodison, Ph.D., called “Dante, Between Dread and Hope.” Goodison’s talk on Saturday evening is being co-sponsored by the Conference, the Dante Society of America and New College’s Black History Month celebration.

Anyone (academic or non-academic, anywhere in the world) can pay a virtual-only registration fee of $25 for Zoom access to the entire conference. The three plenary lectures will be livestreamed for free on New College’s YouTube channel, too.

“We’re running the conference in a hybrid format this year to accommodate both those who are very enthusiastic about resuming in-person conferences after two years on Zoom and those who prefer to participate remotely,” Myhill said. “We hope the hybrid format will allow people to attend the conference who might otherwise not be able to.”

For more information on the conference, visit and

Abby Weingarten is the senior editor in the Office of Communications & Marketing.