Southeastern Medieval Association Annual Conference 2017

The College of Charleston and The Citadel are proud to sponsor the 2017 annual meeting of the Southeastern Medieval Association (SEMA), November 16-18, in Charleston, South Carolina.

Call for Papers

The theme of this year's meeting is "Holy City," an appropriation of its bespired host city's nickname. The Organizing Committee invites proposals for papers that explore, from any disciplinary perspective, any aspect of the joining of the sacred and the urban in any medieval religious culture. "Holy City" may mean a place (e.g. Jerusalem, Rome, Mecca), a community, a concept. It may be real or imagined, theoretical or practical, coherent or confused, even inverted by vice and profanity. Interpret broadly and creatively. Proposals on other medieval topics, including teaching medieval culture, are also welcome.

This Call for Papers is available in print-ready color and grayscale versions.

The on-line portal for presentation proposals is closed. Thanks to everyone who submitted by the extended deadline of June 30, 2017.


A preliminary edition of the conference program is now available. See it here. Thanks to everyone who reported errors and inconsistencies in previous versions.

Meeting Hotel

Our meeting venue is the luxurious and historic Francis Marion Hotel at the corner of King Street and Calhoun Street in downtown Charleston. This is right in the Holy City's historic center, very close to the College of Charleston campus, and in easy walking distance from other major attractions.

The discounted room rate for the conference is $179, a bargain for the location and season. Book your room on-line, or call the Francis Marion directly at 843-722-0600 or 877-756-2121. If you call, make sure to ask specifically for the Southeastern Medieval Association conference rate.

The deadline for hotel booking at the conference rate is Monday, October 16, at 5 p.m. local time.

Transportation from Charleston International Airport (CHS)

There are two shuttle services to downtown Charleston. The fare for the SuperShuttle affiliate service is $14.

Conventional taxis can be hailed at the designated area for taxis, limos, and buses. This is just outside Baggage Claim. Taxis accept major credit cards and charge a fee of $14 per passenger for three or more passengers. Taxi fare to downtown Charleston should be approximately $30. Uber is also available.

Two Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority (CARTA) bus lines service the airport. Route 11 runs to the Charleston Visitor Center, which is a short walk from the hotel. Fare is $2. The trip takes takes approximately one hour in light traffic, and double that time in rush hour traffic. Express Route 4 also runs to the Visitor Center. The fare is $3.50, and the trip time is approximately 20 minutes. CARTA drivers cannot make change.

The Francis Marion Hotel has more transportation information, including a map and directions for drivers.


Registration, including payment of SEMA annual dues, is required for all attendees. Register on-line at the College of Charleston MarketPlace. Undergraduate and graduate students should make sure to select Student Registration for reduced rates; all others should select Regular Registration. Make sure also to secure your tickets to the Friday banquet. Consider also the options for the Friday night concert of historic chant and song, the pre-conference paleography workshop, and the official commemorative conference totebag.

Plenary Speakers and Special Events

Constance H. Berman

Constance Berman is a Professor Emerita of History at the University of Iowa. She is an economic and social historian of monasticism in the medieval Latin West. Since 1990, her work has concentrated on illuminating the activity of Cistercian nuns and revising received narratives of the Cistercian Order to acknowledge women as central to the Cistercian movement. She has persisted in this work despite hostility from present-day Cistercian and Trappist scholars following her provocative and ground-breaking second book, The Cistercian Evolution (2000). Her many subsequent publications include thirty articles and two edited volumes. Her forthcoming book, The White Nuns: Cistercian Abbeys for Women in Medieval France (2018), will extensively document how Cistercian nuns in the province of Sens were active, competent, and powerful managers of their own spiritual and corporate lives.

White Nuns will counter traditional marginalizing misogynist discourses on medieval nuns. Berman's plenary presentation, "Renovatio sacri Senatus: Roman Renewal from a Nun's Eye View," will do likewise, by showing that women religious were leading participants in the Eternal City's revival in the central Middle Ages.

Melanie Holcomb and Barbara Drake Boehm

Melanie Holcomb is a Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Barbara Drake Boehm is the Paul and Jill Ruddock Senior Curator for the Met Cloisters. Holcomb's past work includes contributing to the reinstallation of the Museum’s Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries for Byzantine Art and organizing the exhibition Pen and Parchment: Drawing in the Middle Ages. Boehm's work includes the Met exhibitions Enamels of Limoges, Prayer Book for a Queen: The Hours of Jeanne d’Évreux, and Prague, The Crown of Bohemia. Boehm's exhibitions for The Cloisters include The Game of Kings: Medieval Ivory Chessmen from the Isle of Lewis and Search for the Unicorn.

Holcomb and Boehm have collaborated on a past exhibition series, Medieval Jewish Art in Context. They are the present co-curators of the Met loan exhibition Jerusalem 1000-1400: Every People Under Heaven (September 2016 - January 2018). Their presentation, “Jerusalem, Holy City of Expectations,” will draw from this critically acclaimed work.

Pre-conference Paleography Workshop with Timothy Graham

Eminent paleographer Timothy Graham of the University of New Mexico will be holding a workshop, suitable for both novices and as a refresher for experienced paleographers, from 9:00 a.m. to noon on Thursday, November 16 (conference panels begin at 1:00 p.m.) The event will take place at the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library, a two-block walk from the conference hotel. Sign up early; space is limited. A subsidy from the SEMA Executive Council allows us to offer this workshop at the low price of $40 for regular registrants and $20 for students.

King's Counterpoint Concert

King's Counterpoint is a Charleston-based vocal ensemble. They will perform a program crafted specifically for SEMA, with music ranging from chant to late medieval polyphony. The concert will be held in the Cathedral Church of St. Luke and St. Paul, only two blocks away from the conference hotel, at 8:00 p.m., Friday, November 17. Conference attendees may purchase tickets throught the registration portal.

Organizing Committee

SEMA 2017 is a joint production of the following Charleston scholars:


Thanks to the following Citadel organizations for their generous financial support:

  • The Henry and Jenny Johnson Endowment
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Department of Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

Thanks to the following College of Charleston organizations for their generous financial support:

  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs
  • School of the Arts
  • Department of Art History
  • Department of Classics
  • Department of English
  • Department of French, Francophone, and Italian Studies
  • Department of German and Russian Studies
  • Department of Hispanic Studies
  • Department of History
  • Asian Studies Program
  • Addlestone Library