“Medieval Undergrounds” The 16th Annual Toronto German Studies Symposium

When and Where

Sunday, May 05, 2024 9:30 am to Tuesday, May 07, 2024 2:30 pm
Paul Cadario Conference Centre
Croft Chapter House
1 Devonshire


Registration is required; please visit the event website for complete details.

CMS speakers include: 
Walker Horsfall (CMS Alum), University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, The Magnetic Mountain as Epistemic Marker in Medieval German Literature
Wynn Martin (CMS Student), “Einn jötunn kom at gera þetta hválf”: Cultural Translation of Caves, Giants, and Stone Edifices in 'Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar'
Christopher Miller (CMS Alum), University of Notre Dame, Pulling Back the Earthen Veil: Under Ground as Space of Translation
Laura Moncion (CMS Student), Inwards and Upwards: The Spiritual Spaces of Mary Magdalene’s Cave and the Recluse’s Cell

Medieval Undergrounds

Medieval and early modern human interaction with the underground is closely associated with fear and fascination. Widespread associations of the underground with hell, darkness, and death coexisted in premodern and early modern cultures with positive associations of material wealth, spiritual enlightenment, and access to hidden knowledge. This symposium explores the liminal quality of underground spaces and revisits commonly associated dichotomies, such as light vs. dark, material vs. immaterial, and life vs. death. Its focus is on human interaction with the underground, including spiritual, narrative, material and technical aspects, ranging from medieval and early modern conceptualizations of the underground as otherworldly to the natural-technological conditions of resource extraction in these periods.

This symposium’s approach to relations between humans and their physical environment during the Middle Ages and the early modern period, as well as the place of technology within these relations, offers a historically rich perspective on the environmental concerns which have become central to contemporary lifestyles. Rather than seeking the origins of modern issues, beliefs, and attitudes towards the environment, this project analyzes key cultural representations which have contributed to shaping the present situation: from the growing acceptance of the economic and moral value of mining in the late Middle Ages, to individual experiences of the boundaries between surface and underground spaces.



Germanic Languages & Literatures, U of T