The 2022 Conway Lectures: "Trading Types: Mercantile Multilingualism and Race in the Premodern Virtual Classroom"


Location: Eck Center Auditorium (View on map )

Susie Phillips Web

Go to the Conway YouTube livestream

About the Talk

Adopting the unruly premodern marketplace as the scene of their instruction, the popular vernacular textbooks that flooded the premodern European print marketplace opened virtual classrooms to linguists of the lower orders, readers seeking not a thorough knowledge of other languages, but practical lessons in conversation. These little books did not simply eschew grammatical discipline, they flouted the ethical and social discipline presumed to govern the premodern classroom. Modelling all manner of transgression, from insults and pick-up lines to welching on debts, they taught readers the languages of the multilingual market and the tricks of its trade. Perhaps most surprising of all, as they sought to make their instruction accessible to—and useful for—readers further down the social ladder, they asked their audience to imagine the world “otherwise,” in Candice Chuh’s powerful formulation, shifting their readers’ perspective by making visible figures usually excluded from the representational spotlight — Black servants.

About the Speaker

Susie Phillips is associate professor of English at Northwestern University and the recipient of an Alumnae of Northwestern Teaching Professorship, the University’s highest award for distinguished teaching. Author of Transforming Talk: The Problem with Gossip in Late Medieval England (2007), she has published essays on Chaucer, gossip theory, late medieval pastoral practice, Renaissance dictionaries, medieval multilingualism, and premodern pedagogy. Her current project, “Learning to Talk Shop: Mercantile Mischief and Popular Pedagogy in Premodern England,” examines the multilingual dictionaries and phrasebooks that flooded the European marketplace in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, opening up a virtual classroom to an audience who did not have access to formal education and offering instruction in the pragmatic, and murky, ethics of the premodern marketplace.

About the Conway Lectures

In 2002, the Medieval Institute inaugurated a lecture series in honor of Robert M. and Ricki Conway. Robert Conway is a 1966 graduate of Notre Dame and trustee of the University, and he and his wife are long-time friends and supporters of the Medieval Institute. The annual Conway Lectures bring senior scholars of international distinction to Notre Dame each fall to speak on topics across a variety of disciplines.

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