The “Women at Sea” symposium began organically as a conversation between Rachel MossRoberta Magnani and Kristi Castleberry after Rachel posted a blog entitled “Twilight of Transition: Pregnancy, Birth and Empathetic Bodies.” The post, written in Rachel’s late pregnancy, asked us to reconsider how pregnant medieval women might have responded to narratives of women set to sea: “In the twilight time of transformation – one might just as easily bring death as life – what kind of aching empathetic understanding might come from seeing these vulnerable bodies put to sea?” As the three began to share their enthusiasm over this topic, a conversation quickly developed on twitter and then transferred to email. Since the ocean disrupts boundaries and borders and temporalities, the topic connected nicely to Roberta’s interests in queering time and space, while Kirsti’s work connecting medieval maps and women’s sea travel in Middle English literature made it a natural fit for her as well. As the three generated more and more ideas, they realized that it would be a fruitful topic for a symposium. Roberta secured the perfect location for a discussion about the sea in the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea, Wales, and the symposium will embody its oceanic and fluid themes by bringing together individuals from different countries and disciplines and career stages.


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