Mahinder Kingra – Cornell University Press

Songs, Saints, and Salvation: A Conversation with Cornell University Press’s Medieval Studies Editor, Mahinder Kingra

Q: What new books will Cornell University Press be highlighting at this year’s virtual IMC 2020?

A: I’m really proud of the new books that visitors to vICM  2020 will be able to browse at the virtual book fair this year. The titles reflect the range of our publishing program in medieval studies, including history, literature, music and sound studies, and material culture, from Late Antiquity to the early modern period. 

Our digital Medieval Studies 2020 catalog is probably the easiest way to learn about all of our new, recent, and forthcoming titles, but among the highlights are Adam Davis’s detailed and engaging account of the “hospital revolution” in the twelfth century, The Medieval Economy of Salvation; Eliza Zingesser’s Stolen Song: How the Troubadours Became French, which looks at the complex and often surprising ways that French-language musicians appropriated Occitan cultural forms; and a pair of books that look at the different ways in which sainthood was constructed and disputed in medieval Italy: Mary Harvey Doyno’s The Lay Saint and Janine Larmon Peterson’s Suspect Saints and Holy Heretics

(Editor’s note: visit our IMC Virtual Exhibit to find all of Cornell’s new and recent titles, as well as all of our other publishers’, and take advantage of the exclusive 30% conference discount: https://www.combinedacademic.co.uk/medieval-studies-virtual-exhibit )

Q: What are the disadvantages of not being able to attend Leeds IMC in person?

A: Other than not being able to return to city of my birth for the first time, what I will miss most about not being able to attend the IMC in person are the conversations, whether scheduled or impromptu, with scholars to find out about the projects on which they are working and let them know about the publishing opportunities at Cornell. In particular, I would have spent considerable time and energy talking about our exciting new medieval history series edited by Cecilia Gaposchkin (Dartmouth College) and Anne Lester (Johns Hopkins University): Medieval Societies, Religions, and Culture. The series was officially announced last year and we have begun evaluating manuscripts, talking to potential authors, and expressing interest in promising new work. The animating idea behind the series is to explore the profound interconnectedness of religions, politics, cultures, social lives and contexts, ideologies, and materialities that defined the medieval experience.

Q: What’s on the horizon for Cornell’s medieval studies list?

A: This autumn, we will be publishing a biography of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux by Brian Patrick McGuire, an account based on a wide range of sources but one that focuses intently on Bernard’s own voluminous writings and, as a result, humanizes this famously difficult figure. I’m also excited about a book by Adin Lears, World of Echo, that looks at the soundscape of medieval England and the ways in which thinkers and theologians understood sound, noise, voice, and music. And out of our military history list, sponsored by my colleague Emily Andrew, there’s a very cool book about the history and cultural significance of the sword in medieval and early modern Britain and France, titled Living by the Sword by Kristen B. Neuschel.

I’m really pleased with the direction that Cornell’s list in medieval studies is taking. Our new series promises to bring in a wide range – whether geographically, methodologically, or disciplinarily – of exciting works of scholarship, and outside the series, we will pursue similarly diverse book projects.

Q: What books are you reading now? 

A: Surprisingly, the real-life dystopia we are living through right now has not dissuaded me from reading fictional works about dark futures, so I recently started a SF novel, The Nobody People, by Bob Proehl, who lives here in Ithaca, New York, where he was instrumental in establishing our independent bookstore. And because the pandemic has curtailed traveling for pleasure as well as for work, I am also reading Leave Only Footprints, a memoir about visiting every one of America’s National Parks, from Acadia to Zion (as the subtitle states). And finally, I’ve been rereading Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series from the first issue. I have the entire run from when I was actively buying comic books in the 1980s and 1990s, and it’s been a pleasure revisiting the intricate worlds Gaiman created. 

Mahinder Kingra is Editor in Chief at Cornell University Press, acquiring in Medieval History & Literature and Literary Studies (including Classical, Medieval & Renaissance, Early Modern, Victorian, Modernist, Contemporary) find out more here and follow him on Twitter: @MSK_CornellUP