About 2017 Issues
Vol. 8, Issue 1: Facing up to the History of Emotion
The expression of emotion on the human face is notoriously difficult to read and describe. Many academic disciplines and artistic and cultural practices are fascinated by the face and its capacity to express emotion, from art, literature, cinema, photography, drama and biography to sociology, politics, psychology, cultural studies and anthropology. Contemporary theories of cognitive psychology often appeal to static visual images of the face, seeking to systematise an indexical relationship between particular emotions and the voluntary or involuntary movement of facial muscles, such as a raised eyebrow or the down-turned corner of a mouth.
When we consider the broader social perspectives of historical change, cultural difference and artistic production, however, we quickly move to a more subtle and modulated understanding of the relationship between emotions and the face. Medieval and early modern writers, artists and thinkers work within some rich and potentially contradictory practices of emotion and expression, which supplement contemporary theories of faciality and the meaning and significance of the human face.
It is clear that we need longer, transhistorical as well as multidisciplinary accounts of thematic topics like 'the face' in the history of emotions. This special issue analyses various emotive, expressive and charismatic faces of earlier periods and their impact on medieval, early modern and contemporary audiences. Essays in this collection address questions of historical change; racial, cultural, and linguistic encounter; and textual, performative, and visual representation of the face. Just as individual faces can both express and withhold emotions, the historized faces of the Middle Ages and early modernity simultaneously invite and resist our intellectual desire to scrutinize them.
Interested contributors should contact the special issue guest editors directly: Stephanie Trigg and Stephanie Downes.
Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne) and Stephanie Downes (University of Melbourne)
Open Topic Contributor
Phenomenal Pain: Embodying the Passion in the Life of Elizabeth of Spalbeek
Sarah Macmillan, Liverpool H
Volume 8, Issue 2: Medievalism and the Medical Humanities
Medicine, health, and wellbeing are perennial concerns and interests throughout the medieval period. They dictate an individual's life and abilities whilst on earth, influence their interaction with the world around them, and define one's understanding of an eventual, eternal state of existence. There are many medical texts containing diagnoses, remedies, theories, and systems that attempt to classify and explain human health; however, medieval medicine is also influenced and interpreted by many non-medical spheres. The developing field of medical humanities recognises that medicine cannot be viewed in isolation: whether in the twenty-first century, or any historical period, medicine is always in dialogue with a range of other factors including social influences, cultural attitudes, and individual, human experiences and sensibilities. Medical humanities, therefore, offers various opportunities to examine medicine, health and wellbeing in the medieval period, expanding the reach of medicine into personal, social, cultural, and religious realms. The dialogue is dynamic: although medicine can shape society, so too can humanity, in its broadest sense, influence the approach of medicine. Literature of the medieval period reveals great sensitivity to wellbeing and existence, employing imaginative forms and metaphors to classify and communicate physical and mental states. In addition, important layers of religious interpretation colour attitudes to certain conditions including the registers of sin, judgement, suffering, and salvation. Great creativity is displayed as humans react to their own conditions, manufacturing supernatural, astrological, and mystical explanations which are informed by, but developed beyond, the opinions and classifications of medieval medicine itself.
This issue of postmedieval seeks to explore the possibilities that the medical humanities can offer in medieval studies and further promote the mutual benefits that are already emerging. The fluid methodologies of medical humanities allow us to more accurately sketch the multiple influences upon individual and collective views of health, medicine and wellbeing in the medieval period. Similarly, by applying the medieval model to twenty-first century medical humanities we define the areas within which humans respond to and interpret health and wellbeing and then, from which, medicine itself might learn and adapt. The approach allows us to better understand the medieval world but also develops our definition of and approach to medical humanities, viewed through a medieval lens or inside a medieval frame of reference.
Essays discuss medical humanities in its broadest sense and references may be made to any aspect of medieval studies including literature, history, theology, archaeology, manuscript studies, medieval medicine, and the medieval sciences. Possible areas for the issue's investigation might include (but are by no means limited to):
- Theoretical questions and challenges regarding the combination of medieval studies and the medical humanities and the possibilities for such research in the twenty-first century (including areas such as research opportunities, archival access, and new technology).
- The differences in inter-disciplinary dialogue between medieval studies and the medical humanities and the tradition of medical research in medieval studies
- Experiences, perceptions, and reflections on health and wellbeing in medieval literature and the understanding of mind, body, and affect.
- Human experience and the expression of health and wellness, including metaphors of physicality and mentality.
- The importance of gender (literal or in terms of methodology) when combining medieval studies and the medical humanities.
- Visions, hallucinations, and the wonder of bodily and mental experience.
- Advances in medieval medicine such as anatomy and surgery and the dissemination of new medical understanding.
- The social attitudes towards disease and disability, including social stigma.
- The narration of illness and the presentation or explanation of suffering and death.
- Religious influences on health and/or the theological interpretations of illness, including the relationship between spirituality, suffering, and salvation.
- The significance of historical and cultural events and their influence on the medical/human dynamic such as epidemics, wars, politics.
- The role of the human or patient in medieval medicine, the doctor/patient relationship, and the teaching of medicine.
Jamie McKinstry (Durham University) and Corinne Saunders (Durham University)
Open Topic Contributor:
2016 Camille Prize winning article
Volume 8, Issue 3: Thinking Across Tongues
This special issue of postmedieval explores how theories and practices of translation, medieval and modern, might allow for a more capacious critical approach to cultural and literary studies. How do the history of translation theory and literary history overlap and inform one another? What kinds of histories intersect translation theory, and how might historicism enact its own modes of critical theory? Recent work of many critical-theoretical persuasions has demonstrated how readily medieval contexts reorient history and theory: multivernacular Britain and France dislodge modern alignments of language and nation (Butterfield, Familiar Enemy; Wogan-Browne et al., eds., The French of England), the interpenetration of languages throughout the Mediterranean yields new approaches to philology and connectivity (Mallette, Norman Sicily; Akbari and Malette, eds., A Sea of Languages; Phillips’s forthcoming Polyglots and Pocketbooks), medieval sites of intercultural contact and conflict invite engagement with disparate postcolonial contexts (Warren, Creole Medievalism; Cohen, Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages; Campbell and Mills, eds., Rethinking Medieval Translation); and Anglo-Saxon and late-medieval poetry resonates across time with the work of modern poets and translingual writers (Jones, Strange Likeness; Hsy, Trading Tongues). We intend this special issue to carry these discussions further, to push them in creative new directions, and to assess afresh the pervasiveness of translation in medieval culture.
The issue includes contributors across a range of interests and approaches—including historical linguistics, translation studies, comparative literature, media studies, and disability studies—as well as contributors who think creatively across different approaches. Contributions explore the flexibility, durability, and interpretive power of translation as a critical concept, evincing not simply a movement from one language into another, but rather a mode of thinking across multiple sites concurrently: across languages, media, and disparate moments in time. We approach translation as a concept that can be explored narrowly or broadly (interlingual translations, cultural translations, cross-period translations) and as one that (perhaps more than most) repays a wide range of critical approaches. Indeed, translation allows for and even encourages a sort of critical-theoretical cross-pollination (another sort of translation) that belies any too-strict divide between different methodologies. We ask how translation transpires not only across languages and cultures, but also across time, space, and diverse modes of embodied experience—with new frontiers awaiting exploration via historicist, psychoanalytic, and queer approaches, critical animal studies, and disability theory.
Interested contributors should contact the special issue guest editors directly: Mary Kate Hurley, Jonathan Hsy and Andrew Kraebel.
Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio University), Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University, Andrew Kraebel (Yale University)
Open Topic Contributor:
The Horror of Orthodoxy: Christina Mirabilis, Thirteenth-Century 'Zombie' Saint
Alicia Spencer-Hall (Queen Mary, University of London)
About 2016 Issues
Vol. 7, Issue 1: Imagined Encounters: Historiographies for a New World
José Saramago's History of the Siege of Lisbon (1989) is structured around a transgressive proofreader who alters the course of history with the insertion of the word "not" in a historical text. By negating a crucial statement in the text, the proofreader then sets out to rewrite the history of the siege of Lisbon. Medievalists must often reconstruct the nature of their objects and audiences in order to produce narratives on visual and literary interactions between images, texts, and their communities. Through excavations, primary texts, and artifacts, cultures of reception are articulated and experiences with objects and texts are interpolated. Similar to a proofreader's ethical code, archaeologists and art historians operate with an infinite list of assertions and negations that define the possibility of certain inquiries and narratives. The scholar knows, for example, that an eleventh-century Byzantine viewer did not use an iPad for worship.
Despite understanding the visualities of a Byzantine beholder and the workings of an iPad, the extrapolation of this encounter is verboten as a scholarly narrative. Nevertheless, such encounters across time offer fruitful parallels and sites of generative critical resistance that operate within the same processes of imaginative and discursive (re)construction that a scholar deploys to produce any historical narrative. The "imagined encounter" enables the scholar to produce scholarship that is socially motivated, rooted in the concerns of the present while still offering critical feedback beyond anachronism. This volume's essays encourage the suspension of disbelief and the negation of historical 'givens' in order to construct imagined (rather than imaginary) historiographies.
Roland Betancourt (University of California, Irvine)
Open Topic Contributor:
Unworking Milton: Steps to a Georgics of the Mind
Steven Swarbrick (Brown University)
Staging Encounters: The Touch of the Medieval Other
Miriamne Krummel (University of Dayton)
Volume 7, Issue 2: After Eco: Novel Medievalisms
From Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe to Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, from Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy to Tarik Ali's A Sultan in Palermo, historical fiction has played a central role in shaping modern conceptions of the Middle Ages. A wealth of scholarship on modern medievalism reveals the variety of ideological, religious, and political uses to which historical fictions set in this era have been put, and the genre shows no sign of losing traction among contemporary readerships. The enduring popularity of historical fictions of the Middle Ages invites a more extended investigation into the intellectual and cultural stakes of this genre, the changing relationships between fiction and history, and the multiple temporalities of medievalist fictional and critical practice at a moment when the academic study of the Middle Ages faces unprecedented institutional challenges.
In this spirit, the issue includes contributions from scholars and writers with varying investments in the topic: both literary scholars interested in historical fiction as a genre through which to think and teach past and present, as well as published writers of realist fiction set in the Middle Ages. The issue encourages several contemporary novelists to speculate about why and how they envision the Middle Ages the way they do, and what they see as the role of fiction in bringing the historical past (as opposed to medievalist fantasy worlds) alive for modern readers. Some guiding questions are: What is the nature and role of research in the production of historical fiction, and how is it made visible or invisible within fictional narratives? How do writers of historical fiction balance a will to historical authenticity with the creation of those compelling imagined worlds central to any fictional enterprise? How does the genre figure in the modern classroom, and with what consequences for the curriculum (both university and K-12) and for the boundaries of discipline and period? Do fiction writers struggle against or embrace the conventions and influences of the genre? How do fiction writers and critics negotiate the pre-modern sexual politics of the Middle Ages while appealing to contemporary readers? How do historical fictions of the European Middle Ages compare to fictions set in other eras and world regions (ancient Rome, say, or early modern Japan)? Essays may also address issues of contemporary economic and institutional difference (considering, for example, the for-profit character of much historical fiction in relation to the dire situation of the academic disciplines - and thus the research - that has long undergirded the genre), and the potential of historical fiction to range from philosophical post-modernist paradox to popular culture and historical romance. One of the larger purposes of this volume, in fact, is to use contributors' joint academic-writerly energies to think broadly about the humanities as they inhabit and inform contemporary fiction, creating an alliance of sorts between the academic and creative side of the divide (while exposing this divide as something of a fiction in itself). The issue features a range of voices, styles, and ambitions, combining longer essays with shorter think pieces, clusters, interviews, and other forms of dialogue.
Interested contributors should contact the special issue guest editors directly: Bruce Holsinger and Stephanie Trigg.
Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia) and Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne)
Open Topic Contributor:
Touched by an Owl? An Essay in Vernacular Ethology
Carolynn VanDyke, Lafayette College
Volume 7, Issue 3: Hoarders and Hordes: Responses to the Staffordshire Hoard
This special issue of postmedieval resides in the area of visual culture and art history. It takes as its focus the Staffordshire Hoard, the largest collection of Anglo-Saxon metalwork yet found. Discovered in 2009 near Lichfield, England, the Hoard includes over 3500 items of gold and silver, all probably martial in character and all of exceptional craftsmanship. The Hoard may have been battle treasure, stripped and buried for safekeeping, and never recovered — though little is known of its origins or context.
Taking as our trysting place this "object" which is at once singular and collective, the contributors to this volume respond to the Staffordshire Hoard as medievalists, artists, scientists, performers, poets, curators, art/historians, educators, and philosophers. This gathering depends on conversation across temporal and methodological divides: curious collaborators explore both the particularly inflected knowledge[s] of disciplinary approaches, and the possibilities for collective insight.
The volume is offered and edited by members of the Material Collective. As we articulate in our manifesto, our project touches upon both form and content, as we pursue a lyrical and experimental style of writing along with a more humane, collaborative, and supportive process of scholarship. All of the contributors are committed to prioritizing the materiality of things, the relationships between those things and the human beings who experience them, and the intimacy of past and present moments in time.
In the spirit of our collaborative process, the issue features rhizomic pairings: art historians and studio artists, scientists and those interested in cultural studies, conservators and graphic novelists. Many of those partnerships have already developed for our pair of sessions at the 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group in Boston 2012. There, the Collective facilitated two panels on Hoard, first approaching the collection from our disciplinary perspectives, and then enacting collaborations more directly.
Rather than conducting a traditional question and answer period at the conclusion of our first session on the Hoard, we orchestrated a spontaneous collaboration: the Performative Think-Fest. Prompting the audience with a visual image, we asked them to actively participate in developing new ways to understand and experience the objects. A record of the Performative Think-Fest is featured as an additional short piece of writing in the postmedieval issue.
Taking the conversation beyond Boston, we have solicited further contributions from other scholars, artists, and writers who feel compelled to respond to the presentations, and to the Hoard itself. Specifically, contributors riff on themes like assemblage, rupture, folding, and hoarding. The issue also includes visual essays that utilize images or image pairings rather than traditional written/interpretive text. It is our intention to produce a volume that highlights the collaborative process as much as the splendor of medieval art, past and present.
Interested contributors should contact the special issue guest editors directly: Maggie Williams and Karen Overbey.
The Material Collective www.thematerialcollective.org
Open Topic Contributor:
Queering Temporality and the Gender Binary in Flamenca
Charles Samuelson (Princeton University)
Volume 7, Issue 4: Our Sea of Islands: New Approaches to British Insularity in the Late Middle Ages
This issue of postmedieval addresses new approaches to British insularity in the late Middle Ages. The essays challenge existing traditions of British insular culture (and the collective identities it hosts) as self-contained, explicitly engaging with recent island and archipelago theory. The studies address the cultural and physical maritime and other networks that articulate the British Isles in complex and changing ways.
The issue's two starting points are Epeli Hau'ofa's "sea of islands" and Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell's paradigm of connectivity. Hau'ofa's work on Pacific insularity emphasizes the cultural exchange among islands, and Horden and Purcell view the sea (in their case, the Mediterranean) as a force connecting and facilitating interactions among the cultures living on its shores. This conceptual model is informed by a shift in emphasis away from insularity as an isolating condition to archipelagism where the sea acts as a force connecting islands with other islands and with continents. Our issue takes up Hau'ofa and others' descriptions of islands as reticulate in positive and negative ways as opposed to representations of them as immured and isolated. Contributors engage with Hau'ofa, Horden and Purcell, John Terrell, Elizabeth DeLoughrey, and others to examine late-medieval British insularity in geography, history, and literature. Rather than considering England in terms of nationalism, the papers address coasts, ports, archipelagos, proximity, inland islands, routes, and distinctions and interactions between large islands and continents versus small islands.
The issue is prefaced by a substantial theoretical article, jointly authored by the editors, on recent conceptual developments in insularity and archipelagic theory; each essay explores an aspect of British insularity; and a book review essay examines the literature on concepts of insularity and the British Isles in the late Middle Ages.
Matthew Boyd Goldie (Rider University) and Sebastian Sobecki (University of Groningen)
About 2015 Issues
Vol. 6, Issue 1: Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages
Only in the past fifteen years have medievalists considered with any regularity the question of whether race mattered in the Middle Ages. In that time, medievalists' interest in racial alterity has grown significantly, witnessing the release of such works as Geraldine Heng's Empire of Magic: Medieval Romance and the Politics of Cultural Fantasy (2003) and Suzanne Conklin Akbari's Idols in the East: European Representations of Islam and the Orient, 1100-1450 (2009). These studies and others like them take into account the similarities between medieval forms of cultural differentiation and modern racial ideology. On the contrary, other studies have maintained that race is indeed an early modern invention, arguing that to look for signs of race in the Middle Ages is at best wrongheaded and at worst irresponsible. Still others have addressed at length and without decisive conclusion the question of whether modern racial discourse can be profitably and responsibly deployed in medieval studies. postmedieval's mission to develop a "present-minded medieval studies" makes it the perfect forum in which scholars might proceed from the standpoint that the benefits of locating the pre-history of race in the Middle Ages outweigh the potential pitfalls.
This issue invited scholars of literature, history, art history, and related fields to focus on how race can best be examined through medieval cultural materials. For instance, contributors were asked to examine medieval representations of bodies and cultures that purport to be different from one another. More often than not, borderlines between bodies or cultures become most interesting when they are transgressed; there is much to be learned from instances when borders are (or are not) reestablished. Contributors were also asked to investigate the relational dynamics between the individual body and communal identity in the medieval construction of race, and the role of spiritual conditions and religious doctrines in the development of race.
This issue explores in-depth medieval articulations of racial difference even while it asserts the place of race in medieval studies and the place of medieval studies in the study of race. The issue as a whole asks, how did the Middle Ages make race matter? ("Matter" can be taken as a verb, meaning become important, or the second term in a compound noun, meaning material pertaining to race.) And how can we best illuminate the ways race matters to the study of the Middle Ages and vice versa?
Cord J. Whitaker(Temple University)
Volume 6, Issue 2: Contemporary Poetics and the Medieval Muse
One of the aims of this issue is to build on the work of recent scholarship regarding contemporary poetry in relation to medieval language and literature—such as Chris Jones' 2006 book Strange Likeness, which examines the use of Anglo-Saxon in four 20th century poets—and extend the scope to more overtly experimental poets and contemporary postmodern poets who work with the medieval in a variety of ways. Many poets and critics who consider the medieval in juxtaposition with modern poetry tend to reinforce long-standing notions of medieval literature as a static Other firmly lodged in the past, to be delved into, drawn from, imitated, or alluded to for aesthetic effect—that is to say, the resulting poetry must have the feel of something medieval about it, if not actually be in a sort of medieval verse form. However—and this is the second and more important set of questions that we explore in this issue—what would a poetics look like that, instead of limiting itself to reaching into the medieval for content and form, explored medieval modes of authorship, subject position, voice, gender, genre, etc.? How could a poetics critically engage with the medieval through creativity itself, rendering both breaks and continuities between contemporary and medieval poetry in the relief of the language, lines, and utterance, rather than relying on traditional academic discourse?
This issue of postmedieval explores such poets and poetry with these questions, and modes of engagement, firmly in mind. We feel that this is an exciting moment in medieval scholarship, when authors such as Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Carolyn Dinshaw, Kathleen Biddick, Patricia Clare Ingham, and many others have opened up the field to consider the medieval in ways that work to confront and undo "medievalist fantasies" of what that life and literature were like, at the same time mindfully accounting for fissures and continuities, not only between medieval and contemporary culture, but along and throughout the academic field that has mapped it, all the while carving out a (contentious) space for itself within the university. Our generation of scholars, many of whom have come to PhD programs in literature with MFA degrees in poetry, or are active in poetry in other ways, seek to approach medieval scholarship via a parallel lineage of poets who see no reason to separate the various threads of their critical and creative interests. Contributors to this issue explore not only the ways that medieval literature informs and influences the work of poets such as Jack Spicer, Tom Meyer, and, more recently, Caroline Bergvall and Julian T. Brolaski, but how their work can provide an intriguing lens for considering medieval literature itself, and how certain medieval modes of writing and authorship anticipate strains of the contemporary avant-garde.
David Hadbawnik (University at Buffalo, SUNY) and Sean Reynolds (University at Buffalo, SUNY)
2014 Michael Camille Essay Prize Winner:
Poetry on the Edge: Modern Medievalism's Marginal Verses
S.J. Pearce (New York University)
Volume 6, Issue 3: Latin American Gothic
For most of us who reside in the northern hemisphere, the image that first comes to mind at the mention of architecture in Latin America is some type of colonial-style building, that is, one that derives its essential inspiration from Renaissance or Baroque traditions. Such buildings can range from very elaborate creations, like some of the churches in Mexico, to the simplified and austere designs that characterize the mission churches in California and the American southwest. But this image leaves out a large and important corpus of architecture in the Americas whose sources go back directly to the late Middle Ages. The aim of this collection is to provide an introduction to a topic that is virtually unknown, and to identify the circumstances that gave rise to the Gothic style in the colonial period, and subsequently the Gothic Revival in the nineteenth century.
The volume opens with a general introduction by the two editors to Late Gothic and Gothic Revival in the Spanish and Portuguese-speaking countries of Latin America. The first three essays, which follow, treat the Late Gothic period, beginning in the early sixteenth century, when waves of European invaders toppled the empires of the Aztec and the Inca, constructed urban centers, and founded religious complexes for the conversion of the indigenous population. In efforts to assert legitimate political authority, to "civilize" according to European culture, and to establish the workings of societies on a frontier, colonial builders looked first to the Late Gothic style of Europe to express power and presence overseas. Early churches, convents, civic buildings, and private houses in the Spanish colonial Americas reveal a lingering taste for things Gothic, one that would persist into the seventeenth century and reveal a multifaceted causation.
After a hiatus of about a century and half, during the course of the first decades the nineteenth century, the Gothic style was revived in parts of Latin America, and by the early twentieth nearly every country in the region had followed suit. The four essays dealing with this more recent development reveal numerous parallelisms between two large but widely separated countries within Spanish-speaking America. In Mexico and Argentina, architects and patrons who desired Gothic forms did not look back to the Late Gothic of the colonial era for inspiration, but to contemporary Europe. As Latin countries gained independence, the new political climate encouraged wider contacts with other parts of the world, and immigration was a key player in this regard. To a large extent, it was the immigrant communities from Britain, France, Germany and Italy that were primarily responsible for introducing Gothic Revival into the Americas. Initially, this was driven both by fashion and a desire to assert national identity, but by the late nineteenth century the Gothic style was readily accepted by Latin Americans as a whole, regardless of whether they were recent arrivals or descendants of the earliest settlers.
Paul B. Niell (Florida State University) and Richard A. Sundt (University of Oregon)
Volume 6, Issue 4: Critical/Liberal/Arts
This special issue develops from a pair of BABEL symposia held at the University of California, Irvine, and the CUNY Graduate Center, New York, in 2013. Critical/Liberal/Arts included scholars, artists, and activists. In their presentations, these speakers brought together practices that recent polemics divided from one another: on the one hand, the critical arts of disobedience, resistance, and protest; and, on the other hand, the ludic disciplines of creation, collaboration, and play. The wager of the symposia was simple: even as the "hermeneutics of suspicion" falls under suspicion and many react against "paranoid reading", critique has not outlived its usefulness. Rather, we urgently need new articulations and new enactments of critique's timeliness. Presenters were invited to think about critical judgment and the pursuit of justice in relation to making and imagining — and to discover creation and critique inhering in one another, or wending apart, or crossing one another again and again like a pair of knives being whetted, or like the faces of the proverbial Mobius strip..
The results were exciting. This volume gathers together many of the ideas shared in the course of Critical/Liberal/Arts, and it also pursues new inquiries suggested by those conversations. These short pieces embody the fact that the categories we use to distinguish our knowledge production are in practice entwined with one another: distance and involvement; criticism and aestheticism; sensation and reflection; detachment and attachment; analysis and speculation; method and chance; control and loss of control before the objects of our study. By instantiating and reflecting on such entanglements, contributors offer new models of critical creation. In their introduction, the editors consider the points to which Critical/Liberal/Arts have led so far and reflect on whether a "criterial imagination" might be necessary to finding one’s way through the landscapes of invention and commitment that the symposia brought so dazzlingly into view.
Allan Mitchell (University of Victoria), Julie Orlemanski (University of Chicago), and Myra Seaman (College of Charleston)
Ammiel Alcalay, Aaron Bady, Jamie "Skye" Bianco, Brantley Bryant, Rebecca Davis, Gaelan Gilbert, CJ Gordon, the Hollow Earth Society, Eleanor Johnson, Aaron Kunin, David Shepherd, Eirik Steinhoff, Allen W. Strouse, Henry Turner, and Marina Zurkow and Una Chaudhuri.
About 2014 Issues
Volume 5, Issue 1: Open-Topic with Essay Cluster on Comparative Neomedievalisms
"The Middle Ages are the root of all our contemporary 'hot' problems, and it is not surprising that we go back to that period every time we ask ourselves about our origin", writes Umberto Eco in his 1973 essay "Dreaming of the Middle Ages", which popularized the term "neomedievalism" and acts as urtext to this growing sub-field. "All the questions debated during the sessions of the Common Market originate from the situation of medieval Europe", Eco states, anticipating the socio-economic and global political turn taken by cultural and theoretical neomedievalisms in the decades since his analysis. Neomedievalism refers to a cultural, literary, aesthetic, and theoretical mode which seeks to continually re-affirm the Middle Ages, in every post-medieval era, as both an antithetical term o¬f comparison to ongoing "modernities", and as an enduring and foundational presence within them. Neomedievalism accomplishes this double function through parody, pastiche and nostalgic re-evocation of medieval styles, concepts and values, but also through acts of cultural fantasy, speculation and simulation.
Recently neomedievalism has been theorized along two complementary directions. The first is as socio-political critical tool, applied to theories and practices of neoconservativism (such as Bruce Holsinger's Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism and the War on Terror) and also to the purported crisis of the nation state in the era of networks, multinational corporations, supranational unions (such as the EU), and international law. The second direction in contemporary neomedievalism studies, evinced by Karl Fugelso's collection Defining Neomedievalisms (2010), finds seemingly endless theoretical mileage in neomedievalism as a conceptual space for rethinking simulated realities through cultural, literary and aesthetic platforms: (live action) role-playing and cosplay, videogames and MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games), amid more traditional literary, cinematic, and television fantasy and speculative fictions. Most recently, HBO's Game of Thrones' neomedievalist world-building appears to confirm the American public's hunger for simulated Middle Ages.
This essay cluster seeks to forge new paths in neomedievalism studies between the material, the critical, and the speculative approaches.
Daniel Lukes (Indiana University)
Daniel Lukes, Krystyna Michael, Donald D. Palmer, and Daniel Wollenberg
Open topic contributors:
Robyn Cadwallader (Flinders University)
Confessions and the Creation of the Will: A Weird Tale
Matthew Gillis (University of Tennessee)
Boundless Restraint: Performance, Reparation, and the Daily Practice of Death in the Life of Daniel the Stylite
Jonah Westerman (Graduate Center, CUNY)
Volume 5, Issue 2: Comic Medievalism
This issue explores the role of laughter and humour in medievalism. Medievalism — the creative interpretation or recreation of the European Middle Ages — has had a major presence in the cultural memory of the modern West. The medieval period has long provided a reservoir of images and ideas that have been crucial to defining what it is to be 'modern'. For today's audiences viewing medievalism via the body of heroic and fantastic texts emerging out of the nineteenth-century tradition, it would seem that it is a very serious business. Yet from the earliest parodies of medieval chivalry such as Chaucer's Tale of Sir Thopas, through to the scatological humour of Terry Deary's Horrible Histories children's series, it is clear that as long as there has been medievalism, people have been encouraged to laugh at, and with, the Middle Ages. Comic affective engagement with the Middle Ages has had a vital role in the postmedieval imaginary of the Middle Ages, and thus warrants serious attention.
Despite this, to date it has not received any sustained analysis. While there has been no shortage of scholarship mentioning popular comic texts like the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this has not led to the development of a critical language to understand the 'affective-historical' responses they generate. Work on medievalism in children's and Young Adult (YA) fiction also avoids a close analysis of the affective role of humour in attracting young readers to medievalist content. Furthermore, laughter is a neglected area in the existing scholarship on affect in medievalism, which has so far focused on longing, nostalgia, and historical melancholy. This special issue moves beyond, but also supplements, this more sombre emotional spectrum by focusing on the emotional and affective states generated by humorous medievalism, exploring how these foster, or, conversely, block attachments to the medieval past.
This issue emerges out of a symposium on comic medievalism sponsored by the Australian Research Council's Centre for the History of Emotions.
Contributors include: Brantley Bryant, Louise D’Arcens, Stephen Knight, Andrew Lynch, David Matthews, and Kim Wilkins.
Louise D'Arcens (University of Woolongong)
Open topic contributors:
Aella's Bloody Eagle: Sacrifice, Historicism, and Anglo-Saxon Studies
Donna Beth Ellard (Rice University)
Towards the Middle Ages to come: The temporalities of walking with W. Morris, H. Adams, and especially H. D. Thoreau
Benjamin Salzman (University of California, Berkeley)
Volume 5, Issue 3: The Middle Ages and the Holocaust
In late twelfth-century England, for the first time, Jews were accused of kidnapping and ritually crucifying Christian children in memory and mockery of the crucifixion of Christ. These twelfth-century ritual murder accusations are the earliest in a series of charges against the Jews throughout the Middle Ages and the early modern period which are constitutive of the development of antisemitism in Western Europe and continue into the long twentieth century. In the past decade, scholarship has sought to re-evaluate the representation of the figure of the Jew in medieval and early modern literature, as well as to disrupt the linearity of the narrative that leads seamlessly from early libels through an increasingly escalating rhetoric of violence against the Jews that culminates in the events of the Holocaust. Our volume, "The Middle Ages and the Holocaust", reframes medieval anti-Jewish legends as a multi-layered problem of narrative and representation, in which deeply interested anti-Jewish narratives from the premodern world form points of explosive contact with modern literary and historical modes of analysis. Part of our work is to examine how later historical lenses, such as the consuming spectre of the Holocaust, have substantially dictated the terms of modern understanding of Jewish-Christian relations, often with distorting effects. At the same time, medieval paradigms of religious conflict continue to operate as the unspoken and unacknowledged foundations for contemporary efforts to think about problems of political conflict rooted in religious difference. We move beyond generalities about the evolution of Western patterns of religious conflict to gain critical purchase on the ways in which our accounts of the cultural and political legacies of interfaith conflict are deeply imbricated in the assumptions, needs, and theories at work within discrete moments of historical thought.
Nina Caputo (University of Florida) and Hannah Johnson (University of Pittsburgh)
Volume 5, Issue 4: Philology and the Mirage of Time
This special issue features essays by classicists, medievalists, and cultural critics of the contemporary. Most broadly, the issue examines relations among language, culture, and humanism. As a nineteenth-century discipline, philology stabilized cultural origins by stabilizing language forms, thereby securing purified genealogies of the European “human.” When language study belonged as much to anthropology as to literature and linguistics, “philology” could encompass the study of anything and everything related to “culture.” At present, by contrast, interdisciplinary “cultural studies” are often defined in explicit opposition to language- and text-based studies. How did philology move from synonym to antonym of culture? What does this history say about contemporary divisions between the humanities and the social sciences? Humanism, moreover, has followed a similar trajectory: in sixteenth-century Europe, “humanist” scholars pioneered modern western philology, while contemporary humanism as conceptualized by Said and others means something quite different. And in what is increasingly being called the era of the "posthuman" culture itself is no longer defined in anthropocentric terms.
Contributors to this special issue were asked to consider the intersections of philology and humanism from their respective disciplinary and philosophical formations. Together, the essays propose new dialogues among humanist scholars around language, textual forms, and the broadest potential of the humanities in contemporary society. As Sheldon Pollock has written recently, at stake is the "the survival of the very capacity of human beings to read their pasts and, indeed, their presents and thus to preserve a measure of their humanity" (935). As a "global knowledge practice" (Pollock 934), philology conditions textuality and reading in settings ranging from papyrus to stone to animal skin to paper to digital media. It encompasses a range of attitudes toward the constructedness of texts in a transhistorical perspective. Decoupled from the study of particular historical periods (especially, from Antiquity and the Middle Ages), philology can mediate between the most specialized procedures for producing texts and the broadest critical concerns, between words and their multifarious social situations. Simultaneously descriptive and creative, philology enacts cultural critique at the micro-linguistic level. In this mode, philology can rejuvenate connections between culture and humanism, even on the “posthuman” moment.
Michelle Warren (Dartmouth College)
About 2013 Issues
Volume 4, Issue 1: Ecomaterialism
This special issue of postmedieval takes up Jane Bennett's challenge in the last chapter of her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things to rethink environment and landscape from an actor-network point of view. Focusing upon the meeting of ecocriticisim with other modes of theoretical and critical inquiry, ecomaterialism creates a forum where the materiality of the world obtains the complicated agency and lack of catastrophe that environmental criticism too often does not grant. We focus upon the living elements earth, air, water, fire, and their medial instantiations: cloud, road, glacier, abyss. Rather than a traditional ecocritical mode that traces the interface of human with landscape, we are interested in reconceiving ecomaterial spaces and objects as a web of co-constituitive and hybrid actants.
Editors: Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington Univ.) and Lowell Duckert (George Washington Univ.)
Volume 4, Issue 2: Medieval Mobilities
This special issue of postmedieval will feature collaborative work that tracks the flows of ideas, words, people, goods, money, books, art objects, and artifacts across national boundaries. The essays in this volume follow trails, routes, and trajectories into conceptual territories usually mapped by geographical “middles” - spaces in between places. Our aim is to explore movement across and between medieval cultures generally understood as distinct and internally homogeneous in order to reveal the hybridity and fluidity produced by cultural interaction through commercial traffic, migration, nomadism, intermarriage, imperialism, and diaspora. Two border crossings are central to this issue. First, we want to shift the focus within medieval studies from the uniqueness or distinctiveness of the national cultures that have defined medieval studies, thus encouraging scholarship that elucidates the mobility of cultures and the exchanges between them, ultimately decentering Europe as the locus of the “middle ages.” The volume connects Europe to other areas of the world; essays explore far-flung geographies from Bergthorsknoll in Iceland to Cairo to Caffa, and move throughout the Mediterranean and along trade routes that linked Europe to the east. Second, these essays traffic between disciplines, fields, and areas of expertise in medieval studies. Essays explore literatures in English, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew, as well as art history, archaeology, and epidemiology. Through the dialogues begun in this issue, we want to establish a place “in the middle” where scholars with different expertise can come together and create a common space and language for thinking more globally about routes that connect rather than borders that separate and define—and in so doing, perhaps rethink their own expertise.
Co-Editors: Laurie Finke (Kenyon College), Martin Shichtman (Eastern Michigan Univ.), and Kathleen Coyne Kelly (Northeastern University)
Volume 4, Issue 3: FAULT
FAULT: It is yours, the one to blame, for everything. FAULT: Tellurian fissure, index of the means of mountains, earthquakes, islands. FAULT: Deep opening, essential accident, the only way for lovers to whisper: "The wall their houses shared had one thin crack, which was formed when they were built and then was left; in all these years, no one had seen that cleft; but lovers will discover everything: you were the first to find it, and you made that cleft a passageway which speech could take" (Ovid, Metamorphoses). FAULT: Lack, defect, shortcoming, mistake, error. FAULT: Exactly where you are at. The essays included in this special cluster represent post-medievalist work that willfully shares, practically and theoretically, in the significance of fault. The purpose of FAULT is to rigorously practice fault as the way of purpose, as the inevitable space of method. FAULT = to take things too far, to follow and seduce error rather than evade it, to fall hard for something, to creatively stray in the "sylvan wandering that allows itself to become lost enough to find what cannot be deliberately traced," to pursue and persist in the identity of strength and weakness ("for when I am weak, then I am strong. I have been a fool!" 2 Corinthians 12:10), to corrupt, deform, perforate, decay, infect, disease, and totally lead to wonderful decline a text or other form of debris from the past, to colonize a little crumb into a vast continent, to studiously enjoy the fact that life is already over and you have/are lost, to do what you must do, what you will do anyway, but now to do it openly and fully, to a fault. This is not frivolity, but serious folly.
Winners of the Biennial Michael Camille Essay Prize
Co-Editors: Anna Kłosowska (Miami University of Ohio)
Volume 4, Issue 4: Premodern Flesh
Essays in this special issue provide theoretical and material accounts of flesh in the premodern world. We consider flesh's relation to desire, affect, or sin, as well as flesh's ability to grow, decay, or age. By moving away from the bounded body as a locus of discrete analysis, we hope to raise questions about flesh's sensory, social, and sexual mobility. Premodern uses of flesh, as an idea, as a thing, or as some hybrid thereof, will be the focus of the issue.
Editors: Holly A. Crocker (University of South Carolina) and Kathryn Schwarz (Vanderbilt University))
About 2012 Issues
Volume 3, Issue 1: Becoming-Media
Grappling both with the “post” and the medhyo or “middle/medium” of post-medieval, this issue turns on a series of questions and explorations of the notion of “becoming-media” within and in conversation with medieval and early modern contexts. Becoming-media refers in one sense to our dependence on the recursive circuitry and tangle of technologies, bodies, narratives, spaces, and mediating technics, across historical periods and across literary, scientific, philosophical, and theological modes of expression. Recent theoretical turns in “new media” studies have raised questions about the limits of embodiment, the remediation and interfacing of the human/machine nexus, and the reconstitution of spatial and temporal modalities with the emergence of a digital culture. Yet, the casting of new media studies as itself “new” raises troubling questions. To what extent is mediation ever “new”? Indeed, as the medhyo at the center of “medieval” would suggest, mediation appears as an always incomplete “middling” and “meddling” – always becoming, to itself and something other than itself; a troubling, meddling, unstable go-between. This second sense of becoming-media extends questions about the mediating artifact within its historical context to include issues of embodied and historical temporality; periodization as “meddling”; the feedback loop of technics-consciousness; the glance, glimpse, and touch of the mediated image as political and aesthetic affect; and the unstable registers of the trans/hyper-mediation of multiple past-present-futures.
The articles in this issue were reviewed via an open “crowd review”, which is now permanently archived.
Editors: Jen Boyle, Coastal Carolina University, USA and Martin K. Foys, Drew University
Volume 3, Issue 2: Open Topic with Essay Cluster
This issue features a cluster of essays on Disability and the Social Body.
The essays in this cluster consider the roles illness and disability play in the constructions of social identity across the premodern world, from Anglo-Saxon England to thirteenth-century western Europe, fifteenth-century Cairo, and early modern Britain. In raising particular questions of health, madness, (de)form(ation), healing, and community from multiple disciplinary viewpoints - religious and cultural history, literary theory and analysis, musicology - these essays' innovative methodologies also document and illustrate the emergence of a contemporary scholarly community: Medieval Disability Studies.
Editor: Julie Singer (Washington Univ. in Saint Louis)
Volume 3, Issue 3: Cognitive Alterities/Neuromedievalism
Recent postmodern work in psychoanalytic cognitive theory and cultural studies has opened windows into how early literatures processed and manifested concepts of subjectivity and the personal, on the one hand, and cultural difference (sexual, gender, racial, class, national), on the other. To explore different forms of medieval cognitive alterity, including cultural differences from the modern, this issue on neuromedievalism draws on literary theory and neuroscientific medical research into biology, psychology, linguistics, and philosophy to shed light on the instantiation of cognitive process in medieval and early modern language and literature. In medieval alphabets as well as in literary, philosophical, and religious narratives, according to neuroscience we can identify culturally diverse cognitive analogues along with some similarities in the representations of the processes of an "emotional" brain—the firing of its mirror neurons and its concomitant plasticity. Such activity is replicated in the texts under consideration by means of visual coding and dream-vision allegory, affective mysticism, empathetic arousal through dramatic performance, and meditative manual exercises.
Co-Editors: Jane Chance (Rice University/The Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston) and Antony D. Passaro (Center for Clinical Neurosciences, University of Texas Medical Center-Houston)
Volume 3, Issue 4: The Intimate Senses
The paradigm of the five senses has long organized the Western body. The five-sense schema differentiates one sensation from another, connects each sense category with meaning, and orders the senses in terms of importance and value. For medieval and early modern theorists of sensation, vision was the most noble of the five senses, followed closely by hearing. These two sensory ways of knowing topped most pre-modern sensory hierarchies because of the ways in which vision and hearing represented the lofty potential of the soul to transcend bodily form, whereas the “lower” and more corporeal senses of smell, taste, and touch emphasized the body’s material connection to its environment and to other people and things
Though such theories of sensation were undoubtedly influential, they were often undermined in social practice; sensation was often described in synaesthetic terms, confounding and rearranging clear-cut sensory divisions and hierarchies. The “lower” senses often provided a unique and valuable way of representing proximate and intimate relationships between bodies and environments. Sometimes considered as a triad in medieval and early modern culture, these intimate senses offer distinct challenges for the way we experience the past and communicate that experience to others. As recent work in anthropology, sociology, and disability studies demonstrates, the classic schema of the five well-ordered senses is as much a learned discourse as it is a description of anatomical fact. Even the anatomical fact of sensation is being rethought by current medical research on neuroplasticity.
Inspired by this work, this issue of postmedieval calls for a fuller history of the pre-modern sensing body and begins such an examination by focusing on the proximate and intimate relationships between taste, touch, and smell in a variety of medieval and early modern cultural locations, including dramatic performance, urban geography, pilgrimage, architecture, comic literature, and early print culture. Laura D. Gelfand (Art History, Univ. of Akron) discusses the relative lack of concern for "visual truth" in medieval reproductions of the Holy Sepulchre, arguing for a pligrimage aesthetic based on haptic, olfactory, and gustatory imitation. Hristomir Stanev (English, Univ. of Chicago) investigates the relation of smell and urban consciousness, as he considers representations of olfaction in the Jacobean plays The Puritan and Westward Ho. Comparing medieval and modern olfactory stereotypes, Mark M. Smith (History, Univ. of South Carolina) considers whether aspects of smell can be trans-historically transgressive. Julie Singer (French, Washington Univ. in Saint Louis) discusses the disabling of the normative sensing body in late medieval farce, wherein the traditional hierarchy of the senses is undermined. And Patricia Cahill (English, Emory Univ.) examines the gendering and sexualization of tactility and skin in the early modern drama The Changeling.
The issue also features a book review essay by Clare Lees (English, King’s College London) and five shorter responses to the main essays. Our respondents offer diverse perspectives from outside the fields of medieval and early modern studies: David Howes (Anthropology, Concordia Univ.), Mark Paterson (Geography, Univ. of Exeter), Georgina Kleege (English/Creative Writing, Univ. of California, Berkeley), Jonathan Cole (Medicine/Neuroscience, Poole Hospital and Univ. of Southampton), and Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren (Performance Studies, Univ. of Washington Bothell). Their goal, collectively, is to connect and extend the scholarly conversation about the sensory worlds of the past to new approaches in other disciplines and fields.
Co-Editors: Holly Dugan (George Washington Univ.) and Lara Farina (West Virginia University)
About 2011 Issues
Volume 2, Issue 1: The Animal Turn
This issue critically engages the question of the animal on a number of fronts by drawing together medieval studies of animals with the ongoing theoretical investigations of the question of the animal. Apart from literary studies, topics considered include the collaboration between humans and nonhumans in medieval hunting practices, affect with and for companion animals in both medieval and postmedieval contexts, and the operations of the animal in medieval encyclopedias, theological doctrine, and other ‘non-literary’ written artifacts. “The Animal Turn” distinguishes itself from previous medieval work on animals in three chief points: first, by its methodological interaction and conversation with leading-edge posthuman philosophical and ethical studies (e.g. work by Ralph Acampora, Donna Haraway, Leonard Lawlor, and Cary Wolfe); second, by its interest in animals, not as walking allegory or mere tools, but as creatures sharing a material and discursive world in a variety of ways with the human animal; finally, by its interest in humans themselves as animals, which necessitates an investigation of the practices that attempted–and still attempt–to cordon humans apart from all other life.
Co-Editors: Peggy McCracken (Univ. of Michigan) and Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, CUNY)
Volume 2, Issue 2: The Medievalism of Nostalgia
Nostalgia, first perceived in the 17th century as an obscure condition of homesickness afflicting soldiers serving abroad, is now recognized as a key symptom of modernity. Medievalism - the re-imagining and re-invention of the Middle Ages - has provided a desirable home for the longings of nostalgia since the 18th century or earlier. The essays collected in this special issue investigate the privileged association between the two terms.
Co-Editors: Helen Dell (Univ. of Melbourne), Louise D’Arcens (Univ. of Wollongong), and Andrew Lynch (Univ. of Western Australia)
Volume 2, Issue 3: New Critical Modes
This issue examines and embodies some of the new critical modes that are emerging among contemporary medievalists (and postmedievalists). Critics have often been content to adopt the voice, citational practices, textual apparatuses, forums and ambit of those who trained them, leading to a great deal of continuity in published scholarship over the years. Others, however, have become restless with such modes and models, choosing to disseminate their work and perform its content differently. This special issue examines new modes of writing, new media, and the very idea or possibility of critical novelty. Topics include the reinvention of scholarly and authoritative voice; the affective turn in critical practice; performativity and embodiment; amateurism; popular medievalisms; anachronism; and hybridity of critical investments, genres and identities.
Co-Editors: Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington Univ.) and Cary Howie (Cornell Univ.)
About 2010 Issues
Volume 1, Issues 1-2: When Did We Become Post/human?
This issue is designed as a dialogue with Katherine Hayles’s 1999 book How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature, and Informatics, and features medieval and early modern approaches to the question of the historicity of the post/human as an intellectual, social, cultural, philosophical, and scientific category of thought as well as a state of material reality. The issue also seeks to demonstrate that contemporary discourses on the post/human raise a host of troubling questions relative to issues of embodiment, subjectivity, cognition, sociality, sexuality, spirituality, self-determination, collectivization, expression, representation, well-being, ethics, governance, technology, and the like for which pre- and early modern history and culture provide important resources for critical reflection. The issue features Katherine Hayles, Andy Mousley, and Kate Soper as Respondents.
Eileen A. Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) and Craig Dionne (Eastern Michigan Univ.)
Volume 1, Issue 3: Critical Exchanges: ‘Bruce Holsinger's The Premodern Condition’ / ‘The State(s) of Early English Studies’
This issue features two clusters of essays.
Bruce Holsinger's critically lauded 2005 book The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory presented an elegant excavation of the medieval influences undergirding the work of some of the most brilliant thinkers of the postwar French intelligentsia, elaborating the 'medievalisms' that are so deeply constitutive of modern theory. In the first critical exchange, Louise D'Arcens, Claire Monagle and Stephanie Trigg, three scholars who work, from various angles, in medievalism and medieval cultural studies, discuss The Premodern Condition, with a response from Bruce Holsinger.
'The State(s) of Early English Studies' forms a series of dispatches from some of the 'fronts' of Old English and Anglo Saxon Studies, asking how we might sketch out some of the futures (with an emphasis on the plural) of an early English studies that is not (and never really was) a realm apart from either later periods within literary-historical studies or from contemporary life and thought. 'The States(s) of Early English Studies' is collaboration with The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe, and the remaining essays in the cluster can be read free online in that journal.