Skip to content

CFP: BABEL Toronto (9-11 Oct 2015)

4th Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

~ Off the Books: Making, Breaking, Binding, Burning, Leaving, Gathering  ~


9-11 October 2015

University of Toronto, Canada

Call for Papers / Presentations / Provocations / Performances / Palavers

For those interested in submitting an individual proposal or statement of interest for any of the sessions below (which are divided into: A. Ir/regular Sessions and B. Un/sessions), please send your query and/or short proposal (of no more than 300-500 words) directly to that session’s organizer(s) at the email addresses designated below NO LATER THAN JUNE 15, 2015. Some sessions may be full already, and are designated as such by being highlighted in ORANGE, in which case, please send the organizer a query first. We will not be able to consider random, individual proposals; all proposals must be designed to meet the theme(s) and frameworks set by session organizers. If you have any questions or concerns, contact Eileen Joy and Liza Blake here:

Description of conference’s overall themes HERE.


*all images from Sean Kernan, Secret Books
Read more

What to do at Kzoo (2015)

#Kzoo2015: some suggested sessions

 by J J CohenThis week begins the annual pilgrimage of medievalists and their friends to Kalamazoo, Michigan for the FIFTIETH International Congress on Medieval Studies. I’m looking forward to seeing many of you there … and on behalf of the BABEL Steering Committee want to bring to your attention two events you are most welcome to attend: the BABEL Party Friday at Bells and the BABEL/Material Collective Bar&Business Meeting Thursday (see below).Here are also some suggestions for sessions to attend. The list is to be read alongside the Material Collective’s collation of awesomeness (50 Kalamazoos). Please add your own suggestions to the comments!

THURSDAY 10 AM Fetzer 1005
Carolyn Dinshaw’s Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, 1990–2015 
Sponsor: BABEL Working Group
Presider: Bruce Holsinger
Hermeneutics as Autobiography Steven F. Kruger, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
Glosynge Is a Glorious Thynge Emma Maggie Solberg, Bowdoin College
The Tex(t)ual Body Myra Seaman, College of Charleston
Materna Lingua Nicholas Watson, Harvard Univ.
Chaucer’s Deadly Text Lynn Shutters, Colorado State Univ.
Documents and Doctrine: A Case for Chaucer’s Discerning Women Elizabeth Robertson, Univ. of Glasgow
Response: Carolyn Dinshaw, New York Univ

THURSDAY 3:30 PM Sangren 1710
Critical Imperative: The Future of Feminism 
Sponsor: Exemplaria: Medieval / Early Modern / Theory
Organizer: Patricia Clare Ingham, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington
Presider: Tison Pugh, Univ. of Central Florida
Feminism beyond Skepticism Ruth Evans, St. Louis Univ.
New Materialism and the Future of Feminism: The Case of Le Menagier de Paris Glenn Burger, Queens College and Graduate Center, CUNY
Not Your Mother’s Historical Continuity: Feminism, Historicism, and the Case of Christine de Pizan Lynn Shutters, Colorado State Univ.

THURSDAY 5:15 p.m. Fetzer 1035
BABEL Working Group and the Material Collective 
Reception with open bar
Please bring your ideas for next year’s BABEL + postmedieval sessions!

Read more

postmedieval 6.1: Making Race Matter in the Middle Ages

Special Issue Edited by Cord Whitaker


Race-ing the dragon: the Middle Ages, race and trippin’ into the future

Cord Whitaker


Race, sex, slavery: reading Fanon with Aucassin et Nicolette
Robert S. Sturges
On firm Carthaginian ground: ethnic boundary fluidity and Chaucer’s Dido
Randy P. Schiff
Are the ‘monstrous races’ races?
Asa Simon Mittman
Making whiteness matter: The King of Tars
Jamie Friedman
From the Knight’s Tale to The Two Noble Kinsmen: Rethinking race, class and whiteness in romance
Dennis Austin Britton
‘The last syllable of modernity’: Chaucer in the Caribbean
Michelle R. Warren
Race as sedimented history
Sara Ahmed


Race, travel, time, heritage
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Karl Steel

[see postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this and other issues]

ANNOUNCING: Medieval Hackers from punctum


 Kathleen E. Kennedy

Brooklyn, NY: punctum books 2015. 180 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0692352465. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $19.00 [€15.00/£12.00] in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Published: 2015-01-06

Download book

… the word [“hacker”] itself is quite old. In fact, the earliest record of the noun “hacker” is medieval: a type of chopping implement was known as a “hacker” from the 1480s. Evidently, over time the term moved from the implement to the person wielding the implement. Today the grammatical slippage remains, as “the hacker hacked the hack” is grammatically sound, if stylistically unfortunate. Notably, even in its earliest uses, “hacker” and “hacking” referred to necessary disruption. Arboriculture required careful pruning (with a hacker) to remove unwanted branches and cultivation necessitated the regular breaking up of soil and weeds in between rows of a crop (with a hacker). Such practices broke limbs and turf in order to create beneficial new growth. Such physical hacking resembles the actions of computer hackers who claim to identify security exploits (breaking into software) in order to improve computer security, not to weaken it.

~Kathleen E. Kenndy, Medieval Hackers

Medieval Hackers calls attention to the use of certain vocabulary terms in the Middle Ages and today: commonness, openness, and freedom. Today we associate this language with computer hackers, some of whom believe that information, from literature to the code that makes up computer programs, should be much more accessible to the general public than it is. In the medieval past these same terms were used by translators of censored texts, including the bible. Only at times in history when texts of enormous cultural importance were kept out of circulation, including our own time, does this vocabulary emerge. Using sources from Anonymous’s Fawkes mask to William Tyndale’s bible prefaces, Medieval Hackersdemonstrates why we should watch for this language when it turns up in our media today. This is important work in media archaeology, for as Kennedy writes in this book, the “effluorescence of intellectual piracy” in our current moment of political and technological revolutions “cannot help but draw us to look back and see that the enforcement of intellectual property in the face of traditional information culture has occurred before. … We have seen that despite the radically different stakes involved, in the late Middle Ages, law texts traced the same trajectory as religious texts. In the end, perhaps religious texts serve as cultural bellwethers for the health of the information commons in all areas. As unlikely as it might seem, we might consider seriously the import of an animatronic [John] Wyclif, gesturing us to follow him on a (potentially doomed) quest to preserve the information commons.” Read more

This is Not My (or, Our) Time, so Please Take Ecstasy With Me: The Necessity of Generous Reading


for Jeffrey Cohen, Michael O’Rourke, and Karl Steel, scholars-in-armsand also for Carolyn Dinshaw

As we navigate the ruins of [Bill] Readings’ university without condition and transgress the cross-hatches of disciplinary boundaries, we answer to a duty — as Derrida reminds us, a responsibility to listen to others while subjecting ourselves to encounters with otherness. This is ongoing work however, because, as [Claude] Romano explains, “an encounter is not so much a ‘presentation’ (of two people) as afuturition. It has meaning only through the possibilities that it holds in reserve, which give it its future-loading.” These encounters are beginnings that never end because they “constantly defer” themselves by “opening ceaseless new possibilities.” Ruin is, as Jeffrey Cohen [has] brought home to us so beautifully [in his recent work] . . . “a going-from,” but as we go, we should be willing to take no end of risks. 

~Michael O’Rourke, Response to “Parts, Wholes, and the New,” conference panel organized by theOrganism for Poetic Research, 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, Boston 2012
The intimacy with an unknown body is the revelation of . . . distance at the very moment we appear to be crossing an uncrossable interval. Otherness, unlocatable within differences that can be known and enumerated, is made concrete in the eroticized touching of a body without attributes. A non-masochistic jouissance (one that owes nothing to the death drive) is the sign of the nameless, identity-free contact with an object I do not know and certainly do not love and which has, unknowingly, agreed to be momentarily the incarnated shock of otherness. In that moment we relate to that which transcends all relations.
~Leo Bersani, “Sociability and Cruising”

For a long time now, I have been thinking about what I am going to call — for lack of a better phrase at present — generous reading. It’s this (utopic) (foolish) idea I have that, within the humanities and the university more broadly, we might actually devise a way to read the work of others — even those we might disagree with for all sorts of reasons, or from whom we might feel disciplinarily (and otherwise) estranged — with some sort of spirit of radical openness to what others are desiring to think and articulate at any given moment. I say quite purposefully — desiring to think and articulate — because I believe we put too little of a premium within our professional academic lives on actually caring about other persons’ intellectual wishes and desires (what does he, she, they, want? what are they TRYING to say/do? what do they need from me?), and instead often approach others’ work primarily from the route of how we think we might be able to utilize the “end products” of that work (positively or negatively) in our own scholarship, which scholarship (moreover) is often conceptualized along fairly narrow theoretical, methodological, temporal, disciplinary and other lines (for the important sake of “expertise,” this is sometimes, and valuably, necessary). Let me clarify before proceeding so that it does not seem as if I am claiming that most of us supposedly work within overly “narrow” intellectual and other concerns and interests. I do not believe that and would like to further believe that most of us are on the lookout most of the time for new ideas, and new provocations to thought; it’s just that, given the constraints of our lives (teaching schedules, personal lives, disciplinary boundaries that are not always easy to cross, and various other stresses and pressures), the amount of time we have to simply read other scholars’ work simply for the purpose of answering the (hopefully) joyous question — “I wonder what THIS is about?” — feels (or maybe really is) unavailable. Read more

Recent Articles


CALL FOR SESSIONS: 4th Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

 ~ Off the Books: Making, Breaking, Binding, Burning, Leaving, Gathering ~

Kernan_Books_024th Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group

9-11 October 2015

University of Toronto, Canada

CALL FOR SESSIONS* (see official conference site here)

*Send session proposals of approx. 350-500 words (which can be completely open to potential participants and/or already include some or all committed participants), to include full contact information for organizer(s) and any committed participants, NO LATER THAN February 1, 2015, to: [email protected]

For its 4th Biennial Meeting, to be held at the University of Toronto from October 9-11, 2015, BABEL proposes to take flight both along and off the fractal edges of the book. As an institutional and intellectual locus, the book has long occupied a privileged place as an ultimate substrate and platform for the inscription and dissemination of sustained thought and argument, of the images and ideas signified in language, and of the cultural-historical “goods” of various groups, societies and polities over time. Moreover, both the printed book and manuscript hold a prominent place in the foundation of humanistic study (think of how Homer’s corpus survives in the present thanks to its translation from papyrus to medieval manuscript “edition,” or of the British Museum Library, founded in 1753, whose three founding collections—donated by “mad hoarder” library- and cabinet-builders Robert Cotton, Hans Sloane, and Robert Harley—have been instrumental in the establishment of the study of English literature in the UK and North America, and beyond). The book is not only an object, form, and genre, but also a demand, a requirement, and a form of labor. It is the supposed monument to tenure-worthy academic production (the monograph), as well as the chief marker of communal academic and para-academic labors (edited collections, art books, climate change manga), and also a space of outright resistance to the status quo in academic publishing and beyond. The book is also a symbol and reification of authority, canonicity, and official terms, accounts, ledgers, and judgments. It is a location of nostalgia, an affective touchstone for a past that maybe never was, that also always remains entangled with the present of each book’s production. The book is also the chief exemplum of the print epoch in the long history of media forms: the blank white page that waits passively to be imprinted—impressed with/by—the works of human subjectivity and intellectual-cultural production (but is this also a mirage?). The book, further, signifies a certain slow process of cultural production, one that is often valued so highly precisely because it is perceived as difficult, painstaking, voluminous, weighty, and “serious”—the worthy achievement of a certain Olympiad-style intellectual athleticism. Read more »


postmedieval 5.4: Philology and the Mirage of Time

Special Issue Edited by Michelle WarrenPMED_5_4_Cover_Spread


Shimmering philology

Michelle R Warren


Philology in three dimensions
Sheldon Pollock
Cosmopolitan philology
Karla Mallette
Romanization and the digital future of philology
Chris GoGwilt
The disturbing object of philology
Vincent WJ Van Gerven Oei
A sensual philology for Anglo-Saxon England
Martin K Foys
Post-human philology and the ends of time in medieval bestiaries
Sarah Kay
Philology, or the art of befriending the text
Ika Willis


Humanism, philology and the medievalist
Seth Lerer

[see postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this and other issues]

BABEL Steering Committee Election open! (8 Nov-14 Nov)

SC vote buttonWe’re having our first election! All BABELers are invited–urged!–to select the first BABEL  Steering Committee.

This group of 12 will guide BABEL into its gorgeous future, distributing the load Eileen and Myra have carried in the group’s early years. At least 3 members of the Steering Committee will be current grad students, non-tenure track faculty, and non-academics, with each position having a term of 2-3 years.

The slate of nominated candidates includes 42 (forty-two!) people who are generously offering their services to BABEL. Please read their statements here, and then go here to vote for 12 of the 42. (If only a 42-person steering committee could be functional!)

Voting will remain open until midnight (EST) on Friday, November 14. The members of the BABEL Steering Committee will be announced on Saturday, November 15.

Thanks to all who take the time to get informed about the candidates and to vote–and thanks to all who have offered to serve!


BABEL Steering Committee Candidates

Slate of Candidates for BABEL Steering Committee election: Nov 8-14

To vote, click here.

Suzanne Conklin Akbari (Tenure-Track Faculty, English and Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)

BABEL is a capacious tent, where different languages, methods, technologies, and arts come together. I’ve always tried to be a person who brings people together, making linkages that might be counterintuitive but turn out to be amazingly fruitful. As a member of the BABEL Steering Committee, I would work to create juxtapositions, combinations, and communities that generate the unexpected.

Cynthia Bateman (Grad Student, English, University of South Carolina)

I offer BABEL my commitment to interdisciplinary scholarship. My past and current research brings together insights from gender studies, animal studies, literary studies, science studies, the medical humanities, rhetorical studies, and the history of science. I also offer BABEL my willingness to go to the extra mile (evidenced by my starting a new journal–Itineration–at the same time as my starting a doctoral program), and my desire to create and participate in a scholarly space that devotes itself to imagining the world otherwise (evidenced by my starting the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Graduate Association at USC).

Roland Betancourt (Tenure-Track Faculty, Art History, University of California, Irvine)

As part of the steering committee, I wish to prioritize BABEL expanding its group of constituents, particularly aiming to bring into its folds scholars, activists, artists, and other para-academics working specifically on art history, theology, and popular culture, which have been thus far underrepresented. My wish is to see BABEL be more actively inclusive of people working on issues, such as Latin American liberation theology, that harness the heritage of the medieval for contemporary emancipation in non-English speaking contexts. It is likewise necessary to incorporate medieval fields outside of Western Europe, such as Byzantium, the Islamic world, and beyond. In summation, my goal is to de-center BABEL from its literature focus, and allow it to permeate, be visible, and viable in cognate medieval/modern fields.

Liza Blake (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, University of Toronto)

There are two things that I think make BABEL an important and exciting collectivity: 1) its non-hierarchical structure and openness to new members, ways of thinking, ideas, and opportunities; and 2) the way that it creates “safe” spaces (conference panel spaces, publishing spaces) for doing creative, exciting, out-of-the-box or right-on-the-edge-of-the-box research and writing. If I were on the steering committee I’d try to keep my activities focused on enacting those two particular forks of the BABEL ethos: making sure people interested in learning more about BABEL or just meeting BABELers can find a way in to what can sometimes look like a closed crowd from the outside (through dinners, parties, arranged meetings, guerrilla-hangouts, etc.), and collaborating with others to make as many and as open spaces as possible for weird thinking.

Jen Boyle (Tenure-Track Faculty, English and New Media, Coastal Carolina University)

I came to BABEL in 2007 (I think), and the experience has been transformative. So transformative, that I feel its biggest challenges (for me) are still unmet in many ways. What precisely do we mean by “para-academic” at the moment, a moment that somehow simultaneously manages to exploit those in precarious relationship to the academic institution, and to place in jeopardy the very profession of the academic (“declaring publicly” with some meaning or recognition). I also would really like to explore in the context of the media/mediation/digital frenzy the idea of the para, something so close to something that it becomes its almost-contrary. I also think that we don’t cook enough together. At conferences or otherwise. We eat. We party. We don’t cook [Martha’s Vineyard an exception; for a few].

Sakina Bryant (Non-Tenure Track Faculty, English & Philosophy, Sonoma State University)

As a non-tenure track faculty member who hazards the Humanities, and as someone who has been involved with BABEL since the first conference, I want to bring to the BABEL Steering Committee a generative diplopia — one that sees BABEL as a necessary disaster while also seeing BABEL as a structured organization, reflexive to the necessary disasters that it creates and that also surround it. BABEL is fundamentally “cute,” to crib from the presentation of the term woven throughout BABEL 2014, and this fundamental “cuteness” discloses this desiring-machine’s facility for generating both desire as well as potentially destructive entanglement. Thus, BABEL needs people who have navigated the terrain of “cute” — those who are contingent, young, queer, monstrous, academically germinal, small — in an academe that fetishizes, damages, wants at, hungers for, colonizes, arborealizes, and longs to damn BABEL with foreclosure to eternal academic adulthood; and so the BABEL Steering Committee (to help BABEL as a whole) needs to be able to organize through strategic multi-vision and with an unrepentant love for us/you/myself/and even them too.

M.W. Bychowski (Grad Student, English, George Washington University)

As a young transgender scholar whose work bridges pre-modern and post-modern communities, I speak from personal intersections beyond the binaries of man/woman, gay/straight, able-bodied/disabled, academic/independent, living the question: who are we not reaching? I also have professional experience consulting with companies to create environments, digital interfaces, and event programming that speak to the needs of a wider population. In particular, I would seek out projects that expand accessibility, build community, and bolster advocacy in order to continue Babel’s legacy of making its burgeoning diversity into its new strengths.

Jason Canniff (Non-Tenure Track Faculty, English, Poetry and Poetics, University of Maine)

I am a post-MA, pre-something, queer poet/adjunct/critic/electronica DJ interested in catalyzing intellectual/creative communities whose assembled disposition(s) are somehow other than or at least complicate the unsettling trend of — as one of my adjunct comrades coined — the “corporatization of higher education.” I see BABEL as a prescient group of thinkers who have discerned, like some just prior to the real estate crash last decade, a “bubble” in this old machine, that Ponzi scheme so long in the making that most are blind to the portents. A coal miner who has now just noticed his black lung, I see myself steering BABEL to help steer those lost in academic machines to other possibilities — “lines of flight.”

Jeffrey Cohen (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, George Washington University)

I would bring to the steering committee a commitment to enabling more engagement from the membership in the governing and decision making of the group, hoping to develop the structures and forums through which BABEL can realize its long held vision of being moved by a fully participatory democracy. I am also deeply committed to BABEL’s origin in and ongoing concern for those who are excluded from secure place and serious voice in the academy.

Lowell Duckert (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, West Virginia University)

I volunteered to be a member of the Santa Barbara planning committee because I value BABEL’s commitment to forging creative collaborations. As a member of the steering committee, I will continue to stress the group’s openness, conviviality, and experimentation — but I will also work to ensure that pressing topics like academic precariousness are included within our oikos, so that all may be embraced by our ethos of radical love.

Holly Dugan (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, George Washington University)

I define scholarly community in the broadest of terms and I value it tremendously in all of its forms, both inside and outside of the academy; for that reason I have been drawn to Babel since its earliest iterations. If elected, I’d be honored to serve on its steering committee. My strengths (both in my scholarship and in my service to the profession) are in thinking about structures, both overt ones but also ones that operate in implicit, inherent, or axiomatic ways. I use this knowledge to advocate for change and a more just living and working environment in my own communities and I hope to do the same for BABEL.

Irina Dumitrescu (Tenure-Track Faculty, English/Medieval Studies, University of Bonn)

Over the past years BABEL has offered me wonderful opportunities to write, speak, and think with a community of open-minded scholars. One thing I can offer BABEL is an international perspective as it goes global: I have lived in Romania, Israel, Canada, the USA, and Germany, and my academic career spans institutions in the last three of these countries. Because I love the opportunities Babel creates, I want to offer it criticism too, to work towards making it more inclusive, more open to all kinds of scholars (including ye olde philologists), and when it makes sense, deeper and more rigorous. Finally, I can offer the dark sense of humour that is the East European Anglo-Saxonist’s stock-in-trade.

Lara Farina (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, West Virginia University)

As a somewhat elder member of the House of BABEL, I’d like for us to develop structures that enable more distributed brainstorming, decision-making, and responsibility. I’m willing to help with that and then turn the steering over to other Legendary Children (from Paris is Burning–go watch it, or just ask Mike Johnson for his wonderful Santa Barbara paper). Besides that, I want to keep Babel extra-disciplinary, experimental, fun, and welcoming of a wide range of scholars, activists, artists, teachers, performers, and other enthusiasts.

Jonathan Forbes (Grad Student, English, University of California, Santa Barbara)

I greatly appreciated the opportunity to serve BABEL as a co-manager for its most recent meeting, “On the Beach” at UC Santa Barbara, and am eager to continue the momentum generated by our collective work. I myself work on late medieval political poetry, more specifically thinking about political deliberation as an expression of collective healing, and what initially drew me to BABEL was that it embodies this idea of deliberation as an agent for healing. As BABEL continues to grow, I see our main strength being our work as a deliberative body (re-thinking how we even talk to one another, insisting that our conversation expands beyond academia to engage with activists, artists, and those devoted to public service, and broadening our platforms for deliberation), and if elected, I would offer not only my commitment to these collective goals, but an administrative ability to work with an ever-more vast multiplicity of members to execute and embody these goals as our group both grows and thrives.

D. Gilson (Grad Student, English, George Washington University)

Given that my passion and work lives at the intersection of creative writing and contemporary (pop) cultural studies, I can bring a fresh and underrepresented perspective to BABEL; further, my connections to those trained or working in creative writing can build a conduit to new bodies excited to join the fray. As a poet and young otter, I work and play well with others, always striving to push the boundaries of traditional scholarship; as others within BABEL can attest, I also work diligently to support my peers in their endeavors. I would be honored to serve on your BABEL Steering Committee, and thank you in advance for considering my candidacy.

C.J. Gordon (Grad Student, English, University of California, Irvine)

My work addresses poiesis as a creative endeavor, a world-building exercise in thinking, making, and doing. Thus, I would steer the BABEL swarm towards engagements with other platforms for material construction: sound art, design, and architecture. As a recent Ph.D. and non-tenure track lecturer, I hope to cultivate scenes of affiliation, enjoyment, and speculation on the margins of the academy.

David Hadbawnik (Grad Student, English, SUNY Buffalo)

Over the past several years of finishing my PhD, organization and juggling a number of tasks has been a strong suit for me. I have successfully organized panels at BABEL and Kalamazoo; I started a new medievalist-oriented creative small press affiliated with punctum books, called eth press, in collaboration with Chris Piuma, Dan Remein, and Lisa Ampleman; and I am currently co-editing a special issue of postmedieval on contemporary poetics and medieval literature. In short, I work and play well with others, and would love to join a team steering BABEL into the glorious future.

Jonathan Hsy (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, George Washington University)

I’m proud of BABEL’s ethos of radical openness and how this group (along with postmedieval, punctum books/records, and “In The Middle” blog) has become a transformative force across medieval studies, critical theory, the arts, and other domains. I want to ensure we keep growing and changing by incorporating new voices and welcoming many kinds of people. While BABEL is delightfully queer and non-hierarchical and artistic and cross-disciplinary, I want future BABEL endeavors (events, venues, plenaries, themes, projects, etc.) to *also* deliberately engage more people of color and make events as accessible as possible.

Mary Kate Hurley (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, Ohio University)

I can offer to BABEL precisely what BABEL has always offered to me: support and thoughtful commentary always, criticism when warranted, and passion for thinking about questions both big and small. I can also offer to BABEL what I’ve come to think of as my characteristic academic and personal ability – I can, and will, talk to all (legitimate) sides of any argument or endeavor, and work to find a way for each side to thrive and support the others.

Michael Johnson (Tenure-Track Faculty, French, Central Washington University)

Current interests: erotic grammars, apocalypse, depression, fermented things, Arthurian feelings, shit, Prester John, queer criminality, queer precarity, baked things, toki pona, heterotopias. Linguistic foci: Latin, French, Occitan, Italian. I collaborated on organizing the first BABEL conference at UT Austin and am a longtime follower of all BABEL initiatives.

Boyda Johnstone (Grad Student, English, Fordham University)

I have long been inspired by BABEL’s commitment to the unconventional, the political, the interdisciplinary, the theoretical, and the unvoiced or unheard. I believe my personal dedication to social justice, my experience with and inclination towards collaborative work, and my commitment to theory and its political possibilities make me a viable candidate for the BABEL Steering Committee. In addition to writing a dissertation on posthumanism and dream visions, I am a dedicated feminist and active co-blogger for the popular Canadian academic blog Hook & Eye, and have spearheaded many initiatives intended to facilitate collaboration, community, and solidarity within (and without) my graduate program at Fordham, such as a graduate mentorship program, a graduate writing workshop series, and events in support of the Occupy Wall Street movement in 2011-2012.

Kathleen Coyne Kelly (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, Northeastern University)

Nothing like BABEL has ever existed in the academiverse, and this is quite an achievement. I’d like to continue to insure that we remain edgy, compassionate, open, provocative, unforgettable, kinetic, medieval and more.

Justin Kolb (Tenure-Track Faculty, English and Comparative Literature, The American University in Cairo)

I would like to see BABEL extend its reach geographically, cooperating with universities like mine in the developing world, and beyond. I would like to continue reach out to other academic fields and languages, as well as to artists and political movements (for example, I’d like to see the 2015 Toronto conference coordinate with Canada’s Idle No More indigenous justice movement). I’d also like to cultivate more direct political action, especially on behalf of academic labor and in support of education and the arts a valuable public goods. We need to keep building a society beyond the campus that will support the work we do.

Steve Mentz (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, St. John’s University)

The genius of BABEL to me is the group’s reckless openness to creativity in scholarship and intellectual life. I hope the Steering Committee can think through a longer time window than a single conference about how the Working Group can best incubate and bring forth creative work. Perfect BABEL moments may not always lend themselves to traditional or even emerging forms of scholarly publication, but I’d also like to think about helping this Committee curate a BABEL archive in various forms that would provide traces of past glories and incitements to future experiments.

Asa Simon Mittman (Tenure-Track Faculty, Art History, California State University, Chico)

I am a founding member of the Material Collective. I  have been an active BABELer since the organization’s inception, and have attended (and spoken at) all three BABEL Meetings. I believe in the value of close and careful interaction with the material objects that remain from the Middle Ages, in collaborative approaches to scholarship and teaching, and in hearty conviviality.

Susie Nakley (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, St. Joseph’s College)

I teach English literature at St. Joseph’s College in New York and study the politics of language and culture in Chaucer and medieval drama; yet, because the BABEL Working Group facilitates rigorous conversations about sensitive intellectual, political, and ethical problems better than any institution or mere professional association I’ve known, I often feel even more grateful for BABEL than for my t/t job. If elected, I will work to keep BABEL quirky and to increase our diversity by encouraging new member participation, drawing folks from our margins toward the heart of our group, and amplifying faint voices. To this end, I offer these campaign promises: homemade hummus, hypoallergenic puppies, homebrew, hugs, and alliteration for all!

Sharon O’Dair (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, University of Alabama)

I am honored to be nominated me for Babel’s Steering Committee!  Why am I a good choice for it?  Two reasons, I think. First, I have presented work at BABEL 2012 and 2014, and have published in postmedieval as an ecomaterialist. But I am not a medievalist—just a Shakespearean—and so I do not carry opinions about how the BABEL Working Group has made its way within the field of medieval studies, the friends the group has made, the people the group has alienated. Second, I have a lot of administrative experience, including that of managing a budget, having directed for a decade The Hudson Strode Program in Renaissance Studies at the University of Alabama. Establishing a Steering Committee is a step toward institutionalization and including one or more “outsiders” on the Committee is wise, I think. Especially as we try, in that move to institutionalization, to maintain BABEL’s quirkiness, its love of experiment and disruption!

Julie Orlemanski (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, University of Chicago)

My favorite thing about BABEL is its (or rather, our) ability to generate fun, new, unexpected, and less hierarchical forms of intellectual community. My priority on the steering committee would be to continue this, to continue developing and making accessible various forms of inclusive academic collectivity. I like to think that not just one set of ideas, or one group of people, defines BABEL, but that its consistency comes instead from our ongoing experiments in how scholarly sociality can be simultaneously more wild and more just.

Michael O’Rourke (Non-Academic visiting lecturer in Gender Studies at the Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities, Skopje, Macedonia; faculty of the Global Center for Advanced Studies; and fellow of the Global Arts and Ideas nexus)

What I can bring to the steering committee and the future of BABEL is almost 15 years of experience organizing hundreds of conferences, seminars and various other events including curating art exhibitions; a vast network of contacts worldwide; experience collaborating with others in various collectives (The(e)ories, REVERB, The Queer Planet assemblage DUST, SUCK); an intimate relationship with the BABEL Working Group having attended and spoken at all three biennial conferences so far.

Chris Piuma (Grad Student, Medieval Studies, University of Toronto)

BABEL has given me space and encouragement to (co-)create collaborative and intersectional projects (eth press, Grammar Rabble) between academics and nonacademics, between medievalists and nonmedievalists, and I want there to be more and I want to help foster more, more modes and more forms and more formats and more mores and more ands. I am particularly interested in fostering a BABEL where “academic” and “medieval” form but two of many plausible centers around which BABEL can be understood, and in encouraging projects that you are excited by which, at least at first, I find completely baffling and pointless, but which maybe I will grow to appreciate, or not—because I like your excitement even more than I like my own, and I trust you.

Dan Remein (Tenure-Track Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston)

I will bring to the BABEL steering committee: my excitement for BABEL, which includes, of necessity, a radical hope for the humanities and the future of the human; commitments to and experience in integrating solidarity between Graduate Students, Non-Tenure Track Faculty, and Tenure-Track Faculty into the basic organization of BABEL projects; and, drawing on my own work, a continuing commitment to building spaces where adventurous artists and poets can collaborate with adventurous historians, literary scholars (of a wild range of stripes), and researchers in the sciences. BABEL has been, for me, a Pavilion of Marvels, and I would be thrilled to help continuing to pitch that tent again and again.

Angie Bennett Segler (Grad Student, English, New York University)

As a young academic hailing from a non-traditional medievalist background (I was trying to be a physicist and got distracted), I would hope to bring to the BABEL Steering Committee a fresh perspective on what scholarship and the Critical/Liberal Arts are and can be within a larger intellectual culture. Moreover, I have a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the work of shifting epistemic values, as BABEL is trying to do, and my own not so small bit of know-how on how to just get things done.

Marty Shichtman (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, Eastern Michigan University)

I’m interested in bringing BABEL back to its roots, re-opening its mission to be as inclusionary as possible. What that means is that we need to think about ways to make the conference economically accessible to faculty and students at less well-capitalized universities. Is this even possible? We all know the challenges. Are there any plausible solutions?

Karra Shimabukuro (Grad Student, English, New Mexico University)

I was a high school teacher and adjunct professor for fourteen years and operated as an independent scholar for three years before starting my PhD program. My current research traces folkloric figures, particularly the devil, through medieval and early modern texts and into popular culture. I think it’s both of these approaches- of inter and cross-disciplinary collaboration, as well as being deeply invested in the future of the academy which would makes me a good fit with BABEL’s work. I have a unique perspective on practical experiences and how technology and new innovations can carve out new spaces for moving forward. I think my desire and willingness to work across fields and interests would make me an asset

Karl Steel (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, Brooklyn College)

I’m a long-time BABEL member and want to help it continue to do well. If elected to the steering committee, I’m hoping to help share some of the labor of BABEL finances. My long-term goals for BABEL concentrate on its character as a working group, which means conceiving of conferences and other events as working communities, oriented towards shared endeavor and collaborative scholarship, involving both the BABEL community as well as other experimental scholarly groups, like the Material Collective.

Steven Swarbrick (Grad Student, English, Brown University)

What I see myself offering to the Steering Committee and to BABEL is a focus not only on the question, What tomorrow?, but also, Whose tomorrow? Looking prospectively, I want to help BABEL to envision ways of convoking a future “we” while addressing the need for sustainable (un)structures. Questions such as Should the working group be planning more events? Should it be offering mini grants to graduate students, non TT faculty, and Altac professionals? Should there be a digital newsletter? are some of the questions I hope to answer in a Steering Committee concerned not only with growing but also with securing lines of affiliation for years to come.

Haylie Swenson (Grad Student, English, George Washington University)

As a graduate student, I personally owe a lot—conference experience, a first publication, and many friendships—to BABEL’s commitment to nonhierarchical and interdisciplinary relationships, something I am particularly invested in, as my own work draws on critical animal studies, science studies, and medieval literature. The thing that has always drawn me most to BABEL is its emphasis on fostering junior scholars, non-tenure track faculty, and non-academics as full peers and partners in the intellectual community. As a member of the steering committee, I would be honored to help ensure that future junior and non-traditional scholars find BABEL to be the safe and welcoming place for cross-disciplinary engagement and exploration that I have always found it to be.

Brian Upton (Non-Academic)

I’m an outsider with this community.  I’m a professional game designer, not a medievalist or an academic.  However, my work on aesthetics and play spills over into questions of reception in the humanities. And, I’m very good at designing structured play experiences.

Elizabeth Randell Upton (Tenure-Track Faculty, Musicology, UCLA)

Like most BABEL members I am a medievalist, but unlike most I am also a musicologist.  I think I can offer the Steering Committee a variety of different perspectives – disciplinary,  institutional, methodological, and even personal.  As someone whose work usually involves non-verbal experiences, I think I can provide an interesting counterpoint to the larger discussion.

Diane Watt (Tenure-Track Faculty, English and Languages, University of Surrey)

Thanks to BABEL, Medieval Studies is no longer at the margins of scholarship, but is defining the terms of thinking in the humanities and beyond. If I were elected to the Steering Committee, I would be committed to continuing its work in offering researchers supportive spaces to court controversy, to think the unthought, and articulate the unspoken. In doing so I would draw on my extensive  experience of fostering interdisciplinary research (eg in my current roles as a member of the Gender and Medieval Studies Steering Group, as a member of the International Medieval Congress programming committee, and as a member of several editorial boards), and on my own personal experience of finding innovative ways to communicate controversial research (see, for example, my stand-up on You Tube

Cord Whitaker (Tenure-Track Faculty, English, Wellesley)

My commitment to BABEL is an ethical one. The spirit of study—literary, artistic, scientific—is play: the creativity to develop new ideas, the freedom to test them against established standards while also challenging those standards, the imagination to explore and delineate the genealogical lines, sometimes subtle and sometimes exclamatory, between old and new ideas. BABEL, with its acceptance of traditional modes of scholarship and encouragement of new modes, with its growing interest in challenging the divide between knowledge and material experience, embodies the playful spirit of study. This spirit has directed my own work, I encourage it in my students, and I see it as an ethical imperative that a space for it be sustained and nurtured for other scholars. BABEL is such a space, and as a member of the Steering Committee, I will work to steer it toward an ever more playful future.

Maggie Williams (Tenure-Track Faculty, Art History, William Paterson University)

As a founding member of the Material Collective, I can offer the BABEL Steering Committee strong links to similar modes of academic production in the fields of art history and the visual arts. In addition, I have 4 years’ professional experience and training as a union organizer. My work with organized labor taught me how to grow a movement, and I would love the opportunity to use those skills to help guide BABEL forward.

To vote, click here.


Call for nominations

nominatenowBABEL wants YOU! to help assemble a BABEL Working Group steering committee. This group will work separately from–though of course in concert with–the conference programming committees for BABEL 2015 in Toronto, BABEL 2017 on Saturn, and beyond. The steering committee will focus its attention on guiding BABEL into its gorgeous future.

Nominations are  sought for TWELVE bright and friendly innovators who work well with others.  The BABEL membership will vote on the slate of candidates to fill the 12 slots (at least 3 of which will be current grad students, non-tenure track faculty, and non-academics), with each position having a term of 2-3 years. We especially seek nominations of recent additions to the BABEL crew. 

Nominate yourself, nominate another (and don’t worry: we’ll contact your nominee to confirm their willingness to serve), but whatever you do, send your nominations to Myra Seaman ([email protected]) by the last moment of October (that is, the end of Friday, October 31). The election will take place the second week of November, to ensure it doesn’t dim the midterm elections taking place in the States the week before.


postmedieval 5.3: The Holocaust and the Middle Ages

Special Issue Edited by Hannah Johnson and Nina CaputoOC.indd


The Middle Ages and the Holocaust: Medieval Anti-Judaism in the Crucible of Modern Thought
Hannah Johnson and Nina Caputo


Exegetical History: Nazis at the Round Table
Martin Shichtman and Laurie A. Finke

‘Modern and Genuine Mediaevalism’: Guido Kisch’s Romance with the German Middle Ages
Mitchell B. Hart

Defending the West: Cultural Racism and Pan-Europeanism on the Far-Right
Daniel Wollenberg

Jean-Claude Milner: Remarks on the Name Jew and the Universal
Translated by Robert S. Kawashima

‘The history of an incorrect term’: Agamben, Etymology and the Medieval History of the Holocaust
Heather Blurton

One or Several Jews? The Jewish Massed Body in Old Norse Literature
Richard Cole


Ethics and the Voices of the Past
Fred Evans


Unstable as Water
Ruth Nisse

[see postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this and other issues]