Now, Kalamazoo Voyager!
by EILEEN JOY
The International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan is fast approaching, so if you have not ordered your steampunk glasses and hauberk, I recommend you do so now. The BABEL Working Group, GW’sMedieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, and postmedieval are all sponsoring sessions, which are described below, and I invite everyone to use the comments section here to direct our attention to other sessions which you think would be of interest to readers of the In The Middle or just to say, “I’m in this session; come and heckle me!” In the meantime, in order to further our project of a drunkenly deranged medieval studies in which all of our critical faculties are thrown to the wayside in favor of a micropolitics of disruption, revelry, and indiscriminate affection [and maybe a few fistfights and sudden sing-a-longs of Neutral Milk Hotel], please consider yourself invited to the following social events:
Karaoke @Shakespeare’s Pub
Wednesday, May 8th, 9:00 pm onward
BABEL Working Group: Open-Bar Reception/Meeting
Friday, May 10th, 5:15 pm, Fetzer 2020
*we will be giving away punctum books [Thomas Meyer's Beowulf, Dark Chaucer: An Assortment, Speculative Medievalisms: Discography, and Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects], and also taking suggestions for panel themes for the 2014 Congress
BABEL Working Group + postmedieval: Annual Party
Friday, May 10th, 9:00 pm onwards
*all the beer is on BABEL [wristbands to be distributed at brewery]
I want to mention here, also, that Palgrave has finally agreed to a special discounted price [$49 per year for 4 issues, print + online] for graduate student subscribers topostmedieval, and you can see more about that HERE. Related to that, we are also giving away 3 annual subscriptions [print + online] to the journal via a special Twitter contest, and you can see more about that HERE. Read more
3rd Biennial Meeting of
the BABEL Working Group
~ON THE BEACH~
16-18 October 2014
University of California, Santa Barbara
Call for Sessions
Someone is living on this beach. ~David Markson, Wittgenstein’s Mistress
Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people’s hats off—then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can. ~Herman Melville, Moby Dick
BABEL’s 3rd Biennial Meeting situates itself along the fractal shoreline of the Pacific Ocean in Santa Barbara, a town named after the patron saint of miners, artillerymen, explosives, and lightning. In the spirit of such rogue-ish and transitory confraternities of pirates, smugglers, saints, pyro-artists, rebels, and surfers, and following in the spectral footsteps of the after-party stragglers and wastrels of La Dolce Vitastumbling into the early morning light of a bleached-out Fellini-esque seascape, where they are caught by the gaze of a dead stingray snared in a fishing net, we will gather on the beach to explore together the question of what it means to be stranded and how the beach itself (writ large as Beach) might serve as a new Academy of Thought, where thinking would emerge from lively (if also messy and uneasy) collaborations between whales, surfers, clouds, waves, starfish, grains of sand, swimmers, lagoons, saints, coral, marshes, divers, dunes, skiffs, ports, sharks, etc. Our aim will not be to find a site of clear demarcation between water and earth, shore and sea, sand and sun, inside and outside, sky and cloud, human and nonhuman, past and future, University and Real World, work-time and play-time. Rather, we will seek to cohabit a turbulent site of entangled encounter, of weathering and advancing into the weather: a place of “formal inexhaustibility” where trans-corporeal bodies flow into and collide with each other, caught within and moving along eddies of emergence, erosion, and what Vicki Kirby calls “life at large” (“there is no outside of Nature”). At the same time, we will note that we are outside and we will ask what it means to be outside, exposed to the elements and the elemental, to think but also to feel a beachy Outside. Read more
Transparent Things: A Cabinet
Edited by Maggie M. Williams and Karen Eileen Overbey
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2013. 88 pages + illus. ISBN-13: 978-0615790374.
OPEN-ACCESS e-book + $15.00 [€13.00] in print.
Inspired by a passage in Vladmir Nabokov’s Transparent Things (1972), and also compiled as a future love letter to The Material Collective, the essays collected here play with the transparency of pedagogy, scholarship, and writing, as well as with objects that can be seen through, such as crystals and stained glass. As Nabokov wrote,
When we concentrate on a material object, whatever its situation, the very act of attention may lead to our involuntarily sinking into the history of that object. Novices must learn to skim over matter if they want matter to stay at the exact level of the moment. Transparent things, through which the past shines!
For the art and literary historians gathered together in this volume (Angela Bennett Segler, Jennifer Borland, Karen Eileen Overbey, Nancy Thompson, and Maggie M. Williams), all students of medieval material, these tensions between surface and depth, present and past, concentration and skimming are all too familiar. The inherent contradictions of medieval objects, their irreducibility to either the purely intellectual or the merely physical, are at once the delights and the dangers of the art historian’s work. This book thus offeres a dialogue on the question of how our encounters with physical things spark a process and how objects might allow unique collisions between the past and the present, the human and the inanimate, the practice of history and lived experience. As works of medieval studies or art history, these essays are incomplete, awkward, and provisional. Some of them may even read like embarrassing teenage poetry. This collection is like that dusty box in the basement: it is full of raw, unedited, transparent expressions of affect, of the sort we have learned to hide.
Table of Contents: Maggie M. Williams and Karen Eileen Overbey — “Introduction: Dear Material Collective”; Karen Eileen Overbey — “Reflections on the Surface, or, Notes for a Tantric Art History”; Jennifer Borland — “Encountering the Inauthentic”; Angela Bennett Segler — “Touched for the Very First Time: Losing My Manuscript Virginity”; Nancy Thompson — “Close Encounters with Luminous Objects”
Howl (Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Lowell Duckert)
Earth: A wandering (Alfred Kentigern Siewers)
Road (Valerie Allen)
A poetics of nothing: Air in the early modern imagination (Steve Mentz)
Cloud/land – An Onto-story (Julian Yates)
Water love (Sharon O’Dair)
Glacier (Lowell Duckert)
Fire (Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Stephanie Trigg)
Abyss: Everything is food (Karl Steel)
The elements (Jane Bennett)
BOOK REVIEW ESSAY
Medieval ecocriticism (Vin Nardizzi)
[see postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this and other issues]
Speculative Medievalisms: Discography
Edited by The Petropunk Collective (Eileen A. Joy, Anna Klosowska, Nicola Masciandaro, and Michael O’Rourke)
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2013. 316 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615749532.
OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $17.00 (€15.00) in print.
Sicut sensus non potest sentire sine sensibili, ita anima non potest intelligere sine phantasmate (Thomas Aquinas)
Proceedings from the two Speculative Medievalisms symposia, held at King’s College London (Jan. 2011) and The Graduate Center, City University of New York (Sep. 2011), and organized by The Petropunk Collective (Eileen Joy, Anna Klosowska, Nicola Masciandaro, and Michael O’Rourke). These interdisciplinary events were dedicated to dialogue and cross-contamination between traditional concepts of speculatio, present-minded premodern studies, and contemporary speculative realist and object-oriented philosophies. In its medieval formulation, speculatio signifies the essentially reflective and imaginative operations of the intellect. Here the world, books, and mind itself are all conceived as specula (mirrors) through which the hermeneutic gaze can gain access to what lies beyond it. “To know is to bend over a mirror where the world is reflected, to descry images reflected from sphere to sphere: the medieval man was always before a mirror, both when he looked around himself and when he surrendered to his own imagination” (Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas). Correlatively, speculative realism, as the term suggests, is characterized by the self-contradictory intensity of a desire for thought that can think beyond itself — a desire that proceeds, like all philosophy, in a twisted and productive relation to the phantasm of the word.
Aiming to rise above and tunnel below the thought-being or self-world correlation, speculative realism “depart[s] from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage[s] in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself” (The Speculative Turn). Speculative Medievalisms, like some weird friar-alchemist in an inexistent romance, plays the erotic go-between for these text-centered and text-eccentric intellectual domains by trying to transmute the space between past and present modes of speculation from shared blindness to love at first sight. Possibly succeeding, the volume brings together the work of a motley crew of philosophers and premodernists into prismatic relation. Read more
University of California, Irvine
19 April 2013
The Graduate Center, CUNY
27 September 2013
The “hermeneutics of suspicion” has fallen under suspicion. There has been a turn against “critique” and away from “paranoid reading.” Yet critique — understood to encompass heterogeneous practices of judgment and pursuits of justice — has not outlived its usefulness. Critical/Liberal/Arts is a project and event-space seeking new articulations and performances of critique’s timeliness for a one-day symposium at UC Irvine in April 2013, followed by another at the Graduate Center, CUNY in September 2013, with both symposia to be documented in a special double-issue of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies. We have been inspired by the recent experiments of thinkers and artists who are crafting, composing, curating, inventing, agitating, building, healing, resisting, and playing as ways of inquiring into the limits and consequences of our world. Presenters are invited to think about critique in proximity to other modes of action, especially those of making and creation — 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.
We hazard that many of the categories used to distinguish modes of knowledge production are in practice overlapping or entwined: distance and involvement; criticism and aestheticism; sensation and reflection; detachment and attachment; interrogation and incorporation; control and loss of control before the objects of our study. A survey of the humanities and social sciences at present turns up projects that transcend traditional rubrics and do not remain in their respective fields at all — but rather cross out of academia and continue on to other planes of social practice. These projects represent serious commitments to tinkering, mapping, constructing, organizing, blogging, protesting, ornamenting, fantasizing, occupying, and more. We invite accounts of practices from inside and outside of the university that might be counted among the new arts of critique, or new modes of critical creation. Read more
Dark Chaucer: An Assortment
Edited by Myra Seaman, Eileen A. Joy & Nicola Masciandaro
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2012. 224 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615701073.
OPEN-ACCESS e-book or $15.00 [€13.00] in print.
Although widely beloved for its playfulness and comic sensibility, Chaucer’s poetry is also subtly shot through with dark moments that open into obscure and irresolvably haunting vistas, passages into which one might fall head-first and never reach the abyssal bottom, scenes and events where everything could possibly go horribly wrong or where everything that matters seems, if even momentarily, altogether and irretrievably lost. And then sometimes, things really do go wrong. Opting to dilate rather than cordon off this darkness, this volume assembles a variety of attempts to follow such moments into their folds of blackness and horror, to chart their endless sorrows and recursive gloom, and to take depth soundings in the darker recesses of the Chaucerian lakes in order to bring back palm- or bite-sized pieces (black jewels) of bitter Chaucer that could be shared with others . . . an “assortment,” if you will. Not that this collection finds only emptiness and non-meaning in these caves and lakes. You never know what you will discover in the dark.
Contents: Candace Barrington, “Dark Whiteness: Benjamin Brawley and Chaucer” – Brantley L. Bryant & Alia, “Saturn’s Darkness” – Ruth Evans, “A Dark Stain and a Non-Encounter” – Gaelan Gilbert, “Chaucerian Afterlives: Reception and Eschatology” – Leigh Harrison, “Black Gold: The Former (and Future) Age” – Nicola Masciandaro, “Half Dead: Parsing Cecelia” – J. Allan Mitchell, “In the Event of the Franklin’s Tale”– Travis Neel & Andrew Richmond, “Black as the Crow” – Hannah Priest, “Unravelling Constance” – Lisa Schamess, “L’O de V: A Palimpsest” – Myra Seaman, “Disconsolate Art” – Karl Steel, “Kill Me, Save Me, Let Me Go: Custance, Virginia, Emelye” – Elaine Treharne, “The Physician’s Tale as Hagioclasm” – Bob Valasek, “The Light has Lifted: Pandare Trickster” – Lisa Weston, “Suffer the Little Children, or, A Rumination on the Faith of Zombies” – Thomas White, “The Dark Is Light Enough: The Layout of the Tale of Sir Thopas.” This assortment of dark morsels also features a prose-poem Preface by Gary Shipley.
[visit punctum books]
Michael Ursell, of the Stanford University Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, interviewed Eileen in the wake of the BABEL 2012 conference in Boston in September.
Eileen talked about BABEL, past and future, in terms of:
Medieval Studies as Performance Art
A Manifesto for Radical Optimism
The Right to Care About Everything
Find the interview here.
Series Editor: Eileen Joy (email@example.com)
I am tired, Beloved,
of chafing my heart against
the want of you;
of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
~Amy Lowell, “The Letter”
Don’t fear anything for your letters, they are burnt
one by one and I hope you do the same with mine.
Dead Letter Office publishes small chapbook-style works, of anywhere from 30 to 80 or so pages, representing work that either has gone “nowhere” or will likely go nowhere, yet retain little inkdrops of possibility and beauty and the darkling shape of a more full-bodied form and structure — to whit: the conference or seminar paper that will never become an article, the stray pages for a half-baked article that will never become the full-baked article, the half-finished chapter that will never make it into the book or the dissertation, the outlines and notes and semi-polished pages for manuscripts that are simply unfinish-able, the essay that can find no welcoming harbor (and that you half-suspect is ill-conceived but likely isn’t), the prospectus for the project you can never seem to find your way to start, the prolegomenon and preamble without follow-up, the stray children of your pen, the letter you wrote then tucked away in a drawer, fearing to mail it, or the one you sent and received again, with the stamp, “return to sender,” or which was never received nor returned, that you perhaps lost (then re-found). We seek, also, experiments in whimsy, in over-reaching, in idle speculation, in prospecting for fool’s gold, in working mountains into molehills, in marking and then forgetting a path in a wild wood of visible darkness. In short, the Dead Letter Office invites you to take those letters out of the drawer or shoebox, to re-visit and re-polish them, without worrying about conclusions or ultimate destinations, and send them to us. We will also consider actual letters to the dead: belated eulogies, posthumous transmissions to the underworld, love (and hate and other) missives to the departed, funerary telegrams, and various notes and commentaries to be used as devices to water the graveyards where, to cadge from Walter Benjamin, some of the dead are turning by a strange heliotropism toward the sun that is rising in the sky of history. Read more