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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]

Program of BABEL Santa Barbara (16-18 October) available!

2014 Program


[full program available below, but please head here for the complete BABEL Meeting website]


[all images from Joni Sternbach, Surfland]

~ On the Beach: Precariousness, Risk, Forms of Life, Affinity, and Play at the Edge of the World  ~

[full description of conference BABEL Working Group; College of Creative Studies, UCSB; College of Letters and Science, UCSB; Comparative Literature Program, UCSB; Department of Art, UCSB; Department of English, UCSB; Department of French & Italian, UCSB; Department of History, UCSB; Department of Spanish & Portugese, UCSB; Early Modern Center, UCSB; Film & Media Studies, UCSB; Germanic, Slavic and Semitic Studies, UCSB; Interdisciplinary Humanities Center, UCSB; Literature & Environment Center, UCSB; Literature & Mind Center, UCSB; Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, The George Washington University; Medieval Literatures Center, UCSB; Medieval Studies, UCSB; Mellon Sawyer Seminar, UCSB; punctum booksPalgrave Macmillan; and Transcriptions Center, UCSB.

REGISTER HERE [regular faculty] and HERE [students and non-regular faculty] by SEPTEMBER 15.

Go HERE for post-September 15 LATE registration.

*If you are UCSB faculty or student, there is no charge for attending the conference; if you want to pre-register and have a name-badge and conference program set aside for you, please send an email to Eileen Joy: [email protected] Read more

ANNOUNCING: Burn After Reading from punctum books

Burn After ReadingBAR_Cover_Front_WEB

Vol. 1 // Miniature Manifestos for a Post/medieval Studies

edited by Eileen A. Joy and Myra Seaman

Vol. 2 // The Future We Want: A Collaboration

edited by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen

Brooklyn, NY: punctum books / Washington, DC: Oliphaunt Books, 2014. 226 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0692204412. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $15.00 [€12.00/£11.00] in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Published: 2014-04-28

Download book

. . . better to take the risk and engage in fidelity to a Truth-event, even if it ends in catastrophe, than to vegetate in the eventless utilitarian-hedonist survival of what Nietzsche called the ‘last men.’

~ Slavoj Žižek, Living in the End Times 

The essays, manifestos, rants, screeds, pleas, soliloquies, telegrams, broadsides, eulogies, songs, harangues, confessions, laments, and acts of poetic terrorism in these two volumes — which collectively form an academic “rave” — were culled, with some later additions, from roundtable sessions at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in 2012 and 2013, organized bypostmedieval: a journal for medieval cultural studies and the BABEL Working Group (“Burn After Reading: Miniature Manifestos for a Post/medieval Studies,” “Fuck This: On Letting Go,” and “Fuck Me: On Never Letting Go”) and George Washington University’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute (“The Future We Want: A Collaboration”), respectively. Gathering together a rowdy multiplicity of voices from within medieval and early modern studies, these two volumes seek to extend and intensify a conversation about how to shape premodern studies, and also the humanities, in the years ahead. Authors in both volumes, in various ways, lay claim to the act(s) of manifesting, and also anti-manifesting, as a collective endeavor that works on behalf of the future without laying any belligerent claims upon it, where we might craft new spaces for the University-at-large, which is also a University that wanders, that is never just somewhere, dwelling in the partitive — of a particular place — but rather, seeks to be everywhere, always on the move, pandemic, uncontainable, and always to-come, while also being present/between us (manifest). This is not a book, but a blueprint. It is also an ephemeral gathering in the present tense.


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

ANNOUNCING: Staying Alive from punctum books

Staying Alive_Cover_Front_WebStaying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts

by L.O. Aranye Fradenburg

Edited by Eileen A. Joy

Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2013. 372 pages, illus. ISBN-13: 978-0615906508. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $17.00 [€15.00/£14.00] in print: paperbound/5 X 8 in.

Published: 2013-10-21

Download book

There are many different kinds of intelligence, and there will always be a few writers who don’t need to read Shakespeare in college, or game designers who don’t need economics courses to get rich. But a terrible narrowing of the mind and of mental experience is ongoing in our country, sometimes waved on by the very scientists who ought most of all to respect the mind’s powers. The philosopher Guillaume LeBlanc argues that philosophy should now understand itself as work performed on behalf of particular cultures and ecologies, producing a new ethos of the philosopher for whom the question of belonging to an ordinary world has become, not something to bracket or transcend, but centrally important. Understanding how ordinariness is produced, and critiquing self-evidence, remain crucial activities of cultural analysis, as does the defense of expertise; but it is not simply a matter of intellectuals going public. It is also a matter of experts deciphering the relationship of their work to the arts of thriving and surviving, and feeding the results of their analyses back into their work. And it is time to fight, not just for this or that way of thinking, but for the experience of mind itself, and its cultivation — for (the pleasures of) knowing, reasoning, investigating, analyzing, debating, loving, desiring, and reflecting.

~ L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, “Living the Liberal Arts,” Staying Alive

Staying Alive: A Survival Manual for the Liberal Arts fiercely defends the liberal arts in and from an age of neoliberal capital and techno-corporatization run amok, arguing that the public university’s purpose is not vocational training, but rather the cultivation of what Fradenburg calls “artfulness,” including the art of making knowledge. In addition to sustained critical and creative thinking, the humanities develop the mind’s capacities for real-time improvisational communication and interpretation, without which we can neither thrive nor survive. Humanist pedagogy and research use play, experimentation and intersubjective exchange to foster forms of artfulness critical to the future of our species. From perception to reality-testing to concept-formation and logic, the arts and humanities teach us to see, hear and respond more keenly, and to imagine, or “model,” new futures and possibilities. Innovation of all kinds, technological or artistic, depends on the enhancement of the skills proper to staying alive. Read more

ANNOUNCING punctum records: a sound-impress of punctum books

Shivery Shakes_PBR_1

We are thrilled to announce  the launching of punctum records: a sound-impress of punctum books, with an initial 7″-single release by Austin, Texas band Shivery Shakes — “Sidewalk Talk” — later this summer. punctum records aims to build a label that will house a rowdy assemblage of muscians, sound/noise artists, acoustic technologists, musicologists, and sound theorists. Although we are still somewhat “under construction,” we share with you below our vision statement and Advisory Board, and you can also check out the label’s website HERE, plus follow us on FacebookTwitter(@punctumrecords), Soundcloud, and Tumblr.

punctum records: vision statement

Learning to listen is the intentional task of solidarity; listening in tension.

~ Ultra-red

What happens when you begin to realize another world is possible — that’s art.

~ DJ Spooky

punctum records: a sound-impress of punctum books, is an open-access & vinyl publisher of music and other sonic forms that take creative, slantwise-flying leaps, tarry in the archive of sensible forms, build pleasurably noisy pandemoniums, and seek to make sound an interventionist medium of both disruption and connection. Discography as fever dream, house party, rhythmic riot. Sound as connective tissue, tactical media, ambient rain.

punctum records is an experiment in bringing together cultural theorists, musciologists, sound artists, and musicians as lovers and fighters in the ruins of the arts and humanities at a moment when information-noise overload meets a flattening out of channels and platforms for the sustainable dissemination of music, sonic art, and theory. punctum records is placing a wager on the label, or publishing house, as an important domain for a collective-activist experiment in the construction of what Ivan Illich called “tools for conviviality,” and for developing sound-styles that would “give priority to the protection, the maximum use, and the enjoyment of … personal energy under personal control.”[1] In affinity with punctum books’s commitment to fostering para-academic shelters for the cultivation of open, vagabond publics, punctum records is bent on “pressing” an unruly crowd of sounds into the ventilating system called the cultural commons, and on playing the shadow-demon-parasite-prod-supplement to the so-called “music industry.” Sound label as field of play, wandering group house, rogue frequency.

punctum records invites theorists, musicians, and sound artists (or any combination thereof) to propose singles, mixtapes, EPs, LPs, audiocasts, soundscapes, operas, discographies, acoustical memes, noise art, sound waves, librettos, samplers, wave emissions, soundscapes, audio channels, sonic fictions, field recordings, fugues, listening devices, radio broadcasts, digital sound exhibits, sonic archaeologies, audio-loops, acoustic manuals, ambient backgrounds, echo chambers, musical algorithms, choral reefs, mashups, soundtracks, live recordings, sound/spoken word poetry, sound-walls, earworms, interstellar messages, improvisational sessions, digital concerts, transcriptions, busking performances, and sonic-theory compositions of any kind. Read more

Recent Articles


postmedieval 5.2: Comic Medievalisms

Special Issue Edited by Louise D’Arcens10295333_696208457083372_508382200230097689_o


Medievalist laughter
Louise D’Arcens


Said in jest: Who’s laughing at the Middle Ages (and when)?
David Matthews

You had to be there: Anachronism and the limits of laughing at the Middle Ages
Louise D’Arcens

Medieval comic relief: Cannibal cow, duck’s neck and carry on Joan of Arc
Stephen Knight

‘Simply to amuse the reader’: The humor of Walter Scott’s Reformation
Andrew Lynch

One does not simply laugh in Middle Earth: Sacrificing humor in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings
Brantley L Bryant

Valhallolz: Medievalist humor on the Internet
Kim Wilkins


Ella’s bloody eagle: Sharon Turner’s History of the Anglo-Saxons and Anglo-Saxon history
Donna Beth Ellard

Towards the Middle Ages to come: The temporalities of walking with W. Morris, H. Adams and especially H.D. Thoreau
Benjamin A Saltzman


Comedy in translation: Politics and poetics
Nicole Sidhu

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

Kalamazoo 2015 CALL FOR PAPERS: Quantum Medievalisms // Dinshaw’s “Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, 1990-2015″

I want to share with everyone here the more detailed Call for Papers for BABEL’s and postmedieval’s sessions for the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies to be held in Kalamazoo, Michigan from May 14-17, 2015. Although the official, printed CFP lists me as the primary contact person [[email protected]], please send your proposal and Participant Information Form by September 15th to the persons listed below who actually dreamed up these sessions [and if any proposals reach me, I will, don't worry, forward them on]:1. Quantum Medievalisms [roundtable] // Sponsor: postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies // Organizer: Angela Bennett Segler, New York Universityproposals to: [email protected]

*it should be noted that this session is part of a cluster of sessions spread out across many sponsoring organizations on Medieval Materialisms [see and join, if interested, the Group page for that on Facebook HERE]

This panel uses a direct parallel with Quantum Physics to prompt interrogations of basic structures of figuring matter and temporality within scholarship of the Middle Ages. As the name suggests, the idea has a dual legacy. In classical Latin, “quantum” is the accusative form of the adjective “quantus,” usually paired with “tantus” to indicate questions of what size, how much, or magnitude of greatness. In its adverbial counterpart, “quantum” designated a comparison of quantity: “as far as,” “as much as,” “as great as.” Even from the Patristic writers, though, we find that “quantum” has become a noun that is no longer a comparison or a description of quantities, but a stand-in for quantity itself. In contemporary culture, the word “quantum,” carries with it the connotations of modern physics that, beginning with Einstein and Planck, define basic units of light and energy (respectively) as “quanta.” Quantum physics deals primarily with the level of the atomic and subatomic nature of all matter, at which levels the classical distinctions between matter and energy, wave and particle collapse completely. All things—light, energy and matter — are simultaneously waves and particles, and due to Bohr’s principle of complementarity it is the observer who intervenes via her scientific apparatus and determines what she is observing. One of the ramifications of Bohr’s interpretation is the idea of quantum entanglement. Quantum entanglement means that all elements of a system are simultaneously affected as the system is affected. As those elements disperse — an inevitability according to the laws of thermodynamics — the system itself does not disassemble but becomes diffuse. Action upon the system will still simultaneously affect every iota of the system, even if those elements are light years apart. Read more »


DONATE! to BABEL’s Spring 2014 Fundraising Campaign

babelfund[Click here to donate now! ]



You might think, and some days it’s true, that the BABEL Working Group runs on Manhattan cocktails, WD-40, ramen, loose change, the kindness of strangers, old Talking Heads albums, matches, a glitter ball, chewing gum, and a few guitars. Indeed, without institutional or foundational funding, but with a lot of elbow grease in the wee hours of the night, the BABEL Working Group has, since 2004, worked very hard to: 1) develop new co-disciplinary, nomadic, and convivial confraternities between the humanities, sciences, social sciences, and the fine arts (both within and beyond the academy), 2) to build shelters for humanist and post/humanist vagabonds, 3) to foster a politics of friendship both within and beyond the University, and 4) to create new spaces for para-academic alliances (such as our biennial conference, our symposia series, but also our press punctum books and or new sound label punctum records).But the fact of the matter is, we cannot keep doing everything we have been doing, not to mention continue to build even more new spaces and events and projects and platforms, without some sort of regular fund-raising campaign, which we’ve decided to undertake beginning this year, in both spring and fall of each year. It’s important to us that we never charge membership dues [although many people have urged us to do just that], because as idealistic and foolish as it might sound, I’ve always envisioned BABEL as an attempt to put theory into practice — more specifically, to see if it’s possible to build and sustain something like Deleuze and Guattari’s “desiring-assemblage,” which of its very nature must have propensities, trajectories, flows [and also breaks in the flows], attachments, detachments, reattachments, agglomerations, itineraries, ETC. that cannot be predicted in advance nor managed bureaucratically nor controlled. As such, all manner of persons must be invited to jump on, and also jump off, with no impediments to their movements in and out of the spaces we are creating to foster new modes and experimental forms of creative intellectual work. We don’t want officers. We don’t want Robert’s Rules. We don’t want dues. Consider, also, that without any of that — and again, without any institutional support [although some, like GW-MEMSI have generously helped fund our biennial meeting and social events] — we’ve managed to do the following: Read more »


postmedieval 4.4: Premodern Flesh

Edited by Holly Crocker and Kathryn Schwarz FLESH_Cover


In the Flesh (Holly Crocker [University of South Carolina])


Melting Flesh, Living Words (Jay Zysk [University of South Florida])

The Temporal Excesses of Dead Flesh (Cynthia Turner Camp [University of Georgia])

Carnival in The Merchant of Venice (Jonathan Goldberg [Emory University])

The Curious Pleasures of the Heroic Corpse (Kathryn Schwarz [Vanderbilt University])

Scattered Remains and Paper Bodies: Margaret Cavendish and the Siege of Colchester (Frances E. Dolan [University of California, Davis])

Fleshing out the text: The Transcendent Manuscript in the Digital Age (Elaine Treharne [Stanford University])

Spirited Flesh: The Animation and Hybridization of Flesh in the Early Modern Imaginary (Emily L. King [Vanderbilt University])

Hi Mho Jhi Kudd: Thomas Stephens’s Translated Flesh, or, Coconuts in Goa (Jonathan Gil Harris [Ashoka University])

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

Crowd Review 3: The Holocaust and the Middle Ages

crowdMyra Seaman, Holly Crocker and Eileen Joy are thrilled to announce that postmedieval is launching today our THIRD online, open Crowd Review, of Nina Caputo’s and Hannah Johnson’s special issue on “The Holocaust and the Middle Ages,” which features the following essays:

We are grateful [again] this Crowd Review is being hosted and stewarded by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and company at MediaCommons, based at New York University, which describes its mission this way:

MediaCommons is a community network for scholars, students, and practitioners in media studies, promoting exploration of new forms of publishing within the field. MediaCommons was founded with the support of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and with assistance from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Through this network, we hope to refocus scholarship in the field on the communication and discussion of new ideas in the field. . . . Our hope is that the interpenetration of these different forms of discourse will not simply shift the locus of publishing from print to screen, but will actually transform what it means to “publish,” allowing the author, the publisher, and the reader all to make the process of such discourse just as visible as its product. In so doing, new communities will be able to get involved in academic discourse, and new processes and products will emerge, leading to new forms of digital scholarship and pedagogy.

MediaCommons (and MediaCommons Press), which Fitzpatrick helped to found, have been extremely important in leading the edge of peer-to-peer (P2P) publishing networks and open review within the humanities — indeed, Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s influential book, Planned Obsolescence: Publishing, Technology, and the Future of the Academy, was first drafted, reviewed, revised and published in MediaCommons Press’s open platform (it has since also been published in print by NYU Press), and open review of two issues ofShakespeare Quarterly (SQ), on “Shakespeare and Performance,” and also on  “Shakespeare and New Media,”have also been hosted by MediaCommons Press. The New York Times published a fairly good article on these experiments in open, online review in August of 2010, shortly before postmedieval launched its first online Crowd Review — of our special issue on “Becoming Media,” edited by Jen Boyle and Martin Foys, which you can see more about HERE — inspired, I might add, by SQ’s experiments in such and by the arguments of Fitzpatrick’s book, especially, for me, that we need, in the reviewing of academic work to shift from a gatekeeping and individualistic/heroic mode of “oversight” and agon to a more communal, helpful model. As Fitzpatrick writes in her book: Read more »

postmedieval 5.1: Comparative Neomedievalisms

Cluster Edited by Daniel Lukes


Comparative Neomedievalisms: A Little Bit Medieval (Daniel Lukes [Indiana University])


Don Quixote and the Remembrance of Things Medieval (Donald D. Palmer [College of Marin and North Carolina State University])

The New Knighthood: Terrorism and the Medieval (Daniel Wollenberg [Binghamton University, SUNY])

Neomedievalisms and the Modern Subject in T. S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral  (Krystya Michael [Graduate Center, CUNY])

Neomedievalist Feminist Dystopia (Daniel Lukes [Indiana University])


Boundless Restraint: Performance, Reparation, and the Daily Practice of Death in the Life of Daniel the Stylite (Jonah Westerman [Graduate Center, CUNY])

Confessions and the Creation of the Will: A Weird Tale (Matthew Bryan Gillis [University of Tennessee])


Heurodis Speaks (Robyn Cadwallader [Flinders University])


Towards a Premodern Affective Turn (Glenn Burger [Queens College and The Graduate Center, CUNY])


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