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April 4, 2010

Embracing the Swerve: A Fugitive Medieval Studies


I want to emphasize that historicism has served the medievalist well for so long because it is both rigorous and flexible. It does not denote a monolithic practice–and there is no “other” to it: meaning that historicism has to be part of any critical encounter with the past. It is the sine qua non that enables other, potentially unhistorical modes.
–Jeffrey J. Cohen, “Time Out of Memory,” The Post-Historical Middle Ages

Menard (perhaps without wanting to) has enriched, by means of a new technique, the halting and rudimentary art of reading: this new technique is that of deliberate anachronism and the erroneous attribution. This technique, whose applications are infinite, prompts us to go through the Odyssey as if it were posterior to the Aeneid and the book Le jardin du Centaure of Madame Henri Bachelier as if it were by Madame Henri Bachelier. This technique fills the most placid works with adventure. To attribute the Imitatio Christi to Louis Ferdinand Céline or to James Joyce, is this not a sufficient renovation of its tenuous spiritual indications?
–Jorge Luis Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”

As promised to everyone at NYU and here at In The Middle, I have now the full, somewhat expanded text of my remarks to share from the Anglo-Saxon Studies Colloquium forum on “Historicism, Post-Historicism, and Medieval Studies,” held just this past Thursday [April 1st] at New York University… [Read the rest at In the Middle]

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