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AUDIOCASTS AVAILABLE: Critical/Liberal/Arts 2 @ CUNY

An Interstellar Raft of the Medusa: Critical/Liberal/Arts 2 @CUNY


It’s been almost two months since some of us (well, many of us, actually, since we numbered close to 100)gathered at The Graduate Center, CUNY for the second installment of the BABEL Working Group’s bi-coastal symposia series, Critical/Liberal/Arts, the first of which happened at UC-Irvine this past April. The proceedings from both events will be published in a special issue of postmedieval, edited by the series organizers, Myra Seaman, Allan Mitchell, and Julie Orlemanski, in 2015, but in the meantime we are fortunate that one of the NYC’s event’s contributors, AW Strouse, has offered a review and summary of the day at the online journal HortulusHERE, and I now also have audio files to share, for those who could not be there, but would like to join in some of the fun of the embodied performances — by Henry Turner, the Hollow Earth Society (Wythe Marschall + Ethan Gould), Eleanor Johnson, Ammiel Alcalay, Bruce Holsinger, AW Strouse, Eirik Steinhoff, Jamie “Skye” Bianco, Michael Witmore, and Marina Zurkow + Una Chaudhuri — that resulted from this prompt:

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; interpretive qualification and quantified data; analysis and speculation; 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, digitizing, 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.
Presenters have been encouraged to avoid post-critical hype and anti-critique retrenchment. Polarizing these issues has helped generate powerful critiques-of-critique as well as strong defenses of traditional critical frameworks (such as Marxism, feminism, queer studies, race studies, postcolonial studies, post-structuralism, and the like). But we are interested in exploring theories and practices beyond the polemic. To wit: What are the new scenes or spaces of critical invention? What different faces might critique have? What does it feel like? What does it do? How does historical consciousness play a role in generating new forms, tools, or ideas? What does it mean to be “uncritical”? Is there an erotic hermeneutics, pace Sontag, or an eros of critique? How do we engage criticism and art and techne against the actuarial interests of the corporate university? Can we “afford” to nurture speculative creation, or pure science, in an age of austerity? Do delight, rapture, or the drift of daydreams have a role in criticism? Is there value in maintaining what separates the injunctions to critique and to create? How might our practices cross-pollinate the sciences and the fine arts? Or politics and aesthetics? Or the future and the past? Read more »

A Time for Radical Hope


I was very lucky to be invited recently by George Washington University — more specifically, GW’s new Digital Humanities Institute [Alex Huang], GW’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute [Jeffrey Cohen], and the Gelman Library [Geneva Henry and Karim Boughida] — to give a talk on the state(s) and future(s) of open-access publishing, and in order to make this talk more accessible, I am sharing it here [in augmented form]!

A Time for Radical Hope: Freedom, Responsibility, Publishing, and Building New Publics

Professional Challenges. Amateur Solutions.

~The Bruce High Quality Foundation

For what may we hope? Kant put this question in the first-person singular along with two others — What can I know? What ought I to do? — that he thought essentially marked the human condition. With two centuries of philosophical reflection, it seems that these questions are best transposed to the first-person plural. And with that same hindsight, rather than attempt an a priori inquiry, I would like to consider hope as it might arise at one of the limits of human existence [such as the collapse of an entire culture]. . . . What makes hope [in the face of such a collapse] radical is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is. Radical hope anticipates a good for which those who have the hope as yet lack the appropriate concepts with which to understand it.

~Jonathan Lear, Radical Hope: Ethics in the Face of Cultural Devestation 

 The Bruce High Quality Foundation is an anonymous collective and unaccredited art school, formed in 2004 by graduates of Cooper Union art school in New York City, who wanted to “foster an alternative to everything,” especially in New York City’s rarefied art world. Bruce High Quality is their whimsically invented figure-head: a sculptor who supposedly perished, along with all of his works, in the 9/11 attacks, and whose memory and legacy the collective seeks to maintain. One of their first interventions, or acts of institutional critique, happened in 2005 when the Whitney Museum wanted to honor the legacy of the illustrator Robert Smithson by constructing an actual “floating island” based on one of his drawings, “Floating Island to Travel Around Manhattan Island.” The constructed island, complete with living trees, was pulled by a tugboat around New York Harbor. The Bruce High Quality Foundation responded to the event with their own performance, titled“The Gate: Not the Idea of the Thing but the Thing Itself,” in which members of the collective pursued the Smithson island in a small skiff carrying a model of one of the orange gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude that had been displayed in Central Park earlier that year. In 2007, they donned football gear and “tackled” public sculptures. They also produced a film in 2008 in which zombies take over the Guggenheim, and the Bruce High Quality Foundation fights them with the actual art collections (for example, decapitating the zombies with Brancusi sculptures while the art critics hide and cower in the museum’s cafeteria). In 2010, and despite the Bruce High Quality Foundation’s efforts to remain anonymous and iconoclastic, they were included in theWhitney’s 2010 Biennale. We’ll call this the “coming full circle” narrative, from inside the institution (Cooper Union) to its radical Outside and then back in again (the Whitney). Read more »


CROWD REVIEW REDUX: Comic Medievalisms

original_Heroworship276Myra Seaman, Holly Crocker and I are thrilled to announce that postmedieval is launching today our second online, open Crowd Review, of Louise D’Arcens’ special issue on “Comic Medievalisms,” which features the following essays:

We are especially excited that this Crowd Review is being hosted and stewarded by Kathleen Fitzpatrick and company at MediaCommons, based at New York University, and 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 of Shakespeare 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 postmedievallaunched 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 agonto a more communal, helpful model. As Fitzpatrick writes in her book:

postmedieval 4.3: Fault


Introducing the winners of the first biennial Michael Camille essay prize (Eileen A. Joy [BABEL Working Group])


Lions and Latour litanies in The Sketchbook of Villard de Honnecourt (Haylie Swenson [George Washington University])

Time mechanics: The modern Geoffrey Chaucer and the medieval Jack Spicer (David Hadbawnik [SUNY Buffalo])

From medieval saint to modern bête noire: The case of the Vitae Æthelwoldi (Alison Hudson [Oriel College, Oxford])


Edited by Anna Kłosowska (Miami University)


From Oulipo to al-Ṣafadī: Fault, the absurd, parody and error in medieval and early modern literature (Anna Kłosowska [Miami University])

Fumblr: The academic failblog (Asa Simon Mittman [California State Chico] and Shyama Rajendran [George Washington University]

Anticipatory plagiarism and the ex post facto–garde (Chris Piuma [University of Toronto])

Recycling topology as topos in music and narrative: Machaut, Bach, Möbius, Coetzee, Josipovici, and composition (Brian Macaskill [John Carroll University])

Presently old: Time according to three early modern codices (Heather Bamford [George Washington University])

Memorialization in white: Chaucerian topology and the defaute of subjectivity (Wan-Chuan Kao [Washington and Lee University])

Play and display: al-Ṣafadī’s Invention of Absurdity (Kelly Tuttle [Earlham College])


Carmen et Error (Stephen Murphy [Wake Forest University])

T. Conley, An Errant Eye: Poetry and Topography in Early Modern France (University of Minnesota Press, 2011 )

S. Lerer, Error and the Academic Self: The Scholarly Imagination, Medieval to Modern (Columbia University Press, 2002)

F. Rigolot, L’Erreur de la Renaissance: Perspectives littéraires (Honoré Champion, 2002)

G. Teskey, Delirious Milton: The Fate of the Poet in Modernity (Harvard University Press, 2006) 

J. Yates, Error Misuse Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (University of Minnesota, 2002)

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

postmedieval 4.2: Medieval Mobilities


“The world is my home when I’m mobile”: Medieval Mobilities  (Laurie Finke, Martin B. Shichtman, and Kathleen Coyne Kelly)


A Restless Medieval? Archaeological and Saga-steads in the Viking Age North Atlantic  (Douglas J. Bolender [Field Museum of Natural History] and Oscar Aldred [Newcastle University]
Have Dante Will Travel: On the Limitations of Personal Mobility (Daniel Hartnett [Kenyon College])
Der guote Gêrhart: The Power of Mobility in the Medieval Mediterranean (William Crooke [East Tennessee State University])
Mobile Language Networks and Medieval Travel Writing  (Jonathan Hsy [George Washington University])
Ruins in Motion (Heather Bamford [Texas State University-San Marcos])
Virtual Mobility: Landscape and Dreamscape in a Late Medieval Allegory (Anne Harris [DePauw University])
Flea and ANT: Mapping the Mobility of the Plague, 1330s-1350s (Kathleen Coyne Kelly [Northeastern University])


Medieval Worlds and Mad Max  (John Urry [University of Lancaster])


Transmedieval Mattering and the Untimeliness of the Real Presence (Kathleen Biddick [Temple University])

*reviewing: Karen Barad, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning (Duke UP, 2007);
Jane Bennett,Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things (Duke UP, 2010);
Lanfranc, On the Body and Blood of the Lord and Guitmund of Aversa, On the Truth of the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, trans. by M.G. Vaillancourt (Catholic U America P, 2009); and
Eric Santner, The Royal Remains: The People’s Two Bodies and the Endgame of Sovereignty (U Chicago P, 2011).

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

BABEL @ Kalamazoo2013

Now, Kalamazoo Voyager!


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 BeowulfDark Chaucer: An AssortmentSpeculative 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
@Bell’s Brewery
*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



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 »