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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 »


Transparent Things: A Cabinet [new from punctum books]

Transparent-Things_Cover_WebTransparent 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.

Published: 2013-03-28

Download book

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”


[visit punctum books]


postmedieval 4.1: Ecomaterialism



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)


Medieval ecocriticism (Vin Nardizzi)

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


The James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant for Scholars of Limited Funds

The BABEL Working Group and postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, with an initial gift from Mead Bowen, announce the creation of the James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant for Scholars of Limited Funds, specifically established to aid scholars to travel to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, held each May at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.In brief, for those scholars who have had a paper accepted by the Congress, but for whom travel to the Congress presents a financial hardship (due, especially, to lack of institutional and other support), we have established this grant in memory of Jim Paxson, and, more pointedly, for persons presenting on topics that would have been dear to Jim, whom many of you will know was an important person for the support and development of theoretical medieval studies through his role as an associate editor for so many years at Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Please see below for the full description of the Travel Grant, and note that the deadline [which looms quickly] for applications is MARCH 15, with a decision to be made by APRIL 15.

The James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant
for Scholars of Limited Funds
This grant honors the late Prof. Paxson, an energetic and creative scholar who was particularly devoted to exploring medieval allegory, Piers Plowman, the relations between literature and science, medieval drama, and the works of Chaucer. He produced the important monograph The Poetics of Personification (Cambridge, 1994) and authored an extensive body of articles on a variety of literary and other subjects, and also helped to steer and edit the journal Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies(vital to the development of theoretical medieval studies) through its formative and later yearsHis enthusiasm for research was surpassed only by his commitment to his students. He mentored countless men and women at the University of Toronto, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, and the University of Florida, and he regularly encouraged them to present their findings at academic conferences. Yet he often lacked the funding necessary to present his own work at the conferences he urged his students to attend, and it disheartens us to think that, had he been able to do so, we might have learned something more of the work he was conducting before his passing, and more of us might have received the gift of his encyclopedic knowledge, boundless enthusiasm, and love for teaching. Prof. Paxson was also warmly supportive of the BABEL Working Group at a time when they needed such encouragement, and he was known for his helpful encouragement of those just starting out in the field. Through the James J. Paxson Memorial Travel Grant, we hope to extend the encouragement he freely gave and the funding he deserved to scholars who wish to honor his legacy of kindness, erudition, and commitment to both expanding our knowledge of the medieval world and also embracing new ideas. Read more »