Speculative Medievalisms: Discography
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
Intimate Senses/Sensing Intimacy (Holly Dugan and Lara Farina)
Transcending, othering, detecting: Smell, premodernity, modernity (Mark M. Smith)
The play of skin in The Changeling (Patricia Cahill)
Sense and simulacra: Manipulation of the senses in medieval ‘copies’ of Jerusalem (Laura D. Gelfand)
The city out of breath: Jacobean city comedy and the odors of restraint (Hristomir A. Stanev)
Revolting anatomy in the Farce nouvelle des cinq sens de l’homme (Julie Singer)
The cultural life of the senses (David Howe)
On sensory history and contemporary placemaking in the social sciences (Mark Paterson)
A neuroscientific perspective on medieval intimacies (Jonathan Cole)
A third ear in the intimate senses? (Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren)
As if our friends felt the sun for us (Georgina Kleege)
BOOK REVIEW ESSAY
Books and bodies, literature and the senses in the early middle ages (Clare A. Lees)
[see postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this and other issues]
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.
Two Roads Diverged in a Yellow Wood, and I, I Took the One Less Travelled By: Why I Resigned my Professorship
These Are the Tiny Engines That Power the Sails of Our Adventure: Friendship as a Way of Life (Again, and Again)
It is now 2 days since returning from the 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group in Boston last week, and I am still trying to recover. Following this blog post I am going to share with everyone the notes of the first-ever “think tank” of BABEL, held the Sunday after the conference, in which a group of us engaged in some strategic planning for the future of our conference, but also for BABEL as an organization that is getting larger and larger in terms of its activities and membership. WE NEED HELP. To that end, in the next day or two, I will share what we discussed at our day-long retreat and also invite everyone here to please pitch in ideas regarding the next meeting, to be held in Autumn 2014 at UC-Santa Barbara.
In the meantime, I would like to share with everyone here the edited and slightly expanded version of the presentation that I and my partner Anna Klosowska delivered in Boston as part of Brantley and Sakina Bryant’s “Impure Collaborations” panel, which they described this way:
This panel explores collaborations that challenge the customary professional expectations of academic being-together. What kinds of shared work beckon beyond the sanitized templates for “objective” (“pure”) and “professional” academic collaboration? How can we best make visible the ways in which that affinity, friendship, eros, identity, political engagement, and other off-the-CV connections give us ways of working outside of often constrictive and normative academic hierarchies and working conditions?
Friendship, and also “work” motivated by personal intimacy and love, was the topic Anna and I chose, and we understand the mine-field in which we tread. It is hoped that it is understood that we do not take our project of friendship [which we believe is deeply political and radical] as some sort of monolith: “we are all friends now! isn’t that groovy?” As if that “group” or whatever it is would not be striated by all sorts of differences, internal dissension, mixed motives, lopsided attractions, asymmetrical power dynamics, and the like. The project of friendship, in relation to the academy, is, for us, very much a Derridean and even Foucauldian working through of what is to-come, to-arrive. It is a project of radical hope, not a *thing* that already exists. It is not one specific group that insists on a sort of membership or set of rituals or personality types for being “in” or “out.” It is not a collective that absorbs nor threatens to absorb otherness and difference; it is an activity of clearing ground so that anything might happen, so that specific persons can feel safe to be exactly who they are, even if what that is might embody the wish to be “left alone.” It requires courage, because you have to be willing to allow yourself to be changed through your encounters with others. And without further ado, here are our remarks: Read more
cruising in the ruins: the question of disciplinarity in the post/medieval university [from punctum books]
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2012. 95 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615697659. Free download.
This small book comprises the program of the 2nd Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, hosted by Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts from 20-22 September 2012, and co-hosted by Boston College, College of Charleston, George Washington University’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, Harvard University, M.I.T., Palgrave Macmillan, punctum books, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and Tufts University.
Featured Speakers: Jane Bennett, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Carolyn Dinshaw, Lindy Elkins-Tanton, David Kaiser, Marget Long, and Sans façon [Charles Blanc and Tristan Surtees].
Sessions: The Inter-Discipline of Pedagogy; Getting Medieval on Medieval Studies; Medieval Touchscreen; Families Old and New; Going Postal: Networks, Affect, and Retro-Technologies; Digging in the Ruins: Medievalism and the Uncanny in the University [I & II]; Future-Philology; Intellectual Crimes: Theft, Punking, and Roguish Behavior; Impure Collaborations; Enjoying the End (Again); Textual Fault-Lines; All In a Jurnal’s Work: A BABEL Wayzgoose; Ecomaterialism; The Urmadic University; Synaesthetics: Sensory Integration Against the Disciplines; Hoarders/Hordes; Parts, Wholes, and the New; Will It Blend? Equipping the Humanities Lab; What Is Critical Thinking?; #Occupy Boston: Humanities and Praxis; Se7en Undeadly ScIeNceS: The Trivium and Quadrivium in the Multiforking University; Wild Fermentation: Disciplined Knowledge and Drink; The Historiographic Ghost. Read more
by Thomas Meyer
Edited by David Hadbawnik
with a Preface by David Hadbawnik, an Introduction by Daniel C. Remein, and an Interview with Thomas Meyer
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2012. 312 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615612652. FREE download + $15.00 in print.
“Thomas Meyer’s modernist reworking of Beowulf is a wonder.” ~John Ashbery
“Tom Meyer’s Beowulf reenacts the dark grandeur of a poem that is as much a story of vengeance as it is of courage and loyalty. Meyer brings the poem’s alliterative, inflected line in concert with post-Poundian lineation to give the reader a vivid sense of our oldest poem’s modernity. This is a major accomplishment.” ~Michael Davidson
“Meyer’s work is amazing and richly satisfying, a full-scale collaboration between an ancient poem and a modern poet. Its diversity of tone is dazzling, from stately to swinging, from philosophically abstract to savagely concrete, from conversationally discursive to gnomic, haunting, chthonic — yet every line feels honestly rooted in the original text, the echo of an generous, open-hearted, and lovingly close reading of the poem.” ~Roy Liuzza
Many modern Beowulf translations, while excellent in their own ways, suffer from what Kathleen Biddick might call “melancholy” for an oral and aural way of poetic making. By and large, they tend to preserve certain familiar features of Anglo-Saxon verse as it has been constructed by editors, philologists, and translators: the emphasis on caesura and alliteration, with diction and syntax smoothed out for readability. The problem with, and the paradox of this desired outcome, especially as it concerns Anglo-Saxon poetry, is that we are left with a document that translates an entire organizing principle based on oral transmission (and perhaps composition) into a visual, textual realm of writing and reading. The sense of loss or nostalgia for the old form seems a necessary and ever-present shadow over modern Beowulfs. Read more
punctum books is thrilled to announce the publication of Speculations III — the first issue of Speculations: A Journal of Speculative Realism (edited by Michael Austin, Paul J. Ennis, Fabio Gironi, Thomas Gokey, and Robert Jackson) to be published in conjunction with punctum books. This is a leviathan whale of an issue [510 pages!] comprising articles (by Benjamin Norris, Beatrice Marovich, Levi Bryant, Daniel Whistler, Daniel Colucciello Barber, Christopher Norris, and Michael Haworth), position papers (by Christian Thorne and Peter Wolfendale), translations (Graham Harman’s “On Vicarious Causation” into German, for example), reviews (of Levi Bryant’s The Democracy of Objects, Graham Harman’s Circus Philosophicus, Christopher Watkin’s Difficult Atheism, Andy Merrifield’s Magical Marxism, and Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs installation), and an interview with Stathis Psillos. Those interested in the ongoing struggles to define exactly what Speculative Realism (SR) is, will want to read the translation of Louis Morelle’s comprehensive “Speculative Realism: After Infinitude and Beyond?” also included in this issue.