Review of Week 10 and Preview of Week 11
Review of Week 10
On Tuesday we began class by examining the e-text, “William of Palerne” and how to read it as we began situating ourselves in the pre-modern period. We went through the e-text together, examining characters in the manuscript that look similar to Old English characters. After going through the various characters and their pronunciations, we agreed on focusing primarily on the notes instead of the actual reading of the text. We then visited Bynum’s “Introduction” and focused on the way change is portrayed, in particular through hybridity or metamorphosis. We brought this idea of hybridity and metamorphosis into a broader context by examining how we interpret the past and the present. We discussed the chapters read in Gerald of Wales The Topography of Ireland in the ways in which he talks about his project in terms of the past and how Bynum talks about his book as more focused on change than a central topic. We then focused on the narrative of the wolf within the story and how this depicts another type of humanity through hybridity. The connection between the past and present was furthered as we saw similarities between the human connection to the divine in Christianity and how that offers a similar hope that technoscience offers us. After briefly summarizing Howie’s story of Jean the bear-man in “The Edge of Enclosure”, we moved onto Marie de France’s “Bisclavret”. Our focus in “Bisclavret” centered on the depiction of a human essence throughout the plot.
Later in the week on Thursday we examined how the last part of the semester will unfold with our upcoming Final Project of an extended research analysis and creative response. We then discussed Hayles’ “After Shocks: Posthuman Ambivalence”, an essay about the ambivalent views Hayles still feels with the posthuman being both disturbing and intriguing. We then focused on the three main focuses of her essay: futurity, nonhuman others, and distributed cognition. Much of the text focused on the utility of taking a premodern orientation towards posthumanism. Hayles uses other authors such as Julian Yates and Andy Clark to portray her ideas of nonhuman others and distributed cognition. We then focused on Akbari’s “Becoming Human” and how the text uses other texts to examine how the human has been defined. This text shows how there is a theological and philosophical way of examining the human. We also discussed Akbari’s use of Cohen’s works and how Cohen contrasts humanity by comparing it to the hybrid and monstrous. In the final moments of class we briefly summarized the plot of William of Palerne.
“She doesn’t want to get completely rid of the posthuman conception but also doesn’t want to disregard it” – Charles (On Bynum’s Introduction)
“The essence of the human needs to be accessible in order to see humanity” –Adam (On Bisclavret)
“…the human is what is left when that which is inhuman—the Other—is identified and abjected; or, it is the norm from which a being deviates when it is a monster; or, it is a partial state of being that is incorporated within the hybrid.” –Cohen, Akbaris “Becoming Human”, Pg. 274
“The call of the posthuman means configuring the textual traces of the past as an archive or contact zone that may offer occluded or discarded ways of being that configure persons and the world in ways other than those currently on offer.” –Julian Yates, Akbaris “Becoming Human”, Pg. 266
“Their essence hasn’t changed, simply the surface” –Dr. Seaman (On hybridity in text by Gerald of Wales)
Hybridity-Being double and being two things at once. Changes happening at a single moment.
Metamorphosis-Depends upon any given moment, change will still be happening. Gradual change as opposed to a simultaneously existing change.
Regime of Computation-Referring to the current data heavy world and how this influences persuasiveness
Technogenesis-Human evolution does not happen independently, but instead evolves with the help of tools.
Distributed cognition-The brain is not the only source of cognition, but cognition is instead distributed into the body and other areas
Preview of Week 11
[by Dr. Seaman]
Tuesday’s class will be dedicated to the first two sections of William of Palerne. I reminded you on Thursday of the courtly orientation of this poem, like that of Bisclavret, and in contrast to Gerald of Wales’ story of the werewolf couple and the the story of Jehan Paulus the Bear-Man we read summarized and analyzed in Cary Howie’s chapter. I noted that we began with a family separation story (familiar to us from folklore and common in romances, which are so oriented toward individual identity, always rooted in that of the family), then moved to a courtly romance, and in the end of what we read for Thursday, shifted to the hero’s chivalric performance in battle and development of his knightly reputation. Be prepared to consider on Tuesday the various ways we are being prepared to understand identity and what defines a person and people (humans) generally. We see much more of Alphonse in the material we read for this week, and we will want to consider how this is contrasted to the performance of animality that William and Melior undertake. Consider what it means to be a “witti werewolf” (e.g., ll. 2239, 2403, 2448) in WilliamNote, too, the way humans are associated with deer at different points in this week’s reading. We also get a significant horse in the final reading for Thursday. See what you might do with that. And consider: significant potential conflicts regularly are suggested by the narrator, but they don’t materialize. Why not? What prevents that? What, finally, is affirmed and denied by the conclusion to this (unavoidably positive/happy–since it’s a romance) poem?
You will also prepare for Tuesday a short essay (from the same issue of postmedieval in which Akbari’s and Hayles’ articles from last week’s discussion appeared) on embodiment from the middle ages to the present (or, rather, future). Here Shaw claims that ”
While some form of
materiality and localized perspective seem necessary, in the future a person will
be identified less by materiality or information than by understanding. The ability to
recognize a being as a durable, comprehensible interlocutor will be the litmus test of
the posthuman being.” It seems to me this offers us much to reconsider from the contemporary half of the course and to carry through to our engagement with things medieval.
On Thursday we will discuss Chapter 4 (“Shape and Story”) from Bynum’s book Metamorphosis and Identity. Here she focuses specifically on identity (in what we read from her introduction, more attention was on the metamorphosis element of her book’s title). Be prepared to discuss what she claims about Ovid’s Lycaon, Marie’s bisclavret, and Carter’s various werewolves. We will especially focus on her statement that “the identity dealt with so complexly in the werewolf stories I have discussed is not an essence, an identity position, or even a personality” (181).
Thursday you will also select dates for your Creative Response presentation/performance, so you will want to determine whether you’ll be acting alone or would like to participate in a group, and then you’ll need to check you calendar to determine which date (April 10 or April 17) might better suit you.