I would like to begin my blog this week by examining Dr. Seaman’s request on the Preview of Week 3 to begin thinking about what a “more distributive agency” could be (Bennett ix). Bennett leads into this topic with a few terms coined by Bruno Latour, author of Reassembling the Social which we will be reading this semester, and how she finds his attempt to be admirable in “address[ing] multiple modes and degrees of effectivity” (viii-ix). According to Bennett, this is Latour’s effort in moving towards that “more distributive agency.”
The word “more” is usually always used in comparison. Therefore, it was right here that I gathered that Bennett may be setting herself apart from Latour. For in Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory, any thing in existence that alters another thing is an actant. I think that what Bennett is suggesting, then, is that by allowing his theory to include all and any thing that may have any effect is giving Latour a “more distributive agency”: a wider application of his theory because it is all-encompassing. I am led to further believe this because a couple of sentences later Bennett asserts that she “lavish[es] attention on specific ‘things,’ noting the distinctive capacities or effacious powers of particular material configurations” (ix). Meaning, perhaps she has a smaller distributive agency than Latour does because she is being more specific. In her preface she places a personal importance on a greener existence (x), which may also limit her distributive agency when compared to Latour’s. Though, I am not able to fully make that claim yet only having read “What is Actor Network Theory?,” and not the actual theory itself (Martin Ryder). However, just from reading that collection of responses to Latour it does not sound as if the things he focuses on are quite as particular as the ones that Bennett does. In turn, this gives Latour a “more distributive agency.”
Throughout my experience with medieval literature, which isn’t entirely extensive, knights and figures of power have often inspired a sense of awe, by their profound courage, bravery, and prowess in battle. However, the tale of Sir Cleges, appears to completely reshape the notion I once held, in regard to knights and similar noble warriors. In other words, “Sir Cleges” demonstrates that a knight can be —and appear— virtuous without embarking on a contrived and valorous quest. In fact, it is the lack of these elements that seem to set “Sir Cleges” apart from knights in other works, like in the tale of Guigemar.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Sir Cleges’s atypical knighthood —and what makes up for his lack of daring and adventure, is the commitment to his wife and children. For example, despite being downtrodden and overcome with grief over his spendthrift ways, Sir Cleges still finds joy in playing and making “myrth” with his children and wife. Furthermore, rather than brood over his misfortune, Sir Cleges is guided by his, very rational, wife. Such an aspect of the knight seems to reveal a human side of him, rather than shrouding him in an air of preternaturalism.
In addition to his soft-side, Sir Cleges immense generosity makes the reader privy to his desire to promote happiness amongst his fellow countrymen. Judging by his imprudent spending habits, it seems as though Sir Cleges’s generosity stems out a true sense of altruism, rather than mere self-indulgence or the expectation of buying favors. Ultimately, by going into debt and losing his lands, Sir Cleges strong character shifts from over-generous knight to caring patriarch.
Finally it should not go without noting how Sir Cleges appears to break from the typical knight mold by his lack of chivalrous behavior. To put it more clearly, Sir Cleges does not swoon women, but rather he maintains a healthy and seemingly respectful relationship with his wife. And, perhaps Cleges’s role as a father and husband is meant be a twist on the role of a perfect knight.