Review of Week 4 (by Rachel Feinberg)
We began Monday’s class by looking at our Actor-Network theory reading. We discussed what the infrastructure is that Joseph Goguen refers to as being left out of stories of genius. With Euclid, Kepler, Galileo, as a few examples, we discussed how their surrounding environments were all active parts of their genius. Tools they used that needed to be created before they came to their conclusions (for example, the telescope), person who taught them math, and are all incorporated as part of their surroundings elements. Labor at time of and time leading up to discovery. Goguen claimed that Actor-netowrk theory brings all of one’s surroundings elements into the picture.
Sadorova and Sarker explain that an actor is bending space around itself. It is done passively, because that is naturally what the actor does. Sadorova and Sarker Broaden and modify what our understanding of agency is. Notion of translating will of other elements into language/perspective/needs of its own; being the center of its own world.
We then moved on to our readings for the day and discussed “Le Fresne” from The Lais of Marie de France. The key event around which everything seems to be centered is the appropriate use of speech (or not). Examples of speech seen in the text are the mother’s inappropriate speech, and Fresne’s giving nature. She is not passive, but active in complying and being generous. The role of status is important because from the beginning we see the importance of nobility, and that Fresne is valuable. It seems if you behave nobly, you are noble, such as the case with Fresne. If you are noble, you do not necessarily behave nobly, as we see with her mother. The mother redeems herself by admitting immediately to her husband about having twins and getting rid of the one. And she publicly redeems herself. This details the emphasis on the significance of reunion.
We then took an object oriented approach to the lay. The first objects we discussed were the tokens given to Fresne by her mother: the cloth and the ring. The mother has a faith in integrity/truth of the object. The are acting, in her eyes, as more reliable sources of info than the person. This illustrates the reliability/fixed/constancy of objects. When Fresne left the abbey, she took the objects with her because she understood their importance (they’re an extension of her identity/a part of her identity). The objects are what allow for/produce the reconciliation at the end of the poem.
From The Middle English Breton Lays
More religious; a spiritual sharing of the son, not literal. (offers him to be a godson). Knight doesn’t just offer land/money but becomes a monk in the abbey, and there is more dialogue in this version.The wife who gets rid of unwanted second child seemed to worry about the decision more and we also see more details about the decision. When she admits to what she did in the end, she makes sure she has forgiveness before she admits the truth. She seems more guarded and contemplated. Gurun looks a lot worse in this version. This version shifts away from appropriate speech, with a stronger emphasis on the mother’s actions as a whole having material ramification on the daughter.
We also noted a darker tone in terms of relationship between Fresne and Gurun.
“Actor-network theory can be seen as a systematic way to bring out the infrastructure that is usually left out of the “heroic” accounts of scientific and technological achievements” – Joseph Goguen
The Actor: “Any element which bends space around itself makes other elements dependent upon itself and translate their will into the language of its own”
- Sadorova and Sarker
“Their analysis of a set of negotiations describes the progressive constitution of a network in which both human and non-human actors assume identities according to prevailing strategies of interactions.”
“When a biologist argues for the existence of a molecyle, the data that prove this existence are enrolled actants”
“The position that a fact may be seen as a consequence, and not as an antecedent”
-Bowker and Star
First couple sentences of Reijo Meittinen on Actor-Network Theory
Line 367 in Le Fresne (Marie de France version): mother is worried about Fresne causing trouble with Codre and her husbands marriage. But she sees that Fresne is kind and good and begins to lover her without knowing that she is her daughter. Takes back her comments about getting rid of Fresne. Mother now knows how to value things properly.
Line 480: Mother claims her own folly
p.80-81: The knight, Gurun, courting Fresne. Convinces her to come with him.
Lines 235: She comes to be like the objects she was planted in the tree with. As beautiful and rare. They naturally reflect each other’s beauty.
Line 165: reference to the Ash tree. Revealed to her right after prayer. Description of tree is big, sturdy, and safe. Planted for shade, more security. Divided into four boughs (echoes all the branching in the beginning of the story- 2 similar knights. Both have twins. One wants to share his twins, the other is cut off)
Lines 319 (MEBL): Notion that she has a father who is wealthy. She lacks what she aught to have in terms of her inheritance.
Line 345 (MEBL): The people try to tell Gurun that Hazel is better, unlike Marie de France’s version where they just want an heir.
Line 185-189 : The porter preparing. All of his activity is described in relation to objects.
Progressive Constitution: active, ongoing creation, still in stages
Enrolled Actants: supporting the cause (not consciously, but a part of the bigger picture)
Preview of Week 5 (by Dr. Seaman)
On Monday we will read a chapter of Prince of Networks, a book by Graham Harman (key figure in object-oriented ontology [OOO]) in which he provides summaries and explanations of the works of Bruno Latour. We’re reading the chapter on We Have Never Been Modern, where Latour presented ideas fundamental to OOO (among other current approaches). These will provide us some key concepts and questions for the rest of the semester.
On Wednesday we will discuss the first chapter of Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Materialism, of which we’ve thus far encountered only the Preface. Bennett is especially interested in the ways paying attention to objects (as including humans and nonhumans) modifies our conceptions of ethics. Consider this, in particular, as you read. Also, think about how this might inform our readings of medieval texts.
We will also on Wednesday discuss Sir Degare, the final literary text available for your first paper. Read it especially in terms of the other English Breton lays we have read, and see how you might develop a sense of how that tradition might differ from the Anglo-Norman lais by Marie de France from 200+ years prior.
Your paper is due a week from Tuesday. Remember that I have office hours MW 1-2 and 4:40-5:10. I’ll happily meet with you to talk about your ideas, to take a look at a draft, etc.