Review of Week 10 (Oct 24, 26) and Preview of Week 11
(by Paige Wallace)
This lai provides a short glimpse of the much larger story of Tristan and Isolde. Marie de France takes this very well known story and orients the reader in a different way. Love is equivalent to co dependency in this poem which is seen in the metaphor of the honeysuckle and the hazel tree. Neither the honeysuckle nor the hazel tree can live without the other. This type of love is the highest version of romantic love as represented in the Middle Ages because it entails complete understanding of communication. The two lovers can give signs to each other that act as triggers to remember something that they already know. Pain and suffering is essential to this type of love. The two lovers seen in this poem suffer when they are apart and they are essentially always apart.
Looking at the metaphor of the honeysuckle and the hazel tree we can look at this as merely a symbolic representation of the two lovers or we can look at them as part of an assemblage acting as tokens but not always acting within the human will. In this poem we see Tristan manipulate the hazel tree to act as a signal for Isolde. The assemblage here includes the symbols written by Tristan and the tree itself.
Les Deus Amanz
It seems that in this poem love also requires suffering. The suffering of the lovers in this text is much more physical than the suffering seen of the lovers in Chevrefoil. A knight must carry his love up a mountain to gain her hand in marriage. This is very contradictory to the description of the knight found in the beginning of the story. We are told that he is a great knight in all aspects so it seems absurd that he has to carry his love up the mountain to gain permission to wed from her father. If he is this amazing knight then his reputation as such should allow him to marry the woman, but we that he does not initially just ask the king for his daughter but keeps it a secret. He grows tired of keeping the secret which is also a flaw in the sense that secret love is very important in the scheme of courtly love. The situation becomes even worse when the magic does not work because he refuses to make use of it. Not only does the knight act odd in this story but the father does as well. The way the father is behaving is totally inappropriate because it is ultimately important for the noble men to marry and have heirs. So why is he keeping his daughter from fulfilling this tradition? In the end, the mountainside receives the potion and is transformed by it, rather than the lovers. They do, though, live on in the monument to the tragedy (rather than to their love).
We’ve talked about the generosity of Sir Cleges several times this semester but during this particular discussion we also talked about Cleges’ desire to represent the justice of the king as a knight. Even when Cleges is in a terrible social position he holds true to this duty by objectifying the strokes he is awarded and giving them to those that deserve them—being a representative of the king’s justice, just as he should as a kinght. We also see that Cleges has always put faith in God. In the beginning of the story we learn that Cleges gives feasts and spends his money with faith that God will replenish his value. Cleges sees God as a part of his network and in class we looked at God in that sense. The magical cherries that appear to Cleges and his wife come after they both pray at mass on Christmas Eve and after Cleges prays in the garden. Cleges acknowledges that the cherries are from Christ after Clarys represents them in that way and he later tells the king that they are from Christ three different times. These cherries can be seen as part of the gift economy because they are spreading divine goodness. While the divine is often left out of an object oriented reading it does not mean that we cannot analyze a text with thing power if the divine is obviously present. It also does not mean that we must ignore the divine to conduct an object oriented reading. The spirit and objects were intimately connected in the Middle Ages and in this story God uses nonhuman objects to speak for him making him a part of the assemblage.
The essay by Kellie Robertson deals, at one point, with sacred things or relics that blur the lines between objects and humans. Relics were particularly popular in the middle ages because they were objects related to saints. Today people are accustomed to viewing objects as “mute witnesses” or artifacts to use that only have meaning in regards to us and as a reflection of us. Looking at the power of relics discredits the once popular materialism approaches that were concerned with what matter revealed about the human subject.
Materialism is a dominant post-historicist movement. Materialistic approaches to texts focus on the physical aspects rather than only the cultural product. For example there is a lot of focus on the human body. Early materialistic approaches read the subject through stuff, using stuff to create the subject, himself. This method is seen by many as being too subject oriented with things just signifying humans.
Relics have power not because many of them are infused with remnants of human bodies but because they forge relationship among various figures specifically in the marketplace. The subjecthood and agency of these relics come from the belief in the power of them. Just like the knowledge of a potato chip’s power leads to our acceptance of it (reference to Jane Bennett, “Edible Matter” chapter)
The Franklin’s Tale
Courtship of the lovers and then marriage and the husband goes away, suitor moves in and the wife is very faithful to her husband;
She tells him that if you make those rocks disappear then I’ll do it but only then. Tells her husband she has to do it because of her reputation but then the other guy says you don’t have to do it. Her husband is very accepting of her obligation to do it.
Discussion of how to keep love alive by keeping power and control equal
He has to go off to be a knight for two years
Why did she use the rocks?
- because she really wanted to rocks to go away and knows they cannot go away
- but he is able to make the rocks go away and he goes to see a clerk who makes them go away (illusion)
- the rocks don’t really go away they just look they did
- about illusions, Chaucer is very careful to emphasize that it is not magic
- about making someone see something that is not real or there
- ln 826-35
- deliberately making connections between her and the stoneà she is the stone
- denies there (rocks) existence in God’s world
- she says they kill humankind and break/kill her heart
- so they are powerful
*she stands like a stone in shock when she learns that the rocks are gone
- equivalence with her and the rocks
- equation being made between her and the rocks
- they cause all sorts of things
Garden is a contrast to the rocks where friends take her
The garden makes hearts light just as the stones made her turn to stone
Another emphasis on objects…where does he go when he wants to rocks to go away? He prays to Apollo as the God of nature and the sun because he hopes that his sister will keep the water up high…suspended high tide; talking to natural objects by using the classical form of them as gods.
Dr. Seaman offered this possible reading via the objects in the tale:Humans in the tale that are incapable of bearing their suffering (lover’s next door and the wife) are the ones that lament and try to find ways out; their emotions seem to hold objects responsible. Emotional expression of the poem is through the objects not the humans. The husband and the clerk are the rational ones. Extremes from some characters and cool responses from others. The cool characters are not associated with things. Abstract marriage and illusions of the clerk as seeing the modern split that Latour talks about.
Idealistic love that they can never actually express to each other. It’s about the bond they have in their heads -Philip talking about the love between Tristan and Isolde
It could be that love is suffering or that by demonstrating the amount of suffering they go through because of it it shows the power of love – Josh
“The cherries are remarkable because they have came from God not because they are growing out of season.” –Autumn pointing out why Cleges and his wife think the cherries are remarkable.
“The medieval and early modern word ‘thyng’ covered a broad variety of signifiers – some animate, some not” (Robertson, 1064).
Materiality- an approach that focuses on the physical aspects. This approach looks mostly at the subject but through “stuff.” Reading the subject through his or her things. Materiality focuses very little on things unless it is in relation to the self.
Preview of Week 11 (by Dr. Seaman)
On Monday we will finish our encounter with Jane Bennett’s Vibrant Matter and will continue our engagement with Latour’s Reassembling the Social. We will turn to metal with Bennett’s “A Life of Metal” and to Latour’s “Second Source of Uncertainty: Action is Overtaken.”
Latour here says that “Action should remain a surprise, a mediation, an event” (45). He also asks a series of questions in the first few pages of the chapter that are strange, that give us pause and make us consider the foundations and aims of the questions. Consider as well what he might be trying to “do” with these questions. He also in this chapter expands on the model of the actor-network we’ve been using, for instance saying that “An ‘actor’ in the hyphenated expression of actor-network is not the source of an action but the moving target of a vast array of entities swarming toward it” (46). He spends this chapter offering us alternative interpretations of events by reading the actors and the network differently, as with the opera singer and the pilgrims on p. 48. Think, too, about what he means by “practical metaphysics” and why. Literary theorists get a shout-out here, too, so don’t miss that at the bottom of p. 54.
With Bennett, we go another step away from our usual associations with the life-matter divide. As she puts it, she wants to see “just how far [the figure of life] can be pulled away from its mooring in the physiological and organic.” She considers, with Deleuze and Das, a life as “a restless activeness, a destructive-creative force-presence that does not coincide fully with any specific body” (54). She talks intensities, effluescences, the speeds of becoming, and calls a life “a quivering protoblob of creative élan” (61). We will see together what we might make of this.
Wednesday, post-Halloween, we spend time with medieval werewolves. We will re-encounter Bisclavret, bearing in mind and building upon Jeffrey Cohen’s reading that he offered us in class (as well as the one he posted to In the Middle after his visit to Charleston, which you should also read before class). We will also read along with it two Old French werewolf stories. You will see certain parallels between Marie’s werewolf story and the others. Melion appears to be generally contemporary with Marie’s story, and Biclarel is (though a century or two later than Marie) a story situated in terms of marriage, this time as part of Renart the Fox’s answer to the question of whether one ought to marry—this story demonstrating why the answer is “no.” Pay close attention to what the differences in the two narratives suggest might be the concerns of each. We will, of course, be addressing (among other things) the possible misogyny revealed in each or all of them. Throughout, consider what “the animal” seems to offer.