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cruising in the ruins: the question of disciplinarity in the post/medieval university [from punctum books]

by BABEL Working Group

Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2012. 95 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615697659. Free download.

Published: 2012-09-10
To download the book, go HERE.

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 »


The Second Biennial BABEL Conference: PROGRAM AVAILABLE

David Fried, Way of Words, No. 3: “A mind once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimension.”

cruising in the ruins: the question of disciplinarity in the post/medieval university
20-22 September 2012                 Boston, Massachusetts


[co-organized by the BABEL Working Group, Boston College, Northeastern University, M.I.T., postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, and punctum books]


Jane Bennett (Chair, Department of Political Science, Johns Hopkins University)

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen  (George Washington University, Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute + In The Middle)

Carolyn Dinshaw (Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis and English at New York University), author ofChaucer’s Sexual Poetics (1989)

Lindy Elkins-Tanton (Director, Department of Terrestrial Magnetism, Carnegie Institution for Science)

David Kaiser (Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science and Department Head of MIT’s Program in Science, Technology, and Society, M.I.T.)

Marget Long (MFA, Rhode Island School of Design)

Sans façon (Glasgow, Scotland)

“Read more”  for all the details about the featured presenters, the conference theme and call for papers, and the conference organizers Read more »


postmedieval volume 2, issue 2: The Medievalism of Nostalgia



Helen Dell [University of Melbourne], Louise D’Arcens [University of Wollongong] and Andrew Lynch [University of Western Australia]

  • Editor’s Introduction: “Nostalgia and medievalism: Conversations, contradictions, impasses”
  • Helen Dell, University of Melbourne
  • “The nostalgic moment and the sense of history”
    Linda M. Austin, Oklahoma State University
  • “Nostalgia, medievalism and the Vínland voyages”
    Geraldine Barnes, University of Sydney
  • “Laughing in the face of the past: Satire and nostalgia in medieval heritage tourism”
    Louise D’Arcens, University of Wollongong
  • “‘Yearning for the sweet beckoning sound’: Musical longings and the unsayable in medievalist fantasy fiction”
    Helen Dell, University of Melbourne
  • “Negotiations of nostalgia: Strangeness and xenodochy in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe
    Melinda Graefe, Flinders University
  • “Nostalgia and critique: Walter Scott’s ‘secret power'”
    Andrew Lynch, University of Western Australia
  • Response Essay: “Medievalism and its discontents”
    Renée R. Trilling, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • Book Review Essay: “Nostalgia on my mind”
    Carolyn Dinshaw, New York University
[See postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this issue.]

Crowd Review LIVE: Becoming-Media Issue of postmedieval

Figure 1. Reading Room,
New York Public Library
The papers for the Crowd Review of postmedieval‘s special issue onBecoming-Media [slated for publication in March 2012] are now live and available for comment on the Crowd Review’s website:

In step with the mission of the journal, this issue represents a wide range of fields and subjects, including performance studies (dance), architecture, art history, poetics, medieval literature, history of printing and engraving, the decorative arts, movement studies, history of taste and judgment, object-oriented studies, intellectual history, new media and technology studies, composition studies, mysticism, philosophy, botany, the history of books, history of science, the vegetal, the animal, theology, etc. What all of the essays have in common, in the words of the special issue’s co-editors, Jen Boyle and Martin Foys, has something to do with

our dependence on the recursive circuitry and tangle of technologies, bodies, narratives, spaces, and mediating technics, across historical periods and across literary, scientific, philosophical, and theological modes of expression. Read more »


postmedieval volume 2, issue 1: The Animal Turn

Volume 2, Issue 1: The Animal Turn

Peggy McCracken [Univ. of Michigan] and Karl Steel [Brooklyn College, CUNY]


  • Introduction: Moving Forward, Kicking Back: The Animal Turn
    Cary Wolfe, Rice University
  • Legible Skins: Animal and the Ethics of Medieval Reading
    Sarah Kay, Princeton University
  • Aesop’s Symposium of Animal Tongues
    Peter W. Travis, Dartmouth College
  • ‘A Stede Gode and Lel’: Valuing Arondel in Bevis of Hampton
    Gary Lim, The Graduate Center, CUNY
  • Chivalry and the Pre / Postmodern
    Susan Crane, Columbia University
  • Editors’ Epilogue: The Animal Turn
    Karl Steel, Brooklyn College, CUNY and Peggy McCracken, University of Michigan
  • Book Review Essay: Posthuman Theory and the Premodern Animal Sign
    Sarah Stanbury, College of the Holy Cross
[See postmedieval site at Palgrave for more information on this issue.]

Follow postmedieval on Twitter Follow postmedieval on Twitter!


Speculative Medievalisms II: A Laboratory-Atelier

Segal Theater
The Graduate Center, CUNY
16 September 2011

Co-sponsored by: BABEL Working Group, Petropunk Collective, and the Doctoral Program in English and Medieval Studies Certificate Program, The Graduate Center, CUNY

experiments                           [conference schedule now available]

Anna Klosowska [Miami University of Ohio], “Aristotelean Aesthetics, East and West”

Allan Mitchell [University of Victoria], “Cosmic Eggs, or, Events Before Everything”

Kellie Robertson [University of Wisconsin-Madison], “Abusing Aristotle, from Phyllis to Graham Harman”

Drew Daniel [Johns Hopkins University + Matmos], Response to Kellie Robertson

Julian Yates [University of Delaware], “Kitchen Shakespeare”

Liza Blake [New York University], Response to Julian Yates

Jeffrey Cohen [George Washington University + In The Middle], “Sublunary”

Ben Woodard [Centre for the Study of Theory and Criticism, University of Western Ontario + Naught Thought], Response to Jeffrey Cohen

Graham Harman [American University in Cairo + Object-Oriented Philosophy], “Aristotle With a Twist”

Patricia Clough [Queens College, CUNY], Response to Graham Harman

for the precis of the project, plus the program and audiofiles for Speculative Medievalisms I [held at King’s College London in Jan. 2011], go HERE

And here are details on the week-plus of “Speculative September NYC” (Speculative Realist- and Object Oriented Ontology-related) events starting on September 8.





Kalamazoo 2011: BABEL & postmedieval sessions

46th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University
12-15 May 2011    Kalamazoo, MI

I. BABEL Working Group panels:

1. Madness, Methodology, Medievalism (Roundtable)

Mo Pareles (New York University) and Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Co-Organizers

Eileen Joy, Presider

Historicizing madness produces two-fold definitions. On one hand, medieval literature and history is populated with those who were sometimes tormented by demons and beatified by visions. What we may now call schizophrenia, some medieval texts perceived as contact with the divine. Saints self-mutilated and starved themselves (“holy anorexia”), turned a supposed abhorrence of sex and the body into super-charged modes of holy eroticism, and were visited by wracking anxieties and irresistible compulsions, not to mention episodes of psychosis. On the other hand, madness was hardly an empty empirical category in the premodern period. Medieval views of madness, while not coextensive, do overlap with our own. They provoked doubt about the visions of some, generated compassion for the sick, and led to ruminations on (among other things) the consequences of sin. In our own time genius has been closely coupled with mental illness (Nietzsche to Eve Sedgwick) and even suicide (Woolf to Deleuze to David Foster Wallace), and scholars (especially in queer studies) have found in sorrow, depression, schizophrenia, trauma, and other forms of negative affect the grounds and inspiration for critique—and even new critical modes. Others reject the romanticization or valorization of mental illness, personally experience it as crippling and devastating to productivity, or embrace optimism and sanity in their scholarship. Read more »


Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: Ethics and Objects [GW MEMSI March 2011]

11-12 March 2011   Washington, DC
George Washington University
MEMSI Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute

*Go HERE for abstracts of featured plenary talks

BABEL Working Group & postmedieval panel:

Wondrous Cosmology: Physics, Poetics, Biology

Liza Blake (New York University) and Daniel C. Remein (New York University), Co-Organizers

Eileen Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville) and Myra Seaman (College of Charleston), Co-Presiders

Panel Description:

It was not in natural processes that the Greeks first experienced what physis is, but the other way around, on the basis of a fundamental experience of being in poetry in thought, what they had to call physis disclosed itself to them. –Martin Heidegger, Introduction to Metaphysics

The above epigraph for this session is not meant as a doxa to be specifically proven, contested, or adhered to directly by any of the session’s papers, but as an attempt recall recent new materialisms and object-oriented philosophy to the question of physis as a question which ineluctably links concerns for what is sometimes called ‘matter’ with poetics. The session will thus attempt to think some of the concerns which an approach to cosmology from models considering physics, poetics, and biology share with the turn to vital, vibrant, or related materialisms and object-oriented philosophy. Specifically at issue will be the question of how the task of these supposedly different (poetics—productive/making, physics as descriptive science of what one already assumed is ‘there’) orientations to matter might coincide on the question of cosmology. Read more »


Audiofiles: Speculative Medievalisms @ King’s College London


After a whirlwind of 3-1/2 days in London, which included a side-trip to Cambridge, and then returning to Saint Louis to jump into teaching, I have finally posted, at the Internet Archive, the audiofiles of the talks and responses delivered at Speculative Medievalisms: A Laboratory-Atelier, held at The Anatomy Museum at King’s College London two Fridays ago, Jan. 14th. The event represented a really interesting convergence (or collision) between medievalists (Kathleen Biddick, myself, Anna Klosowska, and Nicola Masciandaro) and scholars working in later periods in religious studies (Anthony Paul Smith, Univ. of Nottingham), economics and international relations (Nick Srnicek, London School of Economics), media and technology studies (Eugene Thacker, The New School), cultural theory and the audio unconscious (Scott Wilson, Kingston Univ.), philosophy of nature (Ben Woodard, European Graduate School), queer theory and continental philosophy (Michael O’Rourke), and Marxist theory and literature (Evan Calder Williams, Univ. of California, Santa Cruz). [Read more and find audiofiles at In the Middle.]


Speculative Medievalisms I: A Laboratory-Atelier (London, January 2011)

Speculative Medievalisms: A Laboratory-Atelier

Figures 1 & 2. Hieronymous Bosch, details from The Garden of Earthly Delights (ca. 1504-1510)

14 January 2011
10:00 am – 6:00 pm
King’s College London

Anatomy Theatre and Museum

Co-Conspirators: BABEL Working GroupUrbanomicCentre for Late Antique & Medieval Studies (King’s College London), and the Petropunk Collective (Eileen JoyAnna KlosowskaNicola Masciandaro, and Michael O’Rourke)


Kathleen Biddick, History, Temple University

Anthony Paul Smith, Theology & Religious Studies, University of Nottingham

Nick Srnicek, International Relations, London School of Economics + Speculative Heresy

Eugene Thacker, New Media, The New School

Scott Wilson, Cultural Theory, The London Graduate School (Kingston University) + amusia + Journal for Cultural Research

Official Laboratory Program


So the medieval studies I am thrown into is a gravely levitating scholarly being, the lovely becoming light of weight in all senses: metaphoric, literal, and above all in the truest most palpable sense of the phenomenal poetic zones of indistinction between the two. This means, in tune with the Heraclitan oneness of the way up and the way down, not flight from but the very lightening of gravitas itself, the finding or falling into levitas through the triple gravities of the discipline: the weight of the medieval (texts, past), the weight of each other (society, institutions), and the weight of ourselves (body, present). Towards this end I offer no precepts or to-do list, only an indication of the wisdom and necessity of doing so, of practicing our highest pleasures, in unknowing of the division between poetry as knowledge and philosophy as joy, in opposition to the separation between thought and life that best expresses “the omnipresence of the economy,” and in harmony with the volitional imperative of Nietzsche’s “new gravity: the eternal recurrence of the same”: “Do you want this again and innumerable times again?” This Middle Ages? This medievalist?

—Nicola Masciandaro, “Grave Levitation: Being Scholarly”

Speculative Medievalisms is a collaborative and interdisciplinary research project focusing on the theorization and practical development of the speculative dimensions of medieval studies. The term “speculative” is intended to resonate with the full range of its medieval and modern meanings. First, speculative echoes the broad array of specifically medieval senses of speculatio as the essentially reflective and imaginative operations of the intellect. According to this conception, the world, books, and mind itself were all conceived as specula (mirrors) through which the hermeneutic gaze could gain access to what lies beyond them. As Giorgio Agamben explains, “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.”[1]  Read more »

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