Don’t you think it’s about time you were free to respond in any way you would like to the readings for class? As it’s our LAST DAY OF NEW READINGS for class, this is literally your last chance. Let’s see how you can make your final blog comment shimmer.
While researching the answer to this question, I stumbled upon a seemingly Medieval Text written by one of my long-dead forefathers. A later ancestor added his own notes in the margin in order to clarify for modern readers. The title reads “History of Today’s Bynum reading and This Semester of English 365”.
Non luf hadde ey far muc ta rede (I did not like large readings)
Yett far myn class had afor payde (But I paid for this class)
Termen “Medieval” appelled to me (Medieval sounded cool)
Thoug non knew ey uff “ecologies” (I did not know what “ecology” meant”)
Lukked we thru eis uf rockes and tres (eyes of rocks and trees)
Revud ourn thohts of “maesteri” (we questioned “mastery”)
Taked oft uf maydins an uf nites (we discussed medieval peeps)
Wylle on arn lunches dyd weh biteh (while eating lunch)
Except far ey… (Should have found Ramen sooner)
Lerned we uf Saints and dietes
Ahded gret brod thenkeng to ourn resumes (We learned to think broadly)
Durn pull uff relics not we resisted (Relics are powerful)
Thru time and space thern calls persisted
Noe goodby Bynim, Yets and meter (Refers to philosophers of the time)
Ourn nolej uf stuffe did ye shater (You taught us things)
Yette onn ourn bukshelves wil ye fall
Aweten othern tue heed yurn call
I think the last two lines in your forefather’s poem really call us back to the material nature of these books- they’re not just repositories for obscure knowledge. They’re heavy and we had to lug them around all semester.
In reading “The Wounds and the Sins,” I thought the end of the poem was rather interesting. The final line reads: “That this lesson wyll rede / And therwith ther saulys fede” (31-32). The translation this edition gives the audience for the final phrase is “souls nourish.” I thought it interesting to consider the medieval audience reading this text, and the lessons it attempts to provide, as nourishment or in general just something to be consumed. The entire text places everything in a very real, material sense, with each sin (an abstract thing) placed with a physical wound on the body of Christ. This text itself, and the lessons it attempts to provide, serve as something to be taken in by the audience (not eaten, but absorbed mentally and spiritually in a way that will affect the audience’s future actions). This moment in the text almost reminded me of the chapter from Jane Bennett’s text about edible matter. Although this text is not physically consumed by the audience, it is consumed mentally and spiritually, which has it’s own effects.
In reading Bynum’s conclusion, I was really interested in how the issues we’ve been looking at – objects that are both materiality and spirituality incarnate- are still at issue. (Of course, I should have known that since that’s what the course is about.) But it seems like this is one of those issues people would prefer not to think about. It’s much easier if everything is attributed to human will or God. And so, despite having known about the issue for oh at least 500 years, there’s not a lot of mainstream discussion of it.
Referencing Barbara Johnson’s use of the Pygmalion myth, she writes “it is still a fable- one that is diagnostic of our attitudes” (281). And that is really striking, the idea that the agency we “grant” things is “metaphorical” and based on their similarity to living things.
She also fights against the sort of objective objectivity that is applied to objects, saying they are often frozen in theory, static rather than changeable. Here, while I know this can be the case, I think she’s missing a lot of the kinds of theories that we worked with (Jane Bennett, Julian Yates) that emphasize the dynamic nature of objects. I think this particular trait helps assemblages to come into being, the ability of objects and people to be multifaceted.
In Bynum’s conclusion I was interested in how she responded to modern theories of object oriented ontology. She seems to point out that there is error on either side of the spectrum of making objects static. Also she points out a modern tendency in theorizing to make the objects more human or lifelike or to make them “talk” (283). The modern assumption that there is an inherent divide between living and not living, “life and lifelessness” and animate and inanimate prevents theorists from understanding medieval materiality or at least is not helpful. This assumption leads to the view that medieval theories were seeking to break down these boundaries, but Bynum points out that these boundaries were not really there to break down in the first place or if they were there they were much more “porous” (284). The main thing for medieval people was that objects change, so that needs to be considered more in terms of the modern theories in regard to medieval materiality.
The most interesting addition to this conclusory chapter that I found was Bynum’s reiteration of the idea that “a large body of recent interpretation relies on the assumption that a difference between living and not living…is central to cultures and that the power of objects increases as they approximate persons.” I have found that, throughout this course, it was easier for me to derive significance from an object based on how it aided or failed to aid a human character. The unseasonal fruit in Sir Cleges was only important to me when it proved to be a useful bargaining tool between Cleges and the king, and increased in significance when it helped Cleges bring justice to the kingdom. It meant less to me whether or not the cherries were divinely infused until I considered how they may have been placed to help a human character. I have had an issue throughout this course figuring out the significance that an object can hold on its own and finding the “change” that Bynum says medieval worshippers and theorists had a problem with because it has been hard for me to see an object as a single entity shifting from what it is “its identity” and moving through its “inevitable progression towards corruption.” I think that as I continue to be conciously aware that I am wrong to consider objects only in their human spectrum and consider their specific identity by themselves and how this identity may change, it will be easier for me to consider objects outside of the way that they effect human actants.