45th International Congress on Medieval Studies

13-16 May 2010

Western Michigan University

Kalamazoo, Michigan

Figure 1. Abandoned, Never Completed Hotel (North Taiwan)

I. BABEL Working Group panels:

1. Session 444: On The Question of Style (Roundtable)

Saturday, May 15th @ 1:30 p.m. (Fetzer 1005)

Eileen A. Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Organizer and Presider

In recent years we have had some provocative experiments in style in medieval studies. In her book The Shock of Medievalism, Kathleen Biddick stages an imagined conversation between the Venerable Bede, a Stanford dean, a professor of Old English, and a Chicana feminist critic in order to write a "historical poetics of mourning and rememoration." In his book Medieval Identity Machines, Jeffrey Cohen tells a personal story about the catastrophe of 9/11 and his son's anxieties over his father's travels that is intimately connected to the larger purpose of his book: to describe the "possible bodies" of both the Middle Ages and our own times. Cohen also re-tells the history of Alfred's struggles with the Vikings through Alfred's hemorrhoids. In her review of David Wallace's Premodern Places: Calais to Surinam, Chaucer to Aphra Behn, Jenna Mead terms Wallace's critical mode ficto-criticism, a "genre that inserts autobiographical self-realization into theoretically-conscious critical scholarship . . . rethinking the generic and thus intellectual boundaries of canonical criticism." In her book Getting Medieval: Sexual Communities, Pre- and Postmodern, Carolyn Dinshaw recounts her own history as a lesbian student at Princeton to partially describe her scholarly and personal orientation to the work of the gay medieval historian John Boswell, which then forms one of many openings to a newly fashioned affective, queer historiographical practice. And in Cary Howie's book Claustrophilia: The Erotics of Enclosure, Howie weaves together readings of medieval devotional texts and modern lyric in order to explore what might be called the poetics of intensification. This panel will explore what is at stake, and what might be lost or gained, when the scholar takes on the risk of telling personal stories, staging fictionalized encounters, and inventing new styles and modes of address in her work on the Middle Ages. Questions to be considered: what is style-in-scholarship, exactly, and why might it matter? what is the content of style in scholarship? how might scholarship be aesthetically performative, in what ways, and how does that add to or enhance disciplinary knowledge? is there a place for beauty in our studies and writing? how can we define beauty and style with any precision, and how to argue for them, if we think they matter? etc. etc.

Michael D. Snediker, author of the recently published Queer Optimism: Lyric Personhood and Other Felicitous Persuasions (Minnesota, 2009) and also the book of poems Nervous Pastoral (dove|tail Press, 2008), serves as our modernist interloper.

2. Session 494: On Collaboration (Roundtable)

Saturday, May 15th @ 3:30 p.m. (Fetzer 1005)

Eileen A. Joy (Southern Illinois University Edwardsville), Organizer

Evan Hayes (Miami University of Ohio), Presider

Traditionally, within the field of medieval and also in other areas of humanities studies, the monograph has been the privileged, and even the sine qua non, of professional accomplishment. While we have many examples of edited volumes of essays by multiple authors and even whole books co-authored by two or more scholars, these texts are often not accorded the same sort of status as the monograph, and this calls into question: what makes collaborative forms of scholarship somehow "lesser" than the singular work? At the same time, we ask: what is gained through collaboration that isn't possible otherwise and which bequeaths to us even "more" than the singular work ever could (and "more" in what ways)? What, further, are the challenges of collaboration (its steep and thorny paths, to cadge from Hamlet), and what are its delights and surprises? How is collaboration like a gift, and who is giving what and to whom? How is collaboration like a challenge, and what and who are being challenged? How does collaboration cut through the thickets and small, silent rooms of our professional and personal lives, binding them (and us) together in, we can hope, a sweet utility? Through this roundtable, we hope to explore these questions in productive fashion.

In addition to featuring scholars with long histories of collaboration, this panel will also highlight the work of the Averroes Project, a small collective of faculty and students at the University of Michigan and Miami University of Ohio who are concerned with the translation and transmission of the writings and ideas of Aristotle from Greek through Arabic to Latin. More specifically, they are working together to re-assess the cultural interactions and exchanges among Greek, Arabic and Latin in the Mediterranean at critical points of contact, including al-Andalus. Investigating these transactions, their agents, and resulting documents and texts is their shared focus, and they are amassing important documentation that contributes to the current rewriting of cultural history, dismantling the previously accepted narratives of the rise of humanities in a way that escapes the long-standing East/West dichotomy. One recent publication related to this project is Karla Mallette, "Beyond Mimesis: Aristotle's Poetics in the Medieval Mediterranean," PMLA 124.2 (March 2009): 583-591, which is included in the important cluster in PMLA on "Theorizing Medieval Studies."

II. postmedieval Panels:

The Post-Abysmal (2 Roundtables)

postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies, Sponsor

Anna Klosowska (Miami University of Ohio) and Nicola Masciandaro (Brooklyn College, CUNY), Co-Organizers

The concepts we work with as we read medieval texts — fragment, plenitude, anagogy, devotion, smallness, radiance, saturation, etc. — constitute for each one of us a way to think through a new step in theory, including queer theory. Our manifesto is: “Give us something that is more than nothing; we're tired of the abyss/death. What else is there?” Both theoretical and thoroughly medieval in our orientation, we draw the impetus for this session from our belief in the importance of theoretical work as it applies to our different disciplines. The panelists are united in their belief that: 1) the study of medieval texts is aided, clarified, and furthered by a serious inquiry into the conditions and modalities of theoretical frameworks; and 2) a serious engagement with theory today calls for a reassessment of the Continental tradition, including the primacy of death, the supposed inaccessibility of meaning, and the linguistic turn. We want to argue against the “lack” model of theory as it stands today. This session, thus, is resolutely “post”: post-post-modern, post-lack, post-humanist, post-Heideggerian, post-Blanchot, post-silence, post-death, post-speculative realism, even. With Michael Snediker, our Respondent, we create “epistemologies not of pain, but of pleasure; aestheticize not the abdication of personhood, but its sustenance” (Queer Optimism); with Alain Badiou, we want “a theater of capacity, not of incapacity” (Handbook of Inaesthetic), as we “return to the place of life” (Saint Paul); and with Giorgio Agamben, we want to speak the “language in which the pure prose of philosophy would intervene at a certain point to break apart the verse of the poetic word, and in which the verse of poetry would intervene to bend the prose of philosophy into a ring” (Language and Death).

1. Session 57: The Post-Absymal I: Exegesis, Ethics, Saturation

Thursday, May 13th @ 1:30 p.m. (Valley III, Stinson Lounge)

Anna Klosowska (Miami University of Ohio), Presider

2. Session 152: The Post-Abysmal II: Optimism, Devotion, Radiance

Thursday, May 13th @ 3:30 p.m. (Bernhard 210)

Nicola Masciandaro (Brooklyn College, CUNY), Presider