"Wandering Minds: Medieval Distraction, Daydreaming, and Noonday Demons" at Kalamazoo 2018
I just learned that two sessions I proposed have been accepted for the 93rd Annual Meeting of The Medieval Academy of America, which will take place in Atlanta next March. I am really looking forward to both:
Chaired By: Leslie Lockett, Associate Professor of English and Associate Director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Ohio State University
“Cloister, Wasteland, Sea: Reimagining the English Landscape as the Grounds of Monastic Practice”
Audrey Walton, Assistant Professor of English, University of Toronto
“Behind Scriptorium Walls: Site-Specific Poetics in Late Anglo-Saxon Winchester”
Erica Weaver, PhD Candidate in English, Harvard University
“Bede and the Poetics of Death in Early Anglo-Saxon England”
Jill Hamilton Clements, Assistant Professor of English, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Schoolroom Drama: Scripting, Trading, and Performing Knowledge
Chaired By: Jan Ziolkowski, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin and Director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Harvard University
“The Performance of Emotions in Donatus’ Commentary on Terence”
Irina Dumitrescu, Junior Professor of English Medieval Studies, The University of Bonn
“Staging ‘School Choice’ in Coventry’s Weavers’ Pageant”
Helen Cushman, PhD Candidate, Harvard University
“Weird Science: The Book of Sydrac and Encyclopedic Learning in the Later Middle Ages”
Emily Steiner, Professor and Associate Chair of English, University of Pennsylvania
My article, "Hybrid forms: Translating Boethius in Anglo-Saxon England" is now available in Anglo-Saxon England 45 (2017): 213–38.
Here's the opening:
Bede’s Historia ecclesiastica gentis Anglorum contains what is undoubtedly the most famous surviving story of an Anglo-Saxon poet, the illiterate cowherd Cædmon, whose divine inspiration is supposed to have initiated a new strain of vernacular, Christian poetry, and who continues to provoke an unending series of questions about Anglo-Saxon poetic communities. But Bede’s history also contains a less famous anecdote about a poet, just as illuminating for Anglo-Saxon conceptions of genre and translation. In his discussion of the works of Aldhelm, abbot of Malmesbury and later bishop of Sherborne (d. 709), Bede comments on the form of the De virginitate, which consists of a Latin treatise in prose paired with an accompanying poem in quantitative verses – one of the first to be written by an Anglo-Saxon.
I was just looking up some architectural details on Google Books, and I noticed that Sian Echard and Robert Rouse, ed., The Encyclopedia of Medieval Literature in Britain (Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell, 2017) is now out and looks like a great resource. I was happy to write two short entries, on glossaries and the Benedictional of St. Æthelwold, on my flight back from a research trip to the UK last summer.
Wandering Minds: Medieval Distraction, Daydreaming, and Noonday Demons
Georg Simmel, Jonathan Crary, and others have delineated the politics of time for a networked world, noting that increasing mechanization has given birth to an age of distraction. Indeed, the notion of “distraction” as an affect uniquely cultivated by modernity has produced its own micro-industry in accounts of the tech boom and its aftermath, and in many ways, “distraction” has become a catchphrase for the condition of modernity and postmodernity writ large. The term has also become an important aesthetic category in studies of nineteenth-, twentieth-, and twenty-first century literature. This panel locates a similarly fraught mobilization of distraction in medieval literature, which likewise sought to shape attentive identities in a world governed by diversions. At the same time, this panel asks how we should define medieval distraction. Is it an affect, a pathology, a demonic temptation, or, worse, possession? And how does distraction relate to curiosity, incredulity, and wonder? Do these distinctions operate differently in school texts, poems, romances, and dramatic works? Moreover, what were the penalties for distraction, and what measures could medieval authors, preachers, and teachers take against inspiring boredom?
Papers might address a wide variety of topics, perhaps including scribal curses on inattentive readers, medieval theories of cognition and meditation, liability in penitentials and legal discourse, demonology, digression, boredom, and daydreaming.
Please send 250-word abstracts to:
(Master of the Ingeborg Psalter, The J. Paul Getty Museum, Ms. 66, fol. 56)
We were thrilled to receive the proofs for The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England: The Consolation and its Afterlives from ACMRS today. The book is due out early next year, and it's really exciting to see it reach this stage.
Featuring essays by scholars of Old English, Anglo-Latin, and Middle English, The Legacy of Boethius argues for a reassessment of the medieval English Boethian tradition as a 600-year continuum in reading and readership, surveying the Old English Boethius together with Chaucer’s Boece and a host of understudied interlocutors for the first time in a volume of this kind.
Here's the opening of my essay on "Finding Consolation at the End of the Millennium," which draws a connection between a fire, a letter, a manuscript, and a poem in order to reconstruct two potential trajectories of Boethius’s Latin text in the century after the Consolation was first translated into English:
On August 10, 974, a group of craftsmen put aside the new bell they had been casting for the church tower at Fleury, finished their work for the day, and went to bed. Over the door, they left a candle burning, giving in to their tired limbs and forgetting to extinguish the flame, which consumed the remaining wax, sputtered, and caught the nearby beds on fire. Soon the monastery was ablaze, the wind threatening to spread the conflagration to the nearby granary. Monks hurried into the church of St. Benedict, wrapped the relics in the altar cloth, and ran out again. And then the wind died. The ash settled. And the church, guesthouse, kitchen, and bakery emerged unsinged.
I'm excited to share the details for the panels I'm co-organizing for Kalamazoo 2017. We were thrilled to receive a number of fantastic abstracts:
The Legacy of The Cult of St. Swithun: In Honor of Michael Lapidge
Co-organized with Jennifer Lorden and Justin Park
Chair: Katherine O'Brien O'Keeffe (Professor and Clyde and Evelyn Slusser Chair in English, UC-Berkeley)
Co-organized with Patricia Dailey and Helen Cushman
Chair: Erica Weaver (ABD, Harvard University)
Luxurious Devotion, Literary Necessity
Co-organized with Jessica Brantley and Helen Cushman
Chair: Anna Kelner (PhD Student, Harvard University)
Academic Theft: A Roundtable
Co-organized with Damian Fleming, Lindy Brady, and Bre Leake
Chair: Bre Leake (ABD, University of Connecticut)
I am thrilled to announce that my article, "Hybrid Forms: Translating Boethius in Anglo-Saxon England" is now forthcoming in Anglo-Saxon England 45.
Here's the abstract:
Critics have long wondered about the setting and intent of the Old English translation of Boethius’s De consolatione philosophiae, first into prose and then into prosimetrum. This article situates the dual translation within the broader context of ninth- and tenth-century literary culture, challenging the received view of the two versions as separate projects and arguing instead that the Old English Boethius was conceived and received as a vernacular opus geminatum, or ‘twinned work’. While the opus geminatum and the prosimetrum are generally thought to maintain distinct generic identities, this case study allows for a more capacious understanding of both modes, which I demonstrate were inescapably linked in Anglo-Saxon circles – and which were shaped by a broader aesthetic of prose-verse mixture.
The Legacy of The Cult of St. Swithun: In Honor of Michael Lapidge
N.B. Please send questions, comments, and abstracts to Erica Weaver, Jennifer Lorden, and Justin Park at Swithun2017@gmail.com.
Just over a decade ago, Michael Lapidge’s magisterial The Cult of St. Swithun presented authoritative editions of the medieval uitae of Swithun—ninth-century bishop of Winchester and posthumous miracle-worker—spanning over six centuries, as well as historical sources and essays on the art, liturgy, and architectural developments associated with the flourishing of his cult. The breadth of The Cult of St. Swithun testifies to the importance of the saint in late Anglo-Saxon England and beyond, and its publication has proved an invaluable aid to further study. This session will celebrate Lapidge’s volume through the new work it makes possible. Indeed, since Lapidge’s publication, numerous articles and book chapters have appeared. This panel will provide the space for scholars to explore how they may continue to build upon this important work.
We welcome paper proposals on any era of the development of Swithun’s cult. Papers might include or focus on literature, law, material culture, art and architecture, history, liturgy, music, politics, theology, monastic culture, etc. Our primary aim is to bring into focus the wealth of resources Michael Lapidge’s work has made available to scholars and how The Cult of St. Swithun continues to inspire innovative scholarship.
For medievalists, study of Swithun’s cult has implications for many areas of inquiry. His sanctification was instigated in 971 by Æthelwold, Bishop of Winchester (963–84), and the Benedictine reformers at the Old Minster. Swithun’s cult is at the heart of the tenth-century monastic revival. At a moment of increasing scholarly interest in the Benedictine Reform(s), we must take into consideration Swithun’s cult when studying the reach and significance of the reformers’ efforts. The foundation of the cult provides insight into the reign of King Edgar (r. 959–75), as well as into the influential figure of Æthelwold himself, not to mention King Cnut, buried at Winchester, whose court resided there for a time (and whose thousand-year anniversary is upon us). Moreover, the incipient cult soon inspired the production of works of visual art, musical compositions, building projects, and literary texts, including Wulfstan Cantor’s Narratio metrica de S. Swithuno, the longest extant Anglo-Latin poem from before the Conquest, and Ælfric’s Life of St. Swithun, the first in the vernacular.
Swithun’s cult is significant for the study of later periods, as the faithful continued to produce hagiographies, hymns, portraits, and poems through the time of Caxton’s Gilte Legende (1483). The antiquary John Leland (1506–52) took note of the earliest lives of Swithun in his Collectanea, and they were also included in the Index Britanniae Scriptorum of John Bale (1495–1563). Swithun’s cult spanned a wide geographical as well as temporal distance; the saint was widely culted not only in southern England but also in Scandinavia and at certain places in France and Ireland. Indeed, in the nineteenth century, Jane Austen even wrote a poem for St. Swithun’s Day, as his legacy continued in popular memory.
With Jessica Brantley: Devotional Luxury, Literary Necessity
When we call a text “literary,” we often identify its literariness as a kind of “excess.” The literary exceeds necessity—it is a kind of luxury meant to be enjoyed for its own sake. Devotional texts, in contrast, are often considered “devotional” because of their intended use—they are objects used for religious worship. In short, unlike a literary text, a devotional text is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. What do we mean, then, when we call devotional books—such as books of hours—“luxury” items? Do “devotional” texts cease to be merely devotional when they exceed necessity or functionality in form, in performance, or in material presentation? Or is luxury an end—or a condition—for devotional reading? How do we describe the “excesses” of devotional books and, by the same token, how do we describe what we might call the “necessities” of the literary? This panel invites new research about luxury and necessity as they relate to literary and devotional reading culture. We welcome submissions that consider these questions as they relate to any topic including manuscript culture, poetic and musical form, and performance studies.
Nota bene: This is a blind review panel. Jessica Brantley has agreed to present a paper, but a committee will select the other papers by a process of double blind review of the submitted abstracts. Abstracts from graduate students and junior scholars are especially encouraged.
All questions, abstract submissions, and required information should be sent to Erica Weaver and Helen Cushman at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org by the congress deadline (September 15th).