Press, 2010), p. 6.
10 Jane Bennett, Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things
(Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), p. 3.
11 Ian Bogost, Alien Phenomenology, or, What It’s Like to Be a Thing
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).
12 Levi Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities
Press, 2011); Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology
after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
13 Ian Hodder, Entangled: An Archaeology of the Relationships between
Humans and Things (Oxford
a single word (OE beam) but whose spoken solution
embraces everything from tree to log to ship to rood, underscoring the difficulty of trying to capture things within a verbal cage.
Similar processes are at play in The Dream. We, like the dreamer,
cannot satisfactorily name, know or control what we are seeing and
hearing and speaking. What is our task, then?
In her work on the political ecology of things, Bennett asks a
set of questions that are pertinent here: What method could possibly be appropriate for the task of speaking a word for vibrant
matter? How to
this extraordinary age. Moreover, climatologists refer to the age as ‘the medieval anomaly’, for their evidence demonstrates that it was favoured by exceptionally felicitous conditions of climate and ecology. 11
In political terms this same period marked in northern and central Italy the age of the communes, when newly dominant groups of urban dwellers succeeded in revolting against their local lord, usually a count or a bishop, to take over control of their city. Councils made up of elected representatives governed the communes. Between
: Processes of Conversion in Northern Europe, AD 300–
(Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 2003), pp. 351–70, at 352.
34 Andrew Marvell, ‘To His Coy Mistress’, in The Complete Poems, ed.
Jonathan Bate (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2005), p. 50.
35 Here and below I echo some of the thoughts of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen,
‘Stories of Stone’, Postmedieval, 1:2 (Spring/Summer 2010), 56–63.
His recent book Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2015) also investigates the power and
abiding companionship of this seemingly inert substance. I
do their work within skin that offers a permeable membrane rather
than a barrier.6 This open, fleshly system enmeshes the gravity
of the moon, the impress of place, the agency of matter and the
density and humidity of atmosphere, creating what Gail Paster
has called ‘an ecology of passions’ and ‘the body’s weather’, which
may be both shared with the environment and heavy.7 The human
form is a dynamic ecology easily thrown into crisis, a ‘conviviality
of animate and inanimate matters’ as J. Allan Mitchell describes
it, that makes clear ‘anthropocentrism has not
fabricated through various materials, our bodies existing in a prosthetic ecology that forms the self. Richard H. Godden has shown that Sir Gawain, the chivalric hero of Sir
Knight , can be read as a ‘dismodern subject’ who is incomplete without the prosthetic objects that shape him as a subject. Yet these prosthetics can occasionally exert an excessive thing-power, interrupting the knight's identity and reinforcing his corporeal vulnerability
prescriptive.4 That is to say, the
texts preserved in household books are assumed to represent and
reinscribe traditional affects, those of social superiors being clumsily claimed by a non-aristocratic household. In contrast, revisiting
conduct texts and other morally didactic writings of the kind that
fill most late-
medieval household books, Crocker shows how,
with ‘affects [… as their] principal vehicle’, such texts can actually build with their audience an innovative local moral ecology.5
Through close readings of texts compiled in two fifteenth-century
etymology; Langeslag, ‘Monstrous landscape in Beowulf ’, ES , 96 (2015), 122.
William Howarth, ‘Imagined territory: the writing of wetlands’, New literary history , 30 (1999), 520. I owe my knowledge of this article to Sarah Harlan-Haughey, The ecology of the English outlaw in medieval literature: from fen to greenwood (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016), p. 41
The early medieval contexts of Aldhelm’s cat riddle
3 Poole, ‘Contextual Cat’, pp. 868 and 873–4.
4 DOE, s.v. cat, catte and cathol . See also Karen Louise Jolly, ‘A Cat’s Eye View: Vermin in Anglo-Saxon England’, in The Daily Lives of the Anglo-Saxons , ed. Carole Biggam, Carole Hough, and Daria Izdebska (Tempe, AZ: ACMRS, 2017), pp. 105–28, at pp. 112–17.
5 Greger Larson and Dorian Q. Fuller, ‘The Evolution of Animal Domestication’, Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics , 45 (2014), 115–36, at p. 117.
6 Larson and Fuller, ‘Evolution’, p. 117.
7 Larson and Fuller
Materialisms: Ontology, Agency, and Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2010), pp. 7–10.
5 Levi R. Bryant, The Democracy of Objects (Ann Arbor: Open Humanities Press, 2011), p. 32.
6 Timothy Morton, Hyperobjects: Philosophy and Ecology after the End of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013).
7 For discussion of how Old English poets use writing to try to contain and control the natural world, see chapter 5 of Elaine Tuttle Hansen, The Solomon Complex: Reading Wisdom in Old English Poetry (Toronto: University of Toronto