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Cultural memory and the untimely Middle Ages
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This book is a study of cultural memory in and of the British Middle Ages. It works with material drawn from across the medieval period – in Old English, Middle English and Latin, as well as material and visual culture – and explores modern translations, reworkings and appropriations of these texts to examine how images of the past have been created, adapted and shared. It interrogates how cultural memory formed, and was formed by, social identities in the Middle Ages and how ideas about the past intersected with ideas about the present and future. It also examines how the presence of the Middle Ages has been felt, understood and perpetuated in modernity and the cultural possibilities and transformations this has generated. The Middle Ages encountered in this book is a site of cultural potential, a means of imagining the future as well as imaging the past.

The scope of this book is defined by the duration of cultural forms rather than traditional habits of historical periodization and it seeks to reveal connections across time, place and media to explore the temporal complexities of cultural production and subject formation. It reveals a transtemporal and transnational archive of the modern Middle Ages.

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The church as sacred space places the reader at the heart of medieval religious life, standing inside the church with the medieval laity in order to ask what the church meant to them and why. It examines the church as a building, idea, and community, and explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was crucial to its place at the centre of lay devotion and parish life. At a time when the parish church was facing competition for lay attention, and dissenting movements such as Lollardy were challenging the relevance of the material church, the book examines what was at stake in discussions of sanctity and its manifestations. Exploring a range of Middle English literature alongside liturgy, architecture, and material culture, the book explores the ways in which the sanctity of the church was constructed and maintained for the edification of the laity. Drawing on a wide range of contemporary theoretical approaches, the book offers a reading of the church as continually produced and negotiated by the rituals, performances, and practices of its lay communities, who were constantly being asked to attend to its material form, visual decorations, and significance. The meaning of the church was a dominant question in late-medieval religious culture and this book provides an invaluable context for students and academics working on lay religious experience and canonical Middle English texts.

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Anglo-Saxon ‘things’ could talk. Nonhuman voices leap out from the Exeter Book Riddles, telling us how they were made or how they behave. In The Husband’s Message, runic letters are borne and a first-person speech is delivered by some kind of wooden artefact. Readers of The Dream of the Rood will come across a tree possessing the voice of a dreaming human in order to talk about its own history as a gallows and a rood. The Franks Casket is a box of bone that alludes to its former fate as a whale that swam aground onto the shingle, and the Ruthwell monument is a stone column that speaks as if it were living wood, or a wounded body.

This book uncovers the voice and agency that these nonhuman things have across Anglo-Saxon literature and material culture. It makes a new contribution to ‘thing theory’ and rethinks conventional divisions between animate human subjects and inanimate nonhuman objects in the early Middle Ages. Anglo-Saxon writers and craftsmen describe artefacts and animals through riddling forms or enigmatic language, balancing an attempt to speak and listen to things with an understanding that these nonhumans often elude, defy and withdraw from us. The active role that things have in the early medieval world is also linked to the Germanic origins of the word, where a þing is a kind of assembly, with the ability to draw together other elements, creating assemblages in which human and nonhuman forces combine. Anglo-Saxon things teach us to rethink the concept of voice as a quality that is not simply imposed upon nonhumans but which inheres in their ways of existing and being in the world; they teach us to rethink the concept of agency as arising from within groupings of diverse elements, rather than always emerging from human actors alone.

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Reorienting the narrative of digital media studies to incorporate the medieval, Participatory reading in late-medieval England traces affinities between digital and medieval media to explore how participation defined reading practices and shaped relations between writers and readers in England’s literary culture from the late-fourteenth to early sixteenth centuries. Traditionally, print operates as the comparative touchstone of both medieval and digital media, but Participatory reading argues that the latter share more in common with each other than either does with print. Working on the borders of digital humanities, medieval cultural studies, and the history of the book, Participatory reading draws on well-known and little-studied works ranging from Chaucer to banqueting poems and wall-texts to demonstrate how medieval writers and readers engaged with practices familiar in digital media today, from crowd-sourced editing to nonlinear apprehension to mobility, temporality, and forensic materiality illuminate. Writers turned to these practices in order to both elicit and control readers’ engagement with their works in ways that would benefit the writers’ reputations along with the transmission and interpretation of their texts, while readers pursued their own agendas—which could conflict with or set aside writers’ attempts to frame readers’ work. The interactions that gather around participatory reading practices reflect concerns about authority, literacy, and media formats, before and after the introduction of print. Participatory reading is of interest to students and scholars of medieval literature, book, and reading history, in addition to those interested in the long history of media studies.

Open Access (free)
Dissent and the machine

Anti-computing explores forgotten histories and contemporary forms of dissent – moments when the imposition of computational technologies, logics, techniques, imaginaries, utopias have been questioned, disputed, or refused. It also asks why these moments tend to be forgotten. What is it about computational capitalism that means we live so much in the present? What has this to do with computational logics and practices themselves?

This book addresses these issues through a critical engagement with media archaeology and medium theory and by way of a series of original studies; exploring Hannah Arendt and early automation anxiety, witnessing and the database, Two Cultures from the inside out, bot fear, singularity and/as science fiction. Finally, it returns to remap long-standing concerns against new forms of dissent, hostility, and automation anxiety, producing a distant reading of contemporary hostility.

At once an acute response to urgent concerns around toxic digital cultures, an accounting with media archaeology as a mode of medium theory, and a series of original and methodologically fluid case studies, this book crosses an interdisciplinary research field including cultural studies, media studies, medium studies, critical theory, literary and science fiction studies, media archaeology, medium theory, cultural history, technology history.

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This book introduces a new critical framework for reading medieval texts. The narrative grotesque decentres critical discourse by turning focus to points at which literary texts distort and rupture conventional narratological and poetic boundaries. These boundary-warping grotesques are crystallised at moments affective horror and humour. Two seminal Older Scots works are used to exemplify the multivalent applications of the narrative grotesque: Gavin Douglas’s The Palyce of Honour (c. 1501) and William Dunbar’s The Tretis of the Tua Mariit Wemen and the Wedo (c. 1507). These texts create manifold textual hybridisations, transfigurations, and ruptures in order to interrogate modes of discourse, narratological subjectivities, and medieval genre conventions. Within the liminal space opened up by these textual (de)constructions, it is possible to reconceptualise the ways in which poets engaged with concepts of authenticity, veracity, subjectivity, and eloquence in literary writing during the late medieval period.

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The heat of Beowulf investigates twentieth-century poets Jack Spicer’s and Robin Blaser’s encounter with Beowulf in order to contextualize their poetics as a comparative horizon by which to understand the aesthetics of the Old English poem anew. The book examines Blaser’s and Spicer’s translations and study of the poem under philologist Arthur G. Brodeur within the context of their avant-garde literary world to generate a series of comparative critical frames for describing the non-representational functions of the aesthetics of Beowulf. After tracing the genealogies of mid-century critical practice and literary modernism that intersect in Blaser’s and Spicer’s engagement with Beowulf, the book examines Robin Blaser’s account of the ‘heat’ of Beowulf in Brodeur’s classroom as a formative moment within his poetics and articulates an approach to non-representational early medieval aesthetics that draws variously on the phenomenology of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Mary Carruthers’ accounts of medieval rhetoric, medieval sensology, disability studies, and translation theory. The book then argues that the multisensory and even synesthetic world of Beowulf requires a process of ecopoetical, phenomenological translation to become intelligible to vulnerable human corporeality. From here, the book reboots Brodeur’s interest in Beowulf’s aesthetics in a series of chapters on compound diction, variation, and narrative structure. Each of these chapters explores the capacity of the poem’s perceptual process to assist and to impair the human sensorium, offering an account of the activity of the poem as a multisensory phenomenological aesthetics—not conceived of as figure, but as non-representational activity and process.

Poetry, attention, and the mysteries of the body
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This book explores, through medieval literature, modern poetry, and theologies both medieval and modern, the ways in which bodies, very much including literary bodies, may become apparent as more than they at first had seemed. Transfiguration, traditionally understood as the revelation of divinity in community, becomes for this book a figure for those splendours, mundane as much as divine, that wait within the read, lived, and loved world. The riddle of the body, which is to say the deep and superficial mystery of its pleasures and complications, invites a kind of patience, as medieval and modern languages reach toward, and break away from, something at their deepest centre and on their barest surface. By bringing together medieval sources with lyric medievalism, this book argues for the porousness of time and flesh. In this way, Augustine, Cassian, Bernard of Clairvaux, Dante, Boccaccio, and the heroes of Old French narrative, no more or less than their modern lyric counterparts, come to light in new and newly complicated ways. They become, in a word, transfigured.

Embodiment, materiality and performance

Medieval literary voices explores voice as both a textual remnant and an enlivening communicative presence within medieval texts. Its impressive line-up of essays deepens our understanding of medieval literature by revealing the many ways in which textual voices, far from simply being effects of literariness, are forceful presences that evoke the elusive voices lurking behind and beyond the literary text; they capture the absent authorial voice, the traces of scribal voices and the aural soundscape of the uttered text. The volume considers medieval literary voices across a broad range of texts, from the classical and biblical heritage to post-medieval literary representations. It explores multiple dimensions of medieval voice and vocalisations, also paying attention to the interactions between literary voices and their authorial, scribal and socio-political settings, particularly late medieval English literary production. It contends that, through seeking the voice of the absent or long-gone author, the literary voices contained within the text, and the imaginary and actual voices that shape medieval texts’ receptions, we can begin to understand the ways that medieval voices mediate or proclaim an embodied selfhood or material presence, how they dictate or contest moral conventions and how they create and sustain narrative soundscapes.

Open Access (free)
Studies in intimacy

Featuring essays from some of the most prominent voices in early medieval English studies, Dating Beowulf: studies in intimacy playfully redeploys the word ‘dating’, which usually heralds some of the most divisive critical impasses in the field, to provocatively phrase a set of new relationships with an Old English poem. This volume presents an argument for the relevance of the early Middle Ages to affect studies and vice versa, while offering a riposte to anti-feminist discourse and opening avenues for future work by specialists in the history of emotions, feminist criticism, literary theory, Old English literature, and medieval studies alike. To this end, the chapters embody a range of critical approaches, from queer theory to animal studies and ecocriticism to Actor-Network theory, all organized into clusters that articulate new modes of intimacy with the poem.