actually were allowed reformers to claim that their project was
epistemological, the triumph of truth over fabulous error. Yet what it
actually accomplished was the destruction of the objects that led to
this truth. In the spirit of the recent theoretical return to the
ontology of the object, we suggest that getting back to the medieval
object in this case might well be a way to get back to the history of
theorists such as Jane Bennett, whose concept
of ‘thing-power’ in Vibrant Matter (2010) seeks to ‘acknowledge
that which refuses to dissolve completely into the milieu of human
knowledge’ while aiming to ‘attend to the it as actant’.10 Even more
recently, Ian Bogost’s Alien Phenomenology (2012) situates things
at the centre of being and advocates the use of metaphor in philosophy as a means of glimpsing things as they exist outside of
human consciousness.11 The work of Levi Bryant (2011) puts entities at all levels of scale on equal ontological footing and Timothy
Did it start with Bergson,
or before? Space was treated as the dead, the fixed, the
undialectical, the immobile. Time, on the contrary, was
richness, fecundity, life, dialectic.
Michel Foucault 1
The traditional ontology of the
is the vision of medievalism that holds the medieval past always already
available for cultural and imaginative recuperation. Such a vision
precedes and informs the medieval even before we begin to pursue it in
scholarly or creative ways.
Not everyone will agree with this vision of medievalism
and the ontological priority we claim for it. To suggest that
medievalism might be the pretext to the medieval
dubious ontology. A brief survey of several
genres of medieval English writing suggests that the pilgrimage
road served a number of artistic and ideological purposes precisely
because as a concept-become-thing it could mediate between the
world of ideas on the one hand and an array of material practices
on the other. There is a sophisticated body of scholarship on the
representation of pilgrimage in medieval English literature, yet little is written about the literary representation of the pilgrimage
road.8 As an earthbound track and as path to the transcendent, as
that medieval studies is hopelessly invested in a backwards-looking
positivistic project, denying academic positions and futures to
(younger) scholars who might be able to revivify their discipline.
We have argued that the relationship between the medieval
and the medievalist can no longer (if it ever could) be reduced to a
simple hierarchy that could be seen as either chronologically or
medieval (or other pre-modern cultures) just simply did not recognise intellectual differences. The question of how people regarded as intellectually deficient were treated socially by their respective cultures is of course the big question that interests historians most, but that does not detract from the fact that the labels (in all their, by modern ‘scientific’ standards, confusing, multifarious and rather woolly terminologies) existed in the first place.
Therefore ID has an ontologically ambiguous status. On the one hand, ID exists as a real
. However, I want to consider exactly why and how
Unreadable things in Beowulf
Hrothgar ‘reads’ the hilt and so ask what his reading of it tells us
about the power that a sword-becoming-something-else can have
in shaping the way a literate community reads itself across time.
The power of the giants’ sword can be linked to that of Grendel’s
mother inasmuch as they both defy interpretation and threaten to
destabilise Heorot’s shared body of knowledge.
Traditional Western ontological systems would categorise Grendel’s mother and the giants’ sword as distinct
this section recent discussions about the importance of affect to
literary study. Epistemological and ontological questions give way, in
this chapter, to affective ones. Specifically, we begin with the ways in
which love for the past has coloured the formation of medieval literary
studies. The received narrative is based on a series of binaries.
Initially an enthusiasm that supported and justified the study of the
University Press, 2002), p. 133.
37 They correspond to what has been termed ‘rhetorical metalepses’, i.e. very
short transgressions of levels that do not involve any ontological shifts.
John Pier, ‘Metalepsis’, in Peter Hühn, Wolf Schmid, Jörg Schönert, and
John Pier (eds), Handbook of Narratology, Narratologia 19 (Berlin: de
Gruyter, 2009), pp. 190–203, at p. 192, calls them ‘minimal metalepses’.
38 Scottish Legendary, XXI, 621–4.
39 Scottish Legendary, XXXI, 1–4.
40 Scottish Legendary, XXXVIII, 578–81.
41 The legends that lack the final coda are Peter (I), Andrew