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Essays for Stephanie Trigg

For 700 years, Geoffrey Chaucer has spoken to scholars and amateurs alike. How does his work speak to us in the twenty-first century? This volume provides a unique vantage point for responding to this question, furnished by the pioneering scholar of medieval literary studies, Stephanie Trigg: the symptomatic long history. While Trigg's signature methodological framework acts as a springboard for the vibrant conversation that characterises this collection, each chapter offers an inspiring extension of her scholarly insights. The varied perspectives of the outstanding contributors attest to the vibrancy and the advancement of debates in Chaucer studies: thus, formerly rigid demarcations surrounding medieval literary studies, particularly those concerned with Chaucer, yield in these essays to a fluid interplay between Chaucer within his medieval context; medievalism and ‘reception’; the rigours of scholarly research and the recognition of amateur engagement with the past; the significance of the history of emotions; and the relationship of textuality with subjectivity according to their social and ecological context. Each chapter produces a distinctive and often startling interpretation of Chaucer that broadens our understanding of the dynamic relationship between the medieval past and its ongoing re-evaluation. The inventive strategies and methodologies employed in this volume by leading thinkers in medieval literary criticism will stimulate exciting and timely insights for researchers and students of Chaucer, medievalism, medieval studies, and the history of emotions, especially those interested in the relationship between medieval literature, the intervening centuries and contemporary cultural change.

The expressive face of Criseyde/ Cressida
Stephanie Trigg

In Troilus and Cressida, William Shakespeare invokes the trope of the speaking face, or the speaking body. But where Criseyde's face speaks silently and evocatively in a way that is utterly captivating to Troilus, Shakespeare's Ulysses 'reads' Cressida far more negatively. The examples from Geoffrey Chaucer and Shakespeare are very diverse, but all point to the inevitable ventriloquism in which authors make their characters speak, whether through spoken or unspoken words or through body language. In contrast to Chaucer's Troilus, and Giovanni Boccaccio's Criseida, Criseyde's expression is more complex. The rightly famous account of Criseyde's expression is of a different order from the other appearances of her face in the poem. Jill Mann invokes Criseyde's expressive face as one of the many means by which Chaucer produces the idea of a large 'reservoir of thoughts and feeling.

in Love, history and emotion in Chaucer and Shakespeare
Love, abjection and discontent

This book destabilises the customary disciplinary and epistemological oppositions between medieval studies and modern medievalism. It argues that the twinned concepts of “the medieval” and post-medieval “medievalism” are mutually though unevenly constitutive, not just in the contemporary era, but from the medieval period on. Medieval and medievalist culture share similar concerns about the nature of temporality, and the means by which we approach or “touch” the past, whether through textual or material culture, or the conceptual frames through which we approach those artefacts. Those approaches are often affective ones, often structured around love, abjection and discontent. Medieval writers offer powerful models for the ways in which contemporary desire determines the constitution of the past. This desire can not only connect us with the past but can reconnect present readers with the lost history of what we call the medievalism of the medievals. In other words, to come to terms with the history of the medieval is to understand that it already offers us a model of how to relate to the past. The book ranges across literary and historical texts, but is equally attentive to material culture and its problematic witness to the reality of the historical past.

The abjection of the Middle Ages
Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

As a disciplinary formation, medieval studies has long been structured by authoritative hierarchies and conservative scholarly decorums; the associated fear of error in medieval studies dates back to the Renaissance and the Protestant reformation. In contrast, medievalism increasingly celebrates creative play and imaginative invention. Such invention inevitably produces anxiety about historical accuracy. Popular scholarship and journalism in turn are often attracted to the abject otherness of the Middle Ages, especially the torture practices associated with its judicial systems. Such practices are designed to solicit the truth, and so, like illness, mortality and death, they are a useful double trope through which to analyse the relationship between medieval and medievalist approaches to the past.

in Affective medievalism
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Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

Despite dramatic changes in the dynamics between medieval studies and medievalism, the medieval is still seen as the originary moment of medievalism, which is still regarded in turn as a screen for projecting various fantasies and desires about the past. Scholarly medieval studies are supposedly characterised by their dispassionate enquiries into the past. Yet medieval studies has a long and mixed history of affective relationships with the past it fosters: passion and professionalism often go hand in hand. This complex history makes it hard to distinguish medieval scholarship from the amateurism – the love for the past – that is often said to characterise medievalism as well as scholarly antiquarianism. Debates about the efficacy of affect as a mode of recovery about the past lead to a discussion of two related terms: history and memory.

in Affective medievalism
Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

This chapter asks whether the mutual discontent we have diagnosed between medieval studies and medievalism is inevitable in future practice in these fields. Through its interest in recuperating the past, medievalism is an exemplary practice for the humanities and their understanding of history and culture. Facsimiles of medieval manuscripts further exemplify many of the similarities between medieval and medievalist study, and also our necessary discontent with most of the ways scholarship attempts to get back to and “touch” the past. In the face of contemporary critiques of disciplinarity, we suggest that medieval and medievalism studies together are well placed to model new forms of academic engagement and resistance to the utilitarianism and vocationalism that increasingly dominates our universities. Productive engagement with the medieval past, from a wide range of disciplinary approaches, remains an urgent task for understanding the world around us.

in Affective medievalism
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Medieval and medievalist practice
Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

Scholars of the medieval past are often drawn to a kernel of historical truth that might guarantee the truth of their enquiries, but medievalist scholarly and cultural practice reveals the impossibility of this secure knowledge. Affective responses to the past continue to structure our understanding of historicity and temporality; just as the strange familiarity of the Middle Ages in the present is a form of “uncanny” knowledge and feeling. Medievalism is a social and cultural practice, not a secure epistemological category. Indeed, as a practice, medievalism constantly troubles the apparently simple alterity of the Middle Ages, leading to intellectual and affective discontent from both medieval scholars and medievalist practitioners.

in Affective medievalism
Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

Conventional wisdom sees medievalism occurring “after” the Middle Ages; and indeed much medievalist practice seems to support this view, as the Middle Ages are often conceptualised in spatio-temporal terms, through the fictions of time travel and the specific trope of “portal medievalism”. But the two formations are more accurately seen as mutually constitutive. Medieval literature offers many examples of layered or multiple temporalities. These are often structured around cultural and social difference, which is figured in powerfully affective, not just epistemological terms. Several examples from medieval English literature demonstrate how medieval culture prefigures many of medievalism’s concerns with the alterity of the past.

in Affective medievalism
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Thomas A. Prendergast and Stephanie Trigg

Medieval relics have the uncanny capacity to pleat time: to bring past and present into close relationship. In the sixteenth century, Protestant reformers attacked the cult of relics – objects that claimed to carry the “touch” of the past – in search of a greater truth about the medieval past. This process is analogous to many of the influential formations of medievalism, and the construction of the medieval period as the other to rational modernity. At the same time, the reformers’ discourse about relics was not absolute: this chapter argues that belief and disbelief are not binary opposites but are held in complex and enabling tension. Reformist thinkers and writers were suspicious of the medieval (that is, Catholic) capacity to be constantly remaking the past: that is, to be engaging in medievalism. But relics and reliquaries depend on the category of “wonder”, which resists conventional historical ontologies, and opens up such categories to the study of cultural affects.

in Affective medievalism