Sewanee: Recommendations

Charlemagne, Language Guy

I love recommending reading for people’s projects, and I wish people would do the same for me! Here’s what I what remember recommending at Sewanee 2024. In no particular order:

  • Natalia Cecire’s Experimental: American Literature and the Aesthetics of Knowledge (2019) (for a project on “experiments” and “experience”)
  • Jocelyn Wogan-Brown (with linguistic appendices by Ian Short), “Recovery and Loss: Women’s Writing around Marie de France.” Women Intellectuals and Leaders in the Middle Ages, edited by Kathryn Kerby-Fulton, Katie Ann-Marie Bugyis and John Van Engen, Boydell & Brewer, 2020. Are the lais, fables, the Patrick Purgatory, and even the Audrey life by the same person? Maybe not! The fables have a “Marie de France” attribution in 15 out of 25 manuscripts; the Lais have a “Marie” attribution, in Guigemar, only in Harley 978 and BN fr. 2168, but without the “de France.” Audrey and the Purgatory are also furnished with a “Marie.” Short argues for four distinct Maries. What we gain when we lose the modern author function is a more accurate, more exciting picture of collective authorship, a distributed “Marie” authority. At any rate, I would recommend against reading the “Marie de France” fables comparatively with the “Marie” lais, except insofar as both belong to twelfth-century Insular French, and both are, in certain instances, ascribed to a woman.
  • Lauren Oyler’s chapter on autofiction in No Judgment. It’s good to read this alongside Anna Kornbluh’s critique of the same genre in her Immediacy. Oyler — whose book has been, in my opinion, unfairly maligned (in The Guardian, The Washington Post, and Book Forum) — tracks the simulated intimacy of autofiction, the contract between reader and writer, with the writer writing for a reader that wants direct access to a life that isn’t theirs. The genre plays to voyeurism, and thus the “immediacy” effects Kornbluh critiques need to be understood as themselves highly mediated.
  • Ian Angus’s “The Fishing Revolution and the Origins of Capitalism,” The Monthly Review (March 1, 2023). To my uninformed brain, a great treatment of late medieval “capitalist factories” in the North Seas, the ships themselves and the processing plants in Newfoundland, which combine capital investment, mass production, and assembly line work to give us a real transformation in how work works. You should read it!
  • George Romero’s Knightriders (1981), with Ed Harris as the leader of motorcycle jousters on the RenFaire circuit, with the dynamics that of Arthurian court. It’s not exactly great, but since America is short on interesting medieval films, give it a shot.
  • Jacques Demy’s 1973 A Slightly Pregnant Man (‘L’Événement le plus important depuis que l’homme a marché sur la lune), where Marcello Mastroianni (!), married to Catherine Deneuve (!!), finds himself pregnant (!!!). Is this Demy’s autofiction? Well, no, but it’s fun to watch while you read Marie de France’s fable about the peasant and the beetle. I was shocked that no one in the room but me had seen it!
  • Peggy McCracken’s “The Wild Man and His Kin in Tristan de Nanteuil,” in L’Humain et l’Animal dans la France médiévale (XIIe-XVe s.), ed. Irène Fabry-Tehranchi
    and Anna Russakoff, which is great for milk kinship between humans and nonhumans, and just a good treatment of yet another massive zany medieval French romance. There’s a trans reading of the romance in Exemplaria by Blake Gutt if you want to go even further.
  • Beryl Smalley’s The Study of the Bible in the Middle Ages, a classic, which I found useful, some decades ago, for thinking about the development of the “historical sense” in Latin exegesis as being done in dialogue with local Jewish scriptural experts.
  • An article about Rashi’s proposal that Adam, before being provided with Eve, had had sex with every animal in paradise, and found them wanting.
  • An article by me! on Margery Kempe’s “Carnivorous Vegetarianism.”
  • A great story from John Mirk about animals, a consecrated host, and the devil in the shape of a horse. While I was rummaging about for my cite, I found Dontallo’s “Miracle of the Mule,” which perhaps helps us build a whole set of “kneeling animals” miracles.
  • I had wanted to share an episode from Heinrich von dem Türlin’s Diu Crône, where a heraldic device, a lion, briefly animates and roars during battle. Happily the whole thing was translated into English, so, instead of asking my question, I just bought a copy for myself.
  • I had also wanted to share something about Saint Maurice and the German Kaiserchronik, to deepen some of Geraldine Heng’s observations about same.
  • And one of you recommended something to me about Scottish contacts with Portugal in the 15th century: I wish I’d written it down!