On the flight to Boston on the way to Provincetown, I was reading Catherine Brown's "In the Middle," JMES 30 (2000): 547-74, where she recalls "[Paul] Zumthor, who dizzied me and my students with the impassable abyss that separates us from the Middle Ages, also reminds us how we can start engaging with the differences between us and the “things” we read." She quotes him, from Speaking of the Middle Ages:
Thus, reading is, at least potentially, a dialogue; but in it two agents confront one another: I am in some way produced by this text, and in the same moment, as a reader, I construct it. A relationship of active solidarity rather than a mirror-effect; a solidarity promised rather than given, pleasurably felt at the end of the long preparatory work required by the traversing of two historical distances, going and coming back.
I have tended to think about my field of study as a set of texts and practices that have awaited my critical intervention. They need me to be able to speak the truths that they have been speaking all along but have been unable to articulate openly. In other words, the texts of the Middle Ages are my patient and I their analyst.
Then this blog came along, and its discussions of wonder, and I found myself wondering when a text, when a practice, has spoken me. As I'm on vacation, I haven't been able to rummage my mind for the texts that have surprised me with their knowledge about me, but I'd be very interested to discover when you, dear readers, have found yourself surprised in this way by the Middle Ages.
When have you found yourself on the couch and the text in the chair?