Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Reader poll

Your three co-bloggers are considering a "group read" of a new book in medieval studies. We'd announce the title about a month ahead of time to allow you, dearest readers, to be part of our electronic book club.

What do you think? If the idea sounds appealing, what book would you suggest? We'd like to start with something from the New Middle Ages, if possible.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'd vote for Heather Blurton's book!

KT

Eileen Joy said...

I vote for Heather Blurton's book on "Cannibalism" and/or Cary Howie's "Claustrophilia."

also anonymous said...

Blurton's book sounds really interesting, but I'm just wondering, is it about CANNIBALISM or ANTHROPOPHAGY? They aren't the same thing, you know. From the blurb, it's hard to tell.

MKH said...

This sounds like an awesome idea -- I'm excited you guys have proposed it. I'm actually going to be a bit predictable and vote for Blurton.

I'll add in secondary votes for Women and Medieval Epic (ed. Poor and Schulman) as well as Sachi Shimomura's "Odd Bodies and Visible Ends".

Karl Steel said...

I'm interested in Sylvia Huot's Postcolonial Fictions in the ‘Roman de Perceforest and Sarah Kay's new book, but neither is with Palgrave. So that's no good.

So, yes for Blurton. But the Fitzgerald is also very interesting to me. So is the Joy, Seaman, Bell, and Ramsey book, and not just because the authors are fun to drink with. But I think the latter, being an essay collection, would be more difficult to discuss.

Other books from Palgrave that leap out at me: and now I'm just loading the list: Anna Klosowska's Queer Love, Odd Bodies (seems interesting, MKH), and Kellie Robertson's book.

Anon: how are you distinguishing between the two? I prefer anthropophagy because it has fewer colonialist problems than cannibalism. I suppose I prefer it too because I'm as interested in animals and monsters eating people as I am in people eating people.

dan remein said...

I have to agree with Eileen. I need a good excuse to read _Claustrophilia_.

D

theswain said...

Capital idea! Just that though I have no hope of every reading it ontime and taking part in the discussion....but someday a year or 2 hence I'll be able to read the books and reread the blog entries....so please do this, discuss a lot, and don't surprised if months from now you hear a quiet Eureka! in some back corner of the blogosphere.

srj said...

A great idea. There are two books on the list (Robertson and Richardson) that I MUST read - but otherwise I am ruthlessly pursuing my own objectives at the moment (as you will have noticed by my increasingly disconnected comments) and I probably would not have time to join in. Like theswain - I very much look forward to silently reading the results.

Brandon H. said...

Lovely idea, and I'd love to be a part of the group. The most appealing to me are Blurton's Cannibalism, Joy/Seaman/Bell/Ramsey's Cultural Studies, Cohen's Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity, and Weisl's Persistence of Medievalism. As I'm behind in my readings (comparatively speaking, just entering the graduate field), I would be happy reading and/or discussing any of the proposed texts.

On an entirely different note: Good job on the new blog look. It definitely speaks to some of the blog's directions and visions.

hd said...

funsy! i vote for either odd bodies or claustrophilia.

J J Cohen said...

Thanks, everyone. It looks like Blanton is in the lead, with Howie a very close second. Perhaps those could be our first TWO books for discussion?

Eileen Joy said...

Yeah--why not have TWO books for our first discussion. I would love to model this on the "book events" hosted at "The Valve" where a group of us [ideally me, JJC, and Karl, but also a few brave volunteers from our regular readership] would agree to read the book and post brief responses/appraisals of the book as a whole or in part[s]. Then, we would ask Heather and Cary to also respond and dialogue with all of us over their work--I think they would agree to do it. What does everyone think of that?

Karl Steel said...

Precisely what I want too, EJ, but I think two books simultaneously (if that's what you're suggesting) would be a strain in terms of reading time and money, if not necessarily for us, then likely for our readers.

I suggest Blurton first and then Howie on the month after. And then maybe every other month during the school year.

theswain said...

To be truthful, I'll probably "TRY" to get ahold and read Cultural Studies before I read anything else.....

Eileen Joy said...

I agree Karl--first Blurton, then Howie, not both at the same time. A girl's gotta sleep *sometimes*.

MKH said...

I really like the idea of modeling it on the Valve discussions, and I also think that continuing it on into the school year is a great idea.

I also really like the idea of establishing it as a dialogue that would also include the authors of the books. Seems like it could be a very productive forum -- which, given that it's originating on this blog, doesn't surprise me.

Sylvia Huot said...

Answering Karl Steel regarding my anonymous post:

To me 'cannibalism' means something eating other members of its own species (thus, people eating people, giants eating giants, tigers eating tigers...) while anthropophagy means something eating humans (whether that something is also a human, or a giant, or a tiger, etc). One can, of course, consider that giants or Grendel, etc, ARE to be understood as humans in which case they can also be seen as cannibals when they eat people. But discussions of this don't always make it clear just how they see it and it ends up being elided or fudged over as to whether these beings are seen as human or not and what that might imply; the term 'cannibalism', with all its colonial implications of 'horrid savage barely human things that eat us civilised humans', can thus be used somewhat abusively or imprecisely. Indeed, paradoxically, identifying people as cannibals can have the effect of de-humanising them, which strictly speaking would make them no longer cannibals... Of course I am not accusing Blurton of that since I haven't read the book and it may be that she is extremely clear about all of that. Perhaps that's precisely what the book is about. But I do know that I've seen some academic discussions of cannibalism that were very imprecise indeed.

Karl Steel said...

Thanks for that clarification, SH. By the way, I'm reading your Perceforest book right now (should be done tomorrow), and I'm enjoying it immensely.

I do wish, however, that there were another word for species eating members of their own kind (endogamous consumption? Clumsy). My problems with 'cannibal' have to do almost entirely with the etymological origin. From the OED:
"In 16th c. pl. Canibales, a. Sp. Canibales, originally one of the forms of the ethnic name Carib or Caribes, a fierce nation of the West Indies, who are recorded to have been anthropophagi, and from whom the name was subsequently extended as a descriptive term."

Indeed, paradoxically, identifying people as cannibals can have the effect of de-humanising them, which strictly speaking would make them no longer cannibals

Good point. I had tried to get at that in something I cut from my diss., a discussion of the cynocephali in a bestiary (pretty sure this one, and if it is, I think it's mislabeled "Cynomolgus," milk drinker: one thinks of the inability to translate the original Greek of Perceforest...)

It's eating a thigh of some kind of hairless biped. You can see the image in your Friedman, page 11, illustration #3. Here's what I cut:

"Since the leg is identical to those being handled by the “anthropophagus” in the panel to its immediate right, the Cynocephalus may also be anthropophagus. But the human-looking leg the Cynocephalus eats also resembles its own; therefore, the Cynocephalus may be eating one of its own, indeterminately classifiable race. The problem of depiction could have been solved by showing the Cynocephalus eating the clearly canine head of one of its fellows to evoke the horror of intraspecies consumption. But such an image may have evoked only the disgust for dog meat in Western Christendom; moreover, such a diet, because it left humans inviolate, would have left the human viewers of the bestiary unfrightened. The illuminator, then, faced an insuperable dilemma in using anthropophagy to portray the supposed subhuman savagery of the Cynocephali. In this miniature, if the Cynocephalus is human, it breaks one of the fundamental taboos, but then it is not subhuman. If it is an animal, its anthropophagy is natural, albeit illicit or repulsive, no worse than animals’ eating unburied human corpses on a battlefield. Alternately, the Cynocephalus may be a creature neither human nor animal but eating a human, or such a creature eating one of its own. Anthropophagy, which accentuates the animal savagery of wolves, bears, and other powerful beasts, only suggests the irresolvability of the Cynocephalic question."

Karl Steel said...

milk drinker

Or rather, one of a race that lived on dogs' milk...

sylvia huot said...

In Peter Whitfield, _New Found Lands: Maps in the History of Exploration_ on p. 45 is a picture from the Desceliers World Map (1550) showing elegantly dressed cynocephali dismembering members of their own species (in order to eat them?). Whitfield's caption calls them 'dog-headed cannibals', avoiding the question of humanity.

I agree, the term does have very unfortunate resonances. And I'm not entirely sure it gets applied to 'civilised' examples, such as the lady Christine de Pizan writes about who swallowed her husband's ashes in order to make her body into his mausoleum, or the race imagined as eating the bodies of their parents or other family members once those people are dead of natural causes, as a sign of honour. Definitely some terminology problems here, but again, maybe these are issues that are dealt with by more recent writers like Blurton--this is not something I have investigated at all thoroughly.

Glad you're enjoying reading about Perceforest and I hope it will inspire you to read the romance itself! Fantastic stuff! Students love it! (in excerpted form, of course...)

Karl Steel said...

Thanks for the Cynocephalus reference: will have a look. I can't think of anything like that in the MA.

Christine de Pizan writes about who swallowed her husband's ashes in order to make her body into his mausoleum

Thanks for the reference: I've overlooked that one. I've seen it called 'medicinal cannibalism,' as in this article, which I've read, and this one, which I haven't yet read.
I would have sworn that language was from Against Jovinian, but I can't seem to find it right now. Jerome does discuss children eating their aged parents (a practice described by some credulous, I think, anthropologists), and doesn't, so far as I can sense, entirely disapprove of this mode of piety. There's also something similar in Poggio Bracciolini's Facezie, CXXXII, “De Iudaeo Mortuo Assumpto Ignoranter in Cibum Per Florentinum,” in which a Florentine (presumably Christian) unwittingly consumes the spiced corpse of a Jew whose dismembered body had been concealed in a jug. The Florentine eventually knows that he has become the tomb of the dead Jew ("tandem cognovit Florentinus se Iudaei sepulchrum esse").

Now, the problem with my problem with the word 'cannibalism' is the sin of a good conscience. I don't want to imagine I've sidestepped all the colonialist fantasies simply by using "anthropophagy" where I can. It's likely it's just a buffer word between me and my participation in Western othering discourses. A few articles on that:

King, C. Richard. “The (Mis)uses of Cannibalism in Contemporary Cultural Critique.” Diacritics 30 (2000): 106-23.

Latham, Rob. “Cannibals and Kitchen Sinks [Review of Priscilla Walton, Our Cannibals, Ourselves].” Contemporary Literature 47 (2006): 502-04.

Have you read this yet?

Price, Merrall Llewelyn. Consuming Passions: The Uses of Cannibalism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe, Medieval History and Culture 20. New York: Routledge, 2003.