I've felt the same lack of cohesiveness recently with the pieces that I hope will blend together to form my fourth monograph, and am now trying to angle them in such a way that they will fit together into something more than their sum. So far various components include:
- an exploration of how the prehistoric can exert a power to signify within a "post-historic" framework (the Weight of the Past project, which meditates upon [among other things] stony architectures and fossils, drawing in its wake the contemporary interpretive moments which frame the analysis). This is the most complicated part of the project, but also its heart, since it is obsessed with the ability of distant pasts to communicate with, infect, and/or alter the presents and futures which they touch
- rocks, nature, Roger Caillois, surrealism, and inhuman art (gods help me with this one because it is so ambitious that it is sinking me in my own ignorance)
- an analysis of how what used to be called "Celtic Otherworlds" haunt English literary spaces, with an emphasis on Chaucer's attenuation of the possibility such a cultural heterogeneity might bring. There is also something here about Chaucer's closing down of the classical worlds of sexual possibility as well: that is, of spaces that seem for his own time to be nonnormative, worlds that nonetheless possess their allures
- the Green Children of Woolpit and the challenge to the stability of English identity and history their monstrosity offers (especially in its chilling intimacy)
- the massacre of Jews in York in 1190, and what might be called "lachrymose modernity" (the ways in which the untimeliness of the Jews elicits a desire to still them into the amber of a temporally frozen moment)
- the world in motion staged by or performed by travel narratives, especially Mandeville's Travels -- a milieu in which even inert stone becomes sexualized bodies, copulating and multiplying, as well as a world that possesses a formal limit to its mutability, the Eternal Jew.
PS Here are those promised epigraphs, yielding I think an idea of some of the philosophy behind this beast of a project. I read them just before launching into "Chaucer's Fairye" at Kalamazoo.
"The pleasure we take in such recovered voices is inverse to the pain of contemporary voices that have been lost, obliterated, or heavily overlaid ... acceptance of final loss, however, is to be resisted with every ounce of disciplinary skill at our disposal" (David Wallace, Premodern Places)
And flaming swords may guard the Garden of eden
But we consulted maps from earlier days
Dead languages on our tongues
Holding on to our last hope.
("San Bernadino," The Mountain Goats)
The one possibility is infinite worlds
Forever intersecting into some one world.
(Nicola Masciandaro, "The one possibility is infinite worlds"