Wednesday, July 08, 2009

CFP: Theorizing the Borders: Scotland and the Shaping of Identity in Medieval Britain

by J J Cohen

I met Katherine Terrell a few years back when she invited me to give a paper at Hamilton College. She contributed a terrific essay to Cultural Diversity in the British Middle Ages, on "Subversive Histories: Strategies of Identity in Scottish Historiography." Now she and Mark Bruce are assembling their own collection, on Scotland and Britain. Interested? Email Katherine and let her know: The collection looks like it will be a very important one.
One of the most fascinating current conversations in medieval studies concerns the application of post-colonial theory and border studies to the literature and culture of medieval Britain. Since the 2000 publication of Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s The Postcolonial Middle Ages, several studies have addressed the creation and manifestation of bordered identities in medieval texts. However, while these studies have tended to couch the question of liminal identities in terms of England’s relationship with neighboring others such as the Irish and Welsh, internal others such as England’s (present or past) Jewish population, and more distant others like Muslims of the Middle East, there have been few studies of England’s nearest and arguably most contentious other: Scotland. Texts that originate in the Anglo-Scottish marches, as well as texts that actively seek to negotiate Anglo-Scottish cultural and political relations, offer some of the most fruitful occasions for the exploration of medieval borders, nationalism, and identity formation.

However, despite the recent growth in medieval Scottish studies, the last book devoted to a general exploration of cross-border literary influences was Gregory Kratzman’s Anglo-Scottish Literary Relations 1430-1550 (Cambridge University Press, 1980); Rhiannon Purdie and Nicloa Royan’s collection on The Scots and Medieval Arthurian Legend (Boydell Press, 2005) only begins to fill the gap. Anglo-Scottish relations have received more comprehensive attention from historians: for example in the work of Robin Frame and of Rees Davies, and in Andy King and Michael Penman’s recent collection, England and Scotland in the Fourteenth Century: New Perspectives (Boydell Press, 2007). Yet scholarship on cross-border literary relations, as well as work that addresses the interrelations between the literature and history of the two nations, remains scattered and underrepresented.

The proposed anthology, Theorizing the Borders: Scotland and the Shaping of Identity in Medieval Britain, will explore the roles that Scotland and England play in one another’s imaginations, addressing such questions as: How do subjects on both sides of the border define themselves in relation to one another? In what ways do they influence each other’s sense of historical, cultural, and national identity? What stories do they tell about one another, and to what ends? When do texts produced on the Anglo-Scottish border reify or critique mainstream notions of Scottish and English identities? How does the shifting political balance—as well as the shifting border—between the two kingdoms complicate notions of Scottishness and Englishness? When do hybrid categories come into being? We envision this as an interdisciplinary collection, bringing together literary scholars and historians working on both Scotland and England, with the goal of advancing scholarship on medieval Anglo-Scottish relations and the formation of identity.

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