by J J Cohen
I say all this because in my own work on stones, medieval and otherwise, I have discovered either in them or in myself (or perhaps in the interspace between us) a resistance to argument. Rocks, gems, lapidaries, desert landscapes, ruins, neolithic architectures: all have demanded a porous, adaptive, meditative prose rather than the keen structure of exposition, building of thesis through citation and carefully staged deployment of evidence, dénouement based upon coldly rational system of argument. Oddly, my work on stone has demanded a move to an affective register that ahs always been present in my work, but nowhere so pervasive.
Right now I am eyeballing the copyedits of an essay with the deceptive title of "Pilgrimages, Travel Writing, and the Medieval Exotic," forthcoming this March in the new Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in English (follow the link and check out the ToC: the book is going to be wonderful). The piece is in fact simply a better footnoted version of my SEMA keynote on Mandeville's geologies (here, here, and here). What strikes me most upon rereading the essay is its utter lack of the usual template (overview; review of previous criticism; close reading with scholarly footnotes; strongest articulation of argument; closing). I can't call the work anything but a meditation. Apparently I have grown weary of arguing.