Born of jottings in a lounge in Asheville, launched via inscribed pumpkin on a misfiring medieval trebuchet, the BABEL Working Group is almost too astonishing to be believed. Almost. But because I know Eileen Joy is real -- or at least have some compelling evidence that she is real -- and because I know that BABEL is already sponsoring conference sessions and publishing projects (I have an afterword in a BABEL-affiliated collection, Reality, Television and the Middle Ages and a reprinted piece in another, The Postmodern Beowulf), I am going to stake my academic credibility (such as it is) on the fact that the amazing BABEL website is the future of medieval studies. Or, at least, of interesting medieval studies.
Here's a small taste:
How could we have a collective that could act as a lever for a new discourse within the academy aimed at reformulating and redefining what we think we mean by "humanism" and "the humanities," such that we could also advocate for the important role of humanities study in the post-historical, post-human, hell, post-everything university, and also in public life? We also desired to be able to undertake this venture, as well as engage in various collaborative activities, with scholars working in more modern humanities fields, and also with scientists working in cutting-edge fields such as biotechnologoy, robotics, artificial life, particle physics, etc. It was (and is) our feeling that many of the debates currently ongoing between the modernists, and between the scientists, regarding such subjects as "the future of literary studies" or "the future of the human," could benefit immeasurably from the "long" (or, "longer") historical perspectives of medieval studies, and moreover, medieval studies could benefit by being, not merely poachers of contemporary critical thought, but one of its many co-agitators. Finally, how could we create a space where, following Bill Readings, "the question of being-together is raised, raised with an urgency that proceeds from the absence of the institutional forms (such as the nation-state), which have historically served to mask that question" (The University in Ruins, p. 20). After much scribbling of all of this on Meantime Lounge cocktail napkins, BABEL was born.
Described as "a non-hierarchical scholarly collective, with no leaders or followers, no top and no bottom," the BABEL Working Group has taken as its current project musings upon corporality and posthumanity, topics near and dear to my own heart. Check out the website, and while you're at it glance at Eileen A. Joy's website, too.
I posted recently on the necessity of maintaining a sense of humor even when engaged in reflection upon Utterly Serious Topics (see Tiny Epiphany). The exuberant and cheeky BABEL Working Group delivers a manifesto for a serious and seriously engaged medieval future. Babel on!