Friday, July 14, 2006
Two essays of interest in the new Exemplaria
I don't mean to imply that the other essays in Exemplaria 18.1 are NOT interesting, but here are two that I found to be especially good:
Postcolonial Palomides: Malory’s Saracen Knight and the Unmaking of Arthurian Community (Dorsey Armstrong, Purdue University)
I especially like this piece for its focus upon the failures of language and upon postcolonial theorization of the subaltern. There's a great moment when Armstrong, echoing the famous essay by Spivak, rechristens the project "Can the Saracen speak?" The essay also contains a succinct overview of the figure of the Saracen in medieval literature and synthesizes quite a bit of recent work on the topic.
Nation-Building Colonialist-Style in Bevis of Hampton
(Kofi Campbell, Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford Campus)
This article is also about Saracens, specifically the fearful desire that surrounds them as Others to an emergent English national identity. There's a very good section on Benedict Anderson's Imagined Communities (in Patty Ingham's words, the book medievalists love to hate) that doesn't only -- as is ordinarily done -- show that Anderson got the medieval wrong, but also suggests the modern is fairly medieval. The main argument moves from "Bevis the Colonized" to "Bevis the Colonizer," and has quite a bit to say about fourteenth century English nationalism. Sadly, there is no mention of the "Bevis of Hamton" who ys a mighti knighte, thogh he speketh nat yn the maner of gentil folke.
PS For a bit more on Kofi, check out the ever expanding comments to New World Medievalists, Fantasy and History, which has become quite a collection of origin myths (add your own if you haven't already). Also see the preview in this blog of his forthcoming book Literature and Culture in the Black Atlantic: From Pre- to Postconial.
Posted by Jeffrey Cohen at 8:42 AM
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In the spirit of the post, I recommend Siobhain Calkin's _Saracens and the Making of English Identity_ (Routledge, 2005), which reads the Auchinleck MS in relation to Saracens and Saracen-ness, all under the umbrella of constructing English identity in the first part of the fourteenth century. It's smart and savvy, and I keep encountering people who don't cite it in their own work on Auchinleck/Saracens. I was lucky enough to find it in the "new books" section at my university's library or I wouldn't have heard of it yet either. Check it out!
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