Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Infinite Realms Project

Claire Sponsler recently reminded me that I declared to her a few years back "If I ever do another edited collection, SHOOT ME."

While Professor Sponsler is purchasing a gun, loading it with ammo, hopping in a car and driving from Iowa to DC (I won't be difficult to shoot because I am slow moving), I will be working on this new edited collection [#5 for those who are counting]. Here's the advance publicity. Details will follow in this space, but I will admit that it is shaping up much more quickly than I anticipated and I am very much looking forward to seeing this project through.


Infinite Realms: Archipelago, Island, England takes its main title from an invective launched by an English historiographer against his possibly Welsh predecessor, a writer who had dared to narrate the story of Britain from a non-Anglocentric point of view. William of Newburgh asked sourly of Geoffrey of Monmouth whether he was dreaming of infinite realms (somniat infinita regna) when he bestowed to the future a vision of the ancient past that included glorious insular indigenes and a certain problematic king named Arthur. The book receives its subtitle (and counterbalances the expansiveness of its main title) from some recent work by the historian R. R. Davies, who has been tracing how a scattering of islands shared by multiple peoples came to be dominated and diminished by a single powerful kingdom.

Essays included in Infinite Realms: Archipelago, Island, England will take up such topics as how the distant past was fantasized by giving life to material objects like barrows and stone circles; who colonized or was made to inhabit that lost past, and how "deep time" might be linked to contemporary genders, races, identities; how reduction and homogenization allowed England to declare itself coterminous with Britain, and what voices were silenced through that process; how aboriginal peoples, a first settlement, or waves of conquest were dreamt; the heterogeneity of seemingly monolithic categories like "English" 'Irish" "Christian"; the place, voice and literatures of insular Jews, Saracens, Danes, and other outsiders or intimate aliens; the role of the primitive, the barbarian, the animal; the formation of the Celtic Fringe; the place of English in a restlessly multicultural milieu. Those are some possible parameters rather than an exhaustive list; as with the four previous collections I've edited, I would like this volume to be shaped by its contributors' interests and passions.

Infinite Realms will serve as a companion volume to The Postcolonial Middle Ages, a book that was (I hope) an important intervention into medieval studies when it was published six years ago and which helped to nourish an important subfield of the discipline. My desire is that the essays collected in Infinite Realms will have much to say that advances this scholarly conversation about the importance and relevance of the medieval in thinking about the complexities of human identity, past and present. I also hope that this volume will bring some of the most innovative research in the field into the scholarly mainstream.


Karl Steel said...

Special request:

Anybody doing the Adam of Bristol ritual murder? So long as people leave the food/cannibal aspects of it alone (that's my turf, eventually), it might fit, and boy does it call out for work. That's got local polity, 'Jews in our midst,' and drunken Irish clergy. And there's a degree of the local/international that bypasses the royal/national per your discussion of Norwich in HIaMiMB: ODM (somehow doesn't have the elegance in that form of MIMs): although set in Bristol, the Jews of course are an extralocal presence wherever they are in ritual murder strories, the Irish are on their way to Rome, and the story ends in Ireland. Recall that after the Irish priest, per an angel's command, gets a coffin, Adam's corpse, and the instruments of torture, takes these relics in secret to Ireland, and buries them, he does so having been told that the burial place for the various objects "ignotus erit tibi et omni humane creature usque in diem prefinitam a deo patre" (will be unknown to you and all humanity until a day determined by God the Father). After the Irish priest finally goes to Rome and returns, he's forgotten where he buried the relics and weeps for his loss. And, iirc, that's how the story ends. Brilliant stuff: probably the richest of the English ritual murder stories other than the one in Richard of Devizes.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Edited collections are indeed evil. Perhaps you'd consider joining me in a murder/suicide pact?

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Karl, want to write it up as a one page precis and get it to me for consideration? It's the irish part of that story that is damn odd.

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes: I would, but I suspect that you are serious enough actually to carry it out. My kids need me!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

PS HIaMiMB: ODM sounds like a precription medieicine before its rebranding into something mellifluous like, say, Ambien.

Karl Steel said...

want to write it up as a one page precis

I want to have written it up as a one page precis...the Irish thing is absolutely the weirdest part of it (1. Why not use a priest from Bristol? I suppose to prevent a massacre of Jews in Bristol. Why do that? No idea. 2. Why go all the way to Ireland for your non-local priest? 3. Why bring the relics out of Bristol, put them in Ireland, and forget them?: it's weirder than the AN Horn Romance), but I have no idea what argument I'd be making: yet. If you could, let me know the deadline when you write back on the article I sent you yesterday.

Oh, I know it's not my book (my burden?), but per my comments on the AN Horn some months ago, strikes me that something on that (again: the local/international) or something that uses it as a seed would be a happy fit in the book.