Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy birthday dear blog, happy birthday to you

Though the day passed without fanfare, In the Middle tottered into toddlerhood on January 18. They grow up so quickly, these blogs.

Hard to believe that a year ago the only posts in this space were a dictionary entry on medieval race that had already been published elsewhere; an encyclopedia entry on postcolonial theory that had been published elsewhere; the draft of the introduction to my latest book, destined to be published elsewhere. As time went on, though, the posts loosened up, the comments section began to flourish, and the blog slowly took on a life of its own. Today it is a group blog rather than the egomaniacal creation it started as. Personally I've found it wonderful to have such amazing co-writers. Thank you, Eileen and Karl!

On an average day In the Middle entertains about 200 visits. Most of these pilgrims are propelled hither by Google searches. Some examples from today, linked to the pages where the hapless searcher actually landed:
In the Middle is proud to offer its information services to these legions of odd poetry lovers, zoophiles, and people of inscrutable intent. More importantly, however, it is heartening to see how many regular readers this blog has attracted. According to the ActiveMeter reader I installed a long time ago [not that Site Meter / borg cube you see at the bottom of this page], on a given day the blog experiences between fifty and ninety returning visitors. The meter is set not to record repeat visitors, so this isn't all me, Eileen and Karl.

To the reader in St Paul, MN who has searched for "jeffrey jerome cohen blog" each day every day without fail since May of 2006, I'd like to take this opportunity to say HELLO. Also, you may want to look into these things they call bookmarks and RSS readers.

Happy Birthday, In the Middle. May you continue to morph into strange new forms.

Question for the weekend: what have we not done on this blog yet that you would like to see?


The Spirit of Creative Writing said...

Something on Gawain and the Green Knight. That's what I'd like. I just yesterday read Simon Armitige's new translation ... very good, I thought, qua poem, although avowedly loose, in the sense that Armitige riffs freely: which means that it's sometimes kind-of a disappointment to turn from some lovely imagery, like his lines 2000-01:

"But wild looking weather was about in the world/
clouds decanted their cold rain earthwards"

And then to check the original and see what the Gawain-poet actually wrote.

But: I'm a touch surprised that a blog like "In the Middle" has never posted on Gawain and the Green Knight. Or did I miss something?

The Spirit of Creative Writing said...

erm ... no disrespect to Mr Armitige, whoever he be, but I meant: Simon Armitage, of course.

Eileen Joy said...

A conversation about "Gawain and the Green Knight" would be great, I think, but where might we begin? JJC has a chapter in his book, "Of Giants," that deals with the Green Knight, and the students in my seminar on monsters will be reading the chapter, "Three Heroes" [from David Williams's "Deformed Discourse"], which covers Oedipus, Alexander, and Gawain [but we don't get to that for a few more weeks].

And don't think some of us didn't notice, JJC, the distinctly masculine bent of our birthday balloon. I would have preferred a "Hello Kitty" theme, but I can't have everything.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Adam, I'm out of new ideas about SGGK ... anyone want to suggest a point of departure? Is there enough interest to have a New Directions in SGGK Studies thread?

Eileen: for shame! I never realized what a sexist you are. That firetruck balloon was chosen by my almost-three-years old daughter, who adores large machinery of all kinds (construction cranes, garbage trucks, airplanes, boats, Thomas the Tank engine). She also loves fairy princesses and the color pink (or pinkish-purple, to be precise), but monster trucks are definitely up there with kittens and unicorns.

Eileen Joy said...

Oh great, now I'm a sexist. Sheesh. Mea culpa.

Gabriele Campbell said...

Happy Birthday, or Bloggiversary.

Didn't mind the firetruck. I played with boys toys, too. Dolls were boring. Nowadays I research French epics and Roman military history, and fire rifles in my free time. Looks like I stuck with the boys toys. :)

RaeRae said...

personally I would have gone for a dragon but then again I've always been a bit obsessed with them. And not those fluffy things either (you know like the ones from DragonTales) the scarier looking the better... but I digress.

How about something regarding regarding the fae folk? Or vampires and medieval burial rituals?

Anonymous said...

Entries like these - where you ask your readers about themselves - why they became medievalists, what books they recommend etc.

The answers can be illuminating and spark new conversations. Keep the long extracts from your own works, of course. I respond to these less often only because it can be difficult to find the time to read *all* of them with the care they deserve (and then formulate an answer with the care it deserves). I suspect that must be true for many of your readers.

Oh and - happy birthday plus a bit.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Happy Bloggiversary!

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Eileen, you're not a sexist. Let's just say that you have yet to discover the feminine allure of large vehicles.

Thanks for the good wishes everyone, and for the feedback, N50.

Karl Steel said...

I'm also up a dead end vis-a-vis SGGK criticism. My interest is naturally drawn to the hunting scenes, but I think Dinshaw's reading (the threat of men exchanging kisses) doesn't need to be dislodged or revised. Now, if you want something on the Avowyng of Arthur, Adam, just you wait.

As for burial rituals, there's a bit on medieval zombies from Geoffrey of Auxerre's work on the apocalypse that I'm interested in. There's also, from a recent conversation, a post I'd like to do on the differences between preserving food and preserving a corpse.

Oh happy birthday!

RaeRae said...

you know Karl the fact that they were perserved in similar manners... I don't know if my stomach can take going there. And yet my mind is strangely fascinated by the idea.

lil said...

hi....just wanted to congratulate you on your interesting blog....doing some research on frederick rolfe (aka baron corvo) i was delighted to come across an interesting post on your blog and was wondering whether you'd like to take up that subject again. thanks and keep doing such great work.

The Spirit of Creative Writing said...

I'm also up a dead end vis-a-vis SGGK criticism. My interest is naturally drawn to the hunting scenes, but I think Dinshaw's reading (the threat of men exchanging kisses) doesn't need to be dislodged or revised. Now, if you want something on the Avowyng of Arthur, Adam, just you wait.

I'm agog.

Actually, I am. (That might come over as me being sarcastic; but I don't mean to be).

re: Gawain-poet: my problem is that I don't know the field; esp. criticism. (For instance, I don't know whom Grimshaw even is). I've written a short piece on dressing and undressing in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: clothes, flaying off animal skins, beheading-as-undressing, dressing texts up (ie translations as re-dressing) and so on. But for all I know the field of Medieval criticsm has been all over this subject in SGGK. I was thinking, vaguely, of posting what I've written to the Valve, but after getting dragged over the coals for the enormous failings of my Grendel's Glove piece my better judgment tells me I should leave the whole subject of pre-1789 literature alone.

Is there some stuff on dressing/undressing in Gawain I really must read? I feel sure there must be; and it'd be v. helpful to me to know it.

Karl Steel said...

Adam: wow. You know, I don't know. I promise not to do any coal-raking, especially if I get to see your thoughts on this. If you want to do a bit of research before you hurl your ideas at the public, you could do worse (I think: I haven't read it yet) than starting here, Medieval Fabrications: Dress, Textiles, Clothwork, and Other Cultural Imaginings, E. Jane Burns, ed., particularly the Sarah Kay essay, which I've been meaning to read for years: "Flayed Skin as objet a: Representation and Materiality in Guillaume de Deguileville's Pelerinage de la vie humaine."

Anything I say about Carolyn Dinshaw won't do her justice, but the short version is that she's written some very good queer/gender theory stuff on late medieval English lit (Chaucer's Sexual Poetics and Getting Medieval). Here's a nice summary of her famous argument on SGGK in "A Kiss is Just a Kiss: Heterosexuality and Its Consolation in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight," Diacritics 24 (1994): 205-26:

"An influential medievalist named Carolyn Dinshaw has famously asked (and I paraphrase here): What would Gawain have had to give the Host if the Lady had prevailed in her attempts to seduce him? Does thinking about this question make you think about Gawain's contract with the Host in a slightly different way?"

So, yeah, you have my blessing, but this is from someone who's been rather perversely avoiding SGGK in writing his diss., really putting off knowing more about it until he teaches it.

Anonymous said...

adam roberts please DON'T leave SGGK to the pre-1789 crowd. Dinshaw is brilliant - but let's hear what you have to say too.

This kind of cross-period criticism is very mcuh what we need.


(why oh why won't wrtecnehd google sign me in? - or could there be a clue in those typos ... hastily..

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Adam, Dinshaw (or, in your quick typing that I now love, Grimshaw ... boy, I want to change my last name to Grimshaw. And I want to have a Moby Dick loving brother named Scrimshaw Grimshaw) ... anyway, Dinshaw does look at dressing and undressing, dismemberment, and the way in which the poem shows everything to be sutured together (even the Green Knight's axe, his clothing ...) -- and relates all this to the incipient failings of heterosexuality in the poem. The essay is definitely worth reading, probably even worth revisiting here as a larger post ... I'd love to hear your thoughts on the essay, esp. as a non-specialist, and if your thoughts take you anywhere big we can open up the space for a guest post. No coal raking, I promise.

The Spirit of Creative Writing said...

JJC: Dinshaw-schminshaw, whatever her name is; that sounds absolutely spot on; tho' it wasn't the suturing so much as the cloaking, clothing, the whole dress/address thing that struck me on reading the poem. But I'll certainly take a look at her stuff. It'll probably anticipates every thought I've had, and expressed them better than I could.

Karl Steel: as soon as I stop typing here I'm hurrying over to our college library to dig out the Medieval Fabrications book; it looks really interesting.

Guys, both, thank you. And feel free to coalrake to your heart's content, of course. That's, you know, the essence of properly dialectical academic interchange.

And, yes, my typing is a crying shame. In too much of a hurry. That's my problem.

The Spirit of Creative Writing said...

"And, yes, my typing is a crying shame. In too much of a hurry. That's my problem."

And there you go. It's almost as if I'm doing it on purpose. So. For

"It'll probably anticipates every thought I've had..."


"It'll probably anticipate every thought I've had..."