"Queerness works by contiguity and displacement, knocking signifiers loose, ungrounding bodies, making them strange; it works in this way to provoke perceptual shifts and subsequent corporeal response in those touched ... It makes people stop and look at what they have been taking as natural, and it provokes inquiry into the ways that 'natural' has been produced by particular discursive matrices of heteronormativity. ("Chaucer's Queer Touches / A Queer Touches Chaucer" 76-77)"
Following on from JJC's transgenic bunnies and the touch of the queer, I have just returned from Leeds (the home of the International Medieval Congress) where I was attending a conference devoted to Jacques Derrida's On Touching-Jean-Luc Nancy called The Future Matters: Apropos of Derrida's Touching on the Technology of the Senses to come in a Post-Global Horizon. Oddly, there was no mention of the Middle Ages (or medieval scholarship on touch) despite Derrida's critique of what he calls haptocentrism in the phenomenological tradition which touches, in Tangent number V, on the concept of the flesh and touch in Christianity (winding through Didier Franck and Jean-Louis Chretien). The strangely baroque figure of the touch or kiss of the eyes which Derrida mobilizes in this book would also seem far less strange to readers of Medieval Literature. This amazingly dense and extravagant book (a kind of sequel to Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology and Speech and Phenomena) sees Derrida doing a lot of palintropic turning back (to Aristotle, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Levinas) so I'm wondering if anyone at ITM has thought about how On Touching might be a resource for Medievalists (I'm thinking of SIr Gawain and the Green Knight, Troilus and Criseyde, or The Pardoner's Tale as obvious touchstones) turning to the critique of "humanualism".
I would also take this opportunity to mention that we have recently lost Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean Baudrillard and to mourn their passing. It seems Nancy, who should have died in the early 1990s, will survive them all.