Sunday, August 19, 2007

Writing, Race, and the English Nation Redux

I am offering an M.A.-level seminar this semester on "Writing, Race, and the English Nation," which I have somewhat shamelessly ripped off from Jeffrey [see here], while also adding some idiosyncratic "adjustments" of my own. Thanks to our conversations on Heather Blurton's book, Cannibalism in High Medieval Literature, our always ongoing discussions regarding race in the Middle Ages, "Englishness," body- and animal-becomings, humanisms and inhumanisms, as well as inter-temporality, I'm hoping I've crafted a syllabus that reflects the fruit of such conversations and the generosity of the contributors to this blog. And as always, I'm open to suggestions for revision [there are some glaring omissions, I know, but . . . . don't slap me too hard]. The syllabus may be accessed here.


Karl Steel said...

Slapping? No way. Looks like a great class (and one, frankly, that I'd love to take: it's so much easier to take a clas than to plan one: but it looks as though both of us will be teaching the same Gerald of Wales text and the Song of Roland, next semester. What fun!).

You're having the Jewish stuff happen when you're at a conference? Maybe I can suggest one more small text, from Oderic Vitalis, here from my notes on Mary Stroll's The Jewish Pope:

"We have 'racial' language being uesd against Anaclet's brother Gratianus who was a hostage and released to Calixtus II during the Council of Rheims in 1119. "The French and others attending the pope noted his dark, but pallid coloring, and said that he looked more like a Jew or a Saracen than a Christian. They observed that he was dressed beautifully, but that his body was deformed, and they expressed their dislike for his father, who, they claimed, had accumulated his riches through usury" (167): from Chibnall, Ecclesiastic History, vol. 6, 266-68 " 'Filium quoque Petri Leonis, quem obsidem habebat [Archbishop of Cologne] ob amoris specimen gratis reddidit. Haec dicens, quasi ob insigne tripudium laetiamque mirabilem, digito monstravit nigrum et pallidum adolescentem, magis Judaeo vel Agareno quam christiano similem, uestibus quidem optimis indutum, sed corpore deformen. Quem Franci, aliique plures papae adsistentem intuentes, deriserunt, eique dedecus perniciemque citam imprecati sunt, propter odium patris ipsius, quem nequissimum foeneratorem nouerunt" (qtd 167 n44). Disputes Chibnall's efforts to mitigate, excuse, or deny Oderic's anti-Semitism 168 n44 cont."

Mary Kate Hurley said...

Nothing to add, subtract or otherwise alter -- but if I may make an observation: when I am finally finished with my endless exams (almost to the two week mark), the beginning of my reading for my dissertation prospectus (eek) will be comprised almost entirely of things on the syllabi you and Jeffrey put together. (Thank you!!!)

Looks like a fantastic course, Eileen. Wish I could take it! I'm particularly excited you're having them watch King Arthur. When the movie first came out I did some digging into the work of the historical adviser on the film, Linda Malcor. Fascinating theories about the Sarmatian origins of Arthur (assuming I'm not mis-remembering).

Anonymous said...

a supposedly homogeneous nation called "England" (which is now Great Britain) emerged in the Middle Ages out of a long struggle to define itself (through myth, the law, war, education, and other means) against a variety of Others: the Romans, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Picts, Danes, Jews, Normans, and Saracens (Muslims), and also against the "barbarian," the "monstrous," the "feminine," and the "queer."

Just a gentle tap, Eileen, but England is not Great Britain and never has been.

To your list of Others, I would add the 'Local' - both now and in the middle ages local idioms, communities, families, languages, dialects and markets provided some of the greatest barriers to the vaguenesses of Englishness. (Your students might need reminding that London is not England either, and still more never has been). And a consideration of the local might also need something on 'class'? How 'English' is a churl, a serf, or a shipman?.

Incidentally I was reading on the plane last night that a recent poll suggests that most Scots both think independence is inevitable and that they do not want it. Perhaps you could place that apparent popular rejection of the insistence on nationalism (as an irrelevance?), against the Hollywood version of Braveheart with its blind belief in the virtues of nationalism? I suppose what I am getting at is can you get your students to question not only how Englishness was made but whether it ever was made at all?

Eileen Joy said...

Oops, srj--making correction as we speak, and also adding "local" to my "Others": great suggestion. Americans can be really stupid sometimes, huh?