Monday, May 12, 2008

BABEL panel blogged

Check out Meg's impressions of "What is the Place of the Present in Medieval Studies?" at xoom. The moment she speaks about -- when Katharine Jager foregrounded the classroom and pedagogy -- was an important one. Since Jager's departure point was teaching "Monster Culture: Seven Theses" as part of a composition course, I responded by trying to link the comment to an earlier observation made by a historian at the University of Hawaii about intervening into departmental and university culture, and to the conversation without terminus that the BABEL panel aspired to catalyze.

ADDENDUM. My own reaction to the panel is rather mixed. On the one hand it was energizing to be present in a space where disagreement unfolded and so ideas came to matter all the more. On the other, the opening remarks were too inhospitable to and dismissive of the work of the other panelists. They were not well supported nor defended (I thought). I also wish we had had another hour in the room together, because it was the conversation that followed which really seemed to matter. That's why I labeled it the conversation without terminus: it must go on.

ADDENDUM TO THE ADDENDUM. Another mention, by the amazing Dan Remein, who sometimes buys clothes in the same embarrassing place I do.

1 comment:

Katharine Jager said...

I figured I should chime in here, and simply say that the BABEL panel was fascinating. I was glad I came, and I am heartened that my comment seems to resonate.

I have taught the "Monster Culture" essay for several semesters, usually in conjunction with some other monster theorists (Haraway and Young, mainly.) Students are allowed to use whichever theorist they want in order to critically anchor their readings of literature. And the majority choose Cohen. This is after they complain bitterly at first about "how hard" it is! It's a really useful essay because it teaches them how to look at and think through alterity, in ways that are both clear and critical. And it's applicable to both medieval and very contemporary texts. I've read some cool student papers that use Cohen to explore monstrosity in Octavia Butler's science fiction novel Wildseed.

Anyway, I have to use medieval studies in the present of my teaching. If I didn't, I wouldn't be using my training. (And also, I'd be bored to tears.)