Tuesday, August 04, 2009

For Your Summer Reading List: J. Allan Mitchell, Ethics and Eventfulness

by J J Cohen

Today I received via email a TMR installment reviewing Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones' edited collection Authority and Subjugation in Writing of Medieval Wales. I'm a fan of the book (I was one of the press readers, and then I blurbed it). The last line of Robin Chapman Stacey's very positive review struck me:
The New Middle Ages series edited by Bonnie Wheeler has produced some of the most innovative and exciting publications on medieval topics out there on the market today; this volume is a worthy addition to the list.
More evidence on the "innovative and exciting" and front: J. Allan Mitchell's Ethics and Eventfulness in Middle English Literature. I tried to secure a copy at Kalamazoo this year, but was beaten to the last copy. Professor Mitchell was kind enough to send me an autographed copy, and I am just about to lose myself in reading it. Here is the press advertising copy:
Medieval writers were fascinated by fortune and misfortune, yet the critical problems raised by such explorations have not been adequately theorized. Allan Mitchell invites us to consider these contingencies in relation to an “ethics of the event.” His book examines how Middle English writers including Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate, and Malory treat unpredictable events such as sexual attraction, political disaster, social competition, traumatic accidents, and the textual condition itself—locating in fortune the very potentiality of ethical life. While earlier scholarship has detailed the iconography of Lady Fortune, this book alters and advances the conversation so that we see fortune less as a negative exemplum than as a positive sign of radical phenomena.
Mitchell is well read in medieval literature, philosophy, and theory (especially Deleuze and Derrida, from a quick skim). Put it on your reading list as well. We still have two or three weeks til classes begin.

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