And it's out! "The Animal Turn," edited by Peggy McCracken and yours truly, with an introduction by Cary Wolfe (our non-medievalist, most recently author of What is Posthumanism?), essays by Sarah Kay, Peter Travis, Gary Lim, Susan Crane, an epilogue by the editors, and a book review essay by Sarah Stanbury. The cover's by Margaret Inga Wiatrowski, about whose work I have brief things to say, here.
Pause here to join me in cheering for my co-editor Peggy McCracken, a perfect co-laborer, -investigator, -writer, and -thinker!
Through the end of March (2011), you may download the essays for free. We hope of course that your institution will subscribe to postmedieval; just as strongly, we (where we = Peggy and me and I presume the issue's assembled participants) hope that "The Animal Turn" finds its way into your syllabuses.
Topics covered include (SPOILER alert?):
- from Cary Wolfe, an intellectual biography of posthumanism (which, Wolfe stresses, is "not posthumanism in the sense of that which is posthuman, that which transcends or escapes the bounds of the human) but rather in the sense of that which is posthumanist" (2), a challenge to the ethics of Actor-Network theory, and then a set of VERY generous interactions with our essays, multiplying their contacts with a host of philosophical, ethical, ethological, and political concerns, so much so that Wolfe, originally meant to be our epilogue, agreed to be where he should: the introduction, the opener;
- from Sarah Kay: flaying fantasies and the organic materiality of parchment, with discussions of the Boucher d’Abbeville, Ysengrimus, this foliated flock (online image in color!), and the multiple ovine technologies of Sedulius Scottus’s ‘Gloria nostra redit', throughout variously inspired by Didier Anzieu and the concept of 'faciliality' (visagéité) from A Thousand Plateaus. Kay asks "do texts written on parchment give readers the sense of having an animal skin? What kind of uncanny effects arise from feeling oneself momentarily thrown into, or face to face with, an animal skin?";
- from Peter Travis: the "gritty bildungsroman" of the brutish, enslaved, sometimes homo alalus Aesop--an embodiment of l'animot (41)--uncanny metaphors (and animetaphors) and the pig and ox tongues Aesop serves to philosophers: "As tongue touches lips, tongue touches tongue, tongue touches teeth, and one is masticated and engorged by the other, this indeed is a dinner, as one of the philosophers neatly puts it, that is ‘ful of philosophye’" (43);
- from Gary Lim: the horse Arondel's frustration of exchange of the equine object in Bevis of Hampton; refusing to be an object, Arondel repeatedly asserts his role as a feudal subject and as Bevis's companion, while Bevis often decides to risk it all for his horse. Lim elucidates how "the romance fantasizes a cross-species interaction between Bevis and Arondel that uses the language of fealty to approximate a more complex form of reciprocity that emerges out of the ambivalences of inter-species communication";
- from Susan Crane: the prosthetic selfhood of medieval chivalry, with readings of Perceval and The Squire's Tale, which discovers a distributed techno-organic premodern chivalric subject by design not transcending the animal but rather spread across horse and tackle and armor. Here Crane discovers that "the knight’s interpenetrated self does not participate in modernity’s privileging of a self free from all material constraints and dependencies" (84);
- from Peggy and me: the fish-knights of Perceforest, extending the previous essays' interest in ethics, prosthesis, and carnivorousness, with a concluding foray into the New Thalessology (see Steve Mentz, Bottom of Shakespeare's Ocean [101-112] and the strangeness of fish, first broached by me here);
- and finally from Sarah Stanbury: starting with Yvain's lion, leonine and hermeneutically multiple, yet also a lion, untamed by figuration, where "If we read the lion as sign, that is in part because we do not know what to do with it as a beast that walks by itself" (104), with readings of Matthew Calarco, Jacques Derrida, Donna Haraway, and a set of medievalists including Bruce Holsinger, Aleksander Pluskowski, Brigitte Resl, Elizabeth Eva Leach, our own Jeffrey, and me.
I couldn't be prouder of this issue. Do us the honor of teaching it!