Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Burn After Reading: Calling All Hands for Help with BABEL's and postmedieval's 2012 [and Beyond] Kalamazoo Sessions

Figure 1. from Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth


2. Forget About Good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to good you’ll never have real growth.

16. Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.

--from Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth

Paperwork for sessions for the 2012 Kalamazoo Congress on Medieval Studies is due TOMORROW, June 1st, and the BABEL Working Group and postmedieval are keen to have as much input as possible for the description of sessions planned for next year's Congress, and also ideas and suggestions for sessions in the Congresses after 2012 as well. Please also consider this post a kind of "call to arms" for participants: in other words, if you have any interest in speaking on either the BABEL or postmedieval sessions, please send me an email at: ejoy@siue.edu.

To recap from our business meeting at the most recent Congress just a couple of weeks ago, we have in mind for the two BABEL sessions two inter-linking roundtables, with ten participants in each [each of whom would have approx. 5-6 minutes to speak], organized under these two rubrics:

"Fuck This: On Finally Letting Go"

"Fuck Me: On Never Letting Go"

Our ideas, at present [based on conversations at Kalamazoo and elsewhere], for each of these sessions is very loose and looks something like this: participants on the "Fuck This" panel would explore the concept, situation, trauma, dilemma, efficacy, scene, action, cost, gain, psycho-dynamics, historicity, etc. of finally leaving, getting rid of, abandoning, refusing, dumping, and letting go of what might be called [potentially toxic] "love-objects," with "love-objects" here denoting ANY possible object: ideological, methodological, textual, art historical, codicological, artifactual, historical, archival, literary, disciplinary, etc. More specifically, the remarks could be pitched toward disciplinary/methodological/historical/geotemporal objects ["fuck philology" or "fuck deconstruction" or "fuck the Middle Ages" or "fuck Chaucer" or "fuck the humanities"], or they could be aimed at specific SCENES within medieval and other texts that illustrate in certain striking ways the concepts, gestures, acts and scenes of "finally letting go" of the [toxic] love-object. Or they could do both, or they could do something we haven't even though of yet. Participants on the "Fuck Me" session would also have wide leeway to explore the concept, situation, trauma, dilemma, scene, etc. of NOT being able to ever let go of the [potentially toxic] love-object, which love-object, again, could be a text, an author, a methodology, an artwork, etc. Or the remarks, again, could be aimed at specific SCENES within medieval and other texts that illustrate in useful ways the situation, or dilemma, of never being able to "let go" of the love-object.

Ultimately, we would like to collectively explore two extreme, affective gestures, if you will--that of letting go and refusing something that one has, for a long while, considered a "beloved" [perhaps even a so-called "toxic" beloved] and also of never being able to let go of a "beloved," especially one that we might say "isn't good for you." A subset of our interest here might also be to explore what some would call "dark attraction" and "dark attractors." How do certain things, objects, practices, persons [fictional and otherwise], places, etc. both call to us with a certain allure yet also lead us astray, dominate us, harm us, ruin us, etc.? But what are we missing here, too? We would be most appreciative if everyone could jump in here and add further thoughts relative to the description of these two sessions, which we could then work into the final paperwork and also into our more broad Call for Papers.

As regards our one postmedieval session, we have in mind a kind of rowdy roundtable, this time with 20 participants [each of whom would have approx. 3 minutes], titled--

"Burn After Reading: 20 Miniature Manifestos for a Future Medieval Studies"

--where we would invite ANYONE who is so inclined to offer a brief precis of a possibly fruitful future direction for medieval studies. How might we flesh out a more full description of this session, and what would you like to see addressed in the description of such a session? [And speaking of manifestos, we really like Bruce Mau's Incomplete Manifesto for Growth, from which we clipped an excerpt in our image above.]

Finally, in our meeting at Kalamazoo, we had other suggestions for future sessions: "Cleavage: Into The Breach" [inspired by China Mieville's novel The City and the City]; "Exquisite Corpse," where 10 or so participants would add to a composition in sequence by following a question [e.g. "What is the usefulness of the term medieval in the present?"] and also by being allowed to see the end of what the previous person contributed [this collaborative composition would be written ahead of the Congress and "performed" collaboratively at the Congress as one long narrative]; "Tantrum," where 10 or so participants would get up and rant and rave about ... whatever; and "What Is Diversity in the Middle Ages?"

And so I also finally ask: what other suggestions does everyone have for future BABEL and postmedieval sessions? We would very much like for our session planning to be as collective a process as possible, so by all means, please pitch in. And you can't possibly hurt our feelings either if you think the sessions described above suck. Just tell us what you think!


Curt Emanuel said...

I have no suggestions though I want to say that to date I've not attended any BABEL sessions. Based on this description I'm thinking these may be too interesting to pass up.

Though I may have a shot at a "Fuck Augustine" post on my blog.

ASM said...

Love it. Will someone be giving a Fuck In the Middle reading? (It is one of my sources of guilt -- never the time to read enough of it, or of all the other things I need/want to read!)

And some folks and I are in, I think, for your Manifestival.


Elaine Treharne said...

Love the 'Fuck this, fuck me' sessions! For ten years, I've been saying 'Fuck me! Fuck this game of soldiers' to the imperialist agenda of the old school 'If you don't write about the things we write about, you are not worthy'. Late Anglo-Saxon scholarship is still being driven by the literalists, the textualists, the we-can't-hear-you-unless-you-do-as-we-do school, when there is so much more to be said, so many silenced vernacular voices from 1000-2011 who need to be heard.

Eileen Joy said...

Please, Asa: sign on for "Fuck In The Middle"--that would be great. And email with any specific requests, of course, to be in specific panels.

ET: you echo many of my own thoughts on work in A-S studies.

Eileen Joy said...

And here's another idea I had based on something I read on Chris Piuma's Facebook wall: a whole session geared around manifesto *abstracts*: no papers, just abstracts. Which also brings me to another idea I've had for a while: a session where we give away ideas for articles and books we've given up on ourselves: like, god, I'm so sick of trying to make this work, or I ran out of time, so now YOU try it.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

Which also brings me to another idea I've had for a while: a session where we give away ideas for articles and books we've given up on ourselves: like, god, I'm so sick of trying to make this work, or I ran out of time, so now YOU try it.

Good gods I can't believe that anyone would be that low energy. I publish every piece of crap that springs from one of my neurons. How can you suggest something so slacker-like, Eileen?

Eileen Joy said...

Jeffrey Cohen, you bastard, you know I'm all ideas and no work whereas you're ALL work and NO ideas. We made that bargain with the devil a long time ago.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

The problem with the devil is that he never lives up to his bargains, though.

I can't imagine what it is like to possess neither inspiration nor energy. My heart goes out.

dkline said...

FMe, FThis, FML - I've got *three* children graduating next May, all at different times and from different institutions, and probably won't be at K'zoo next year for this effing-epic series of sessions, though my back is well and I should be past shoulder surgery. Any tele-effing in the offing, perhaps? That'd be a neato innovation.

I gotta say though that these are *exactly* the right sessions for this time in the profession, and the twenty-person ro-diddlio is gonna be a blast!

Gods, I'm pounding my head at the timing already!

dkline said...

Oh, and the giving up ideas we've given up on: pure genius. We also discussed outing crap reader reviews, maybe on t-shirts?, a couple of years ago, didn't we?

Eileen Joy said...

Oh DAN: we're going to miss you ... AGAIN??!!?? Don't worry: all of these sessions will be audio- and/or videocast, for sure.

Jeffrey: I HAVE inspiration, just no energy. But not being a narcissist control freak like you, I just let it go.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

If you say so Eileen but the fact that you just called me on the phone -- from France! -- to ask me how to respond to my last comment makes me suspect otherwise.

(OK I'll stop: these are brilliant -- and inspired!! -- suggestions)

Kristin said...

I've got some incoherent thoughts, partly prompted by the Anglo-Saxonist comments above. (And I totally am in favor of Cleavage as a session topic, in all three possible meanings. Another China Mieville book that could be a great session topic: The Scar...) So I was looking at Neil Gaiman's three retellings of Beowulf (film, poem, novella) and realizing: in all of them, the hero/Beowulf figure fucks a "monster", or at least something inhuman--real literal desire for the monstrous, inserted into postmodern retellings of the medieval. In some ways it's "fuck the past/original text, I'm gonna change things" and in some ways it's "yes, let's literalize our desire for the monsters of the past! with lots of sex!" And also probably some commentary on genre, as Gaiman's now rewritten Beowulf in three different forms that I know of, and associated the poem with postmodern fantasy. Sorry if that was a bit incoherent; I'm grading student papers...

Chris said...

The manifesto idea: WE SO EXCITED!

(But yes: I was thinking about the abstract as the manifesto, the paper as the society that results from the manifesto's agitators: how often it fails to be made manifest. But also about how abstracts for this manifesto session would be as long as the manifestos themselves!)

Anonymous said...

Just a random thought about peevish Kzoo censors: if they're unhappy with the language, can't we argue that it's a medieval word? Someone who knows more about language than I can surely come up with some evidence, or whatever...


Anonymous said...

If I can go at all, I'm going to these :-) If they happen, which they should. I probably can't offer anything because if I go it will probably be with my usual save-the-Carolingianists mission, but I want to be at these anyway.

Karl Steel said...

I wonder if I could give one in absentia, or in my voice, or as a ghost? Fuck authenticity, fuck presence, fuck being myself: because I won't be at Kzoo12...since I'll be in Paris for a big chunk of next year.

Think about beaming me in somehow.