♦ Allen, Valerie J. “Broken Air.” Exemplaria, vol. 16, no. 2, 2004, pp. 305-322, 10.1179/exm.2004.16.2.305.
Allen performs an analysis of how violence is manifested through sound in several different areas: “grammatical noise,” music, and marriage. First, she relays Priscian’s categorization of speech and sound, ranging from what is deemed acceptable and intelligible and what is not, to what is intelligible but cannot be textually recorded, such as groaning. She then articulates that “it is not silence that is the other of sound, but noise” (311), which applies to music in the form of dissonance and to marriage in the form of auditory extimacy. Underpinning Allen’s article is her use of Priscian’s categories to assert that meaningless “voice-noise” is violent. “Sound that violates rational discourse” (310), exemplified by the nonsensical sounds uttered by demons in Dante’s Inferno, is seen to be a rejection of rationality and an affront to the natural.
♦ Bahr, Arthur and Alexandra Gillespie. “Medieval English Manuscripts: Form, Aesthetics, and the Literary Text.” The Chaucer Review, vol. 47, 2013, pp. 346‑360, http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5325/chaucerrev.47.4.0346.
In their introduction to this volume of The Chaucer Review, Bahr and Gillespie investigate the relationships between studies of medieval literature, form, and aesthetics, querying, “What can manuscript scholars offer to a field of literary studies revitalized by aesthetic theory? And what, in turn, might formally inclined literary critics to offer to students of books?” (349). They demonstrate the benefits to book historians of embracing new formalism while cautioning against equating the materiality of a text with merely the physicality of a book, rather than encapsulating both its physical and ideal forms. Bahr and Gillespie ultimately articulate that form has multitudinous and pluralistic meanings that require interpretation.
♦ Bull, Marcus. “What are the Middle Ages.” Thinking Medieval. An Introduction to the Study of the Middle Ages (London: Palgrave, 2005) 42-61.
Bull dissects the connotations of the label “Middle Ages’ and its effects on periodization. Bull proposes that the term ‘medieval’ is too loaded a term, conjuring images and assumptions of a time period that never really existed. Instead, Bull proposes that perhaps the fallacy of linear history should be abandoned altogether for an overlapping and contradictory view that takes temporality and pluriversity into account. Bull’s article is useful in that it offers a critique of how periodization can propagate a myth of progress that separates history from the current temporal moment.
♦ Cartlidge, Neil. “Ripples on the Water?: The Acoustics of Geoffrey Chaucer’s House of Fame and the Influence of Robert Holcot.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 39, 2017, pp. 57-98, 10.1353/sac.2017.0049.
Cartlidge examines the theories of sound evident in Chaucer’s House of Fame, focusing on the eagle’s speech to the dreamer about acoustics. He explicates the speech’s theoretical underpinnings and identifies the presence of Aristotelian theories, such as the notion that all objects will inevitably travel to their natural position and the assertion that the matter sound consists of is air. He acknowledges that these ideas likely would have been drawn from the works of Boethius, Macrobius, and Vincent of Beauvais, but posits the theory that Chaucer’s understanding of acoustics was influenced by Robert Holcot, a Dominican friar. This idea is supported by evidence of parallels in Holcot’s writings and the House of Fame; Holcot employs the same analogy of ripples in water and in describing it uses the words “cause” and “multiplication,” both of which Chaucer emphasizes in the eagle’s speech. Further demonstrating Holcot’s possible influence, Cartlidge notes that this language is not present in the works of Chaucer’s other sources.
♦ Chaganti, Seeta. “Vestigial Signs: Inscription, Performance, and The Dream of the Rood.” PMLA, vol. 125, no. 1, 2010, pp. 48-72, http://www.jstor.org/stable/25614436.
Chaganti explores the relationship between early medieval inscriptions and the material surfaces on which they are inscribed, with specific focus on The Dream of the Rood, surviving in the Vercelli Book and on the Ruthwell and Brussels crosses. She examines what is signalled by the materiality of both crosses, then moves to an analysis of the poem itself and its interaction with spatiality. While the Brussels cross bears an inscription regarding its construction, providing a material demarcation of its identity, the Ruthwell monument’s inscriptions are connected to the performance of religious devotion. Chaganti states that the three iterations of the poem do not need to be read through a temporal chronology and should rather be regarded as “each existing both inside and outside the time of the others” (51).
♦ Dinshaw, Carolyn. “Getting Medieval: Pulp Fiction, Gawain, Foucault.” The Book and the Body, edited by Dolores Warwick Frese and Katherine O’Brien OKeefe, U of Notre Dame P.,1997, pp. 116-163.
Dinshaw’s scholarship on temporality is key to discussions of medieval memorialization. Dinshaw contrasts the film Pulp Fiction with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Dinshaw problematizes Pulp Fiction’s use of the word “medieval” which in context infers torture and violence. For Dinshaw, time should be spent considering what the definition of medieval is in this context, and why so often ‘medieval’ is meant to signify ‘violent.’ Dinshaw’s points about the medieval being synonymous with brutality are key in understanding how the medieval is contextualized in pop-culture products as well as in the cultural memory.
♦ Eco, Umberto. “The Return of the Middle Ages” Travels in Hyperreality. Harcourt, 1986.
Eco’s “The Return of the Middle Ages” is a seminal piece of criticism that attempts to understand the place of medievalisms in culture. Eco makes the essential point that the ‘dreaming’ of the Middle Ages began when society became ‘modern’ and Europe was gripped with nostalgia for a past as it never was (66). Crucially, Eco is also very clear that the medievalisms (or ‘little Middle Ages,’ as he refers to them) are constantly reinvented to serve the purpose of different periods of time; as such, the medieval is being reworked, remoulded and remade all the time. As such, Eco hypothesizes ‘Ten Little Middle Ages’ that describe the varying dreams of the medieval that culture and individuals have. They range from looking at the Middle Ages as a site of ‘ironical revisitation’ to the ‘barbaric.’ For Eco, it is of great importance that people “[spell] out what kind of Middle Ages we are talking about” (72) in order to be clear about expectations and assumptions about the specific type of Middle Ages.
♦ Evans, Ruth. “Chaucer in Cyberspace: Medieval Technologies of Memory and The House of Fame.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 23, 2001, pp. 43-69, doi.org/10.1353/sac.2001.0022.
Evans’ article is concerned with how memory and archival processes operate within and are integral to Chaucer’s House of Fame, while being simultaneously invested in deconstructing the problematic memorialization of the medieval. Of particular interest is Chaucer’s poetic examination of “auctoritas, a socially situated form of cultural memory” (55), and Fame, who “represents the instability of the archive, its origins in confusion and destruction” (57). She examines how texts and technology function in processes of memorialization in both medieval and post-medieval contexts, and cautions against viewing memory as antithetical to writing or history (49).
♦ Geary, Patrick. “Sacred Commodities: The Circulation of Medieval Relics.” The Social Life of Things: Commodities in Cultural Perspective, edited by Arjun Appadurai, Cambridge University Press, 1986, pp. 169–91.
Geary analyzes medieval relics, delineating saints’ remains as commodities due to their being exchanged and circulated by the same means as any other commodity from 750 to 1150 in the Latin West. He examines the various modes of circulation—theft, gift, exchange, and sale—and the cultural contexts in which they existed. Geary also explicates the value placed on saints’ remains by demonstrating how value was assigned to living saints and their bodies following death, as corpses of saints were seen to signify their material connection to the earth and its inhabitants.
♦ Kramnick, Jonathan. “Presence of Mind.” Paper Minds: Literature and the Ecology of Consciousness. UofChicagoP, 2018.
Kramnick asserts that contemporary theories of perception emerged in the eighteenth century, tracing various thinkers’ problematizing of perception, their anxieties about the accuracy of perception, and their rumination on how humans perceive three-dimensional space. Most pertinent to Kramnick’s article is how writers and literary form in the eighteenth century explore these ideas and put forth perceptual theories. Kramnick details ideas like that of Hume, who posits that the mind produces or represents intermediary images between the object and mind, and Berkeley who “says that depth perception combines ideas of sight with those of touch, [while] Addison says that seeing is a form of touching” (62). Once he has sufficiently explicated these eighteenth-century theories of perception, Kramnick explores “topographical [and] locodescriptive poetry” (62) of the same period and its ability to prompt readers to follow sightlines, to immediately visualize a conceptualized world, and to imagine touching features without physically doing so. In this way, he effectively asserts that “the formal theory of perceptual presence lagged behind its literary antecedents” (66).
♦ “Medieval era was more diverse—and less violent—than Game of Thrones would have you believe, says expert.” CBC Radio One, from CBC Radio, May 20 2019.
This podcast episode delves into Game of Thrones’ final episode and offers critique from four panellists from a variety of backgrounds, including Dr. Kavita Mudan Finn, a medievalist scholar. This podcast is useful in its articulation of the problematic way that George R.R. Martin and the show portray the medieval period—as violent and white—and how it distorts perceptions of the medieval. As Mudan Finn states, “what George R.R. Martin has done is taken certain events that happened over periods of decades, even centuries, and then squashed them together so that it looks like these things happen over and over again.”As Mudan Finn articulates, it is more of a ‘refraction’ of the medieval than a ‘reflection’ of the medieval. Although focused primarily on Game of Thrones, this podcast is applicable to other pop-culture products as well as a general discussion of medievalisms in relation to cultural memory, making it a useful entry in the MMMP.
♦ Pugh, Tyson & Weisl, Angela Jane. “Medievalism: The Magic of the Middle Ages”Medievalism: Making the Past in the Present (Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge, 2013.
Pugh and Weisl’s article examines medievalisms and how they are utilized in order to comment on the contemporary moment. As Pugh and Weisl explain, the ‘magic’ of the Middle Ages is that it is inherently a construct, a fallacy, born out of the Renaissance to “establish a break with the past” (1). Indeed, medievalism is an innately nostalgic endeavour and as Pugh and Weisl negotiate, its effects can propel a reimagined nationalism that believes in an inherent wildness and violence in the Middle Ages that may not have existed at all. Pugh and Weisl’s article exemplifies the fundamental connection between medievalisms and cultural memory, and is easily applicable to a variety of intellectual inquiry.
♦ Robertson, Kellie. “Medieval Materialism: A Manifesto.” Exemplaria, vol. 22, no. 2, 2010, pp. 99-118, 10.1179/104125710X12670926011996.
Robertson problematizes periodization by calling into question the “rupture narrative” that has precluded medieval conceptions of matter from the genealogy of materialism. Following the Enlightenment, medieval views of matter and form have continually been conflated with physicality and denounced as pantheistic. She traces the absences in materialism’s history, drawing attention to the Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosophies circulated and debated in the Middle Ages. Robertson urges readers to acknowledge the temporal gaps in materialism and to fill those gaps by considering medieval material debates. The presence of such debates is proven when Robertson examines Chaucer’s The Legend of Good Women and Gower’s Confessio Amantis, which invoke Aristotelian and Neoplatonic notions of matter and form, respectively. The texts’ engagement with matter demonstrates the complex and varied perspectives of matter in medieval literature, thus further destabilizing the reductive treatment of medieval materialism.
♦ Robertson, Kellie. “Medieval Things: Materiality, Historicism, and the Premodern Object.” Literature Compass, vol. 5, no. 6, 2008, pp. 1060–1080, https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-4113.2008.00588.x.
Robertson seeks to contest the theoretical emphasis on subjectivity in the Middle Ages, asserting instead that objects are assigned agency in medieval literature. She argues that by viewing premodern objects in this way we can study how “objects shape human perceptions and knowledges rather than being merely shaped by them” (1075). By surveying thing theory and tracing theories of materiality, Robertson effectively continues the project of dismantling the perspective that the subject-object relationship emerged with the Renaissance. She invokes Bruno Latour’s conception of a premodern world with a permeable border between humans and things to ground her subversion of the post-Enlightenment idea that there is a hierarchy of subjects and inactive objects. To further investigate the functions of things and their effects on human perceptions, Robertson analyzes a series of objects in medieval literature: Arthurian furniture, Griselda’s clothing in The Clerk’s Tale, and the Merchant’s hat in The General Prologue. She concludes that these objects serve to communicate more than just the subjects with which they are associated.
♦ Sturtevant, Paul B. “Who Won the Game of Thrones?” The Public Medievalist.https://www.publicmedievalist.com/who-won-game-of-thrones/. Accessed May 31 2019.
Sturtevant’s analysis of Game of Thrones’ final episode critiques the show’s view of history. As Sturtevant points out, “nations [are] built by stories” (1) and therefore Game of Thrones’ conclusion illustrates how history (therefore, story) is manipulated, remade and reworked. Memorialization is reliant upon what is being chosen to be remembered and what is being chosen to forget, illustrating how ‘history’ is repeatedly violently editorialized, thus never remaining static. Sturtevant analysis gestures to the existence of a pluriverse of history, in which truth contains a level of flexibility and reliant on perspective. Although this article’s primary concern is with Game of Thrones, Sturvevants analysis lends itself well to the conversation of medieval memorialization as a whole.