How do we *read* material?
Though this wasn't strictly a "materialism" session, the session on 25 years of Carolyn Dinshaw's Chaucer's Sexual Poetics, hit on a number of themes that are at stake in the many discourses of feminist and queer materialisms, so I include parts of this discussion in the Day 1 round up.
Session 9 Carolyn Dinshaw's Chaucer's Sexual Poetics, 1990-2015
Organized for the BABEL Working Group by Bruce Holsinger and Rita Copeland
The panel consisted of six papers and a response by Dinshaw herself. Unfortunately, I took so much time signing onto tsunami that I have no tweets from Steve Kruger's "Hermeneutics of Autobiography."
Emma Solberg was up next on "Glosynge Is a Glorious Thynge."
Then, Myra Seaman in "The Tex(t)ual Body" tells us of her own autobiographical conversion to both medieval studies and queer approaches when reading CSP in graduate school.
That is, what is the role of the medieval material text in our studies of medieval texts and materiality?
Nicholas Watson was up next to discuss "Materna Lingua." He began his paper with "seven words:" "Go Queer Scholars. Go Julian of Norwich." His paper was essentially a plea that we turn to Julian with the same queer eye as we have used to understand Margery, though he politely excuses himself from this work, leaving it to others who are better queer thinkers (his gloss, not my judgement of Watson!).
Lynn Shutters, then divulges her own recursive autobiographical encounter with CSP via her memory of Carolyn as a dissertation advisor who told a tale of CSP making its way in the academic world. Shutters says, when she asked Carolyn about Chaucer's Sexual Poetics, Carolyn returns with a typically humble response of, "well, it got me tenure."
What is more, Shutters says Dinshaw used the difficulty of writing the unruly part of her (Shutters') dissertation to say that not all chapters need to be tamed. Indeed, Dinshaw recently told me this same story in her affice on Cooper Square, where I was bemoaning a particularly unruly chapter of my own. She said that she had a chapter of her dissertation that would not obey either, and that chapter became Chaucer's Sexual Poetics. The moral of the story: sometimes a struggle is productive, and also a dissertation is just a dissertation.
Which brings us back to Shutters' point: where are we, medieval, feminist, queer scholars in the larger field now?