Thursday, October 2, 2008

SEMA Bound

The overnight bag is nearly packed, and final touches are being put on my paper. My flight to St. Louis leaves Austin at 6am, so I should touch down (after a brief stop in DFW) around 9:30, at which point I'm making my way directly to the St. Louis University campus' Busch Student Center. I'm sad to have had to miss the first day of the conference, but I'm excited to get there tomorrow and connect with so many interesting folks! I'm particularly excited for the panels on "Eros and Phenomenology," that also feature a response by Amy Hollywood. I'm the first paper in my Saturday panel, which is also the only paper on Patience while the other three are on Pearl. Below is the abstract for paper. The argument remains the same, but I'm also taking this opportunity to try out a few theoretical ideas about the phenomenologies of urban flesh and prayer. See ya'll at SEMA in St. Louis!

Abstract: "Beating the Bounds": Reading Patience Liturgically
This paper builds on and extends the recent efforts of Bruce Holsinger and Katherine Zieman to examine, in Holsinger’s words, the “dynamic and dynamically changing” affiliations between liturgical cultures and vernacular writing by suggesting an alternative scenography for reading the Middle English Patience. Whereas much existing scholarship contexualizes the poem’s didacticism as sermonic exempla, this paper resituates the poem within the liturgical context of Rogationtide.

Celebrated immediately before and leading into Ascension Thursday, Rogationtide consisted of three days of pageantry and penitence amidst Easter joy and springtime harvest. Drawing on original archival research, this paper links Patience and Rogationtide in two ways. First, both poem and ritual share a body politics: just as Patience’s Jonah travels around the biblical world to escape his prophetic calling only to reveal the all-embracing reach of divine power, so too the participants of Rogationtide circumambulate their cities in processions to mark out, like dogs, their territory for divine favor and protection. In both cases, the body is more than its limbs and organs, registering its permeability by way of technology, social structures, and ritual prostheses. Here, prophet, people, and place flow into each other. Second, there is a structural correlation at the level of poetics between Rogationtide and Patience. Not only does the prophet Jonah figure prominently in each, but just as the poem retells and elaborates its biblical source, so too does Rogationtide’s longest and most ornate processional chant, Timor et tremor, trope Jonah’s story.

Reading Patience within the scenography of Rogationtide reveals a multidirectional pedagogical discourse between vernacular and liturgical cultures.

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