Monday, April 13, 2009

In Memoriam: Eve Kosofsky Sedwick (1950-2009)


It is with profound sadness that I write to say that the influential literary critic and queer theorist Eve Kosofsky Sedwick has died after al long battle with cancer. She had been earlier diagnosed with cancer in 1991, and put her struggles into the poetic prose of A Dialogue on Love. This relentless disease has taken one of our most gifted and passionate critics far too soon.

As I mourn the loss of so singular an intellectual, I find myself pondering a curious experience I had only minutes before returning to my hotel in New York City. I had visited The Strand bookstore, where among the many millions of items, I came across a copy of Jonathon Goldberg's Sodometries: Renaissance Texts, Modern Sexualities. Although I ultimately decided not to purchase the volume, I remember Goldberg's dedication reading simply, "For Eve Sedgwick..."

There have been two blog posts so far commenting on her passing here, here, here, here and here. The GLBT magazine The Advocate ran this, and The Nation has run an elegant and substantial piece. The New Yorker ran this obit. I will try to add further links when they become available.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Glossing Toward New York

Well, I'm packing and otherwise preparing to leave for NYC to present at the "Glossing Is Glorious" Conference, organized by Nicola Masciandaro and held at the CUNY Graduate School. I present on Thursday afternoon. I already posted the information for my paper. After much re-working, I finally opted for an organizational structure recursively formed around three theses. In doing this, I'm taking formal inspiration from Paul Strohm's wonderful "What Can We Know about Chaucer that He Didn’t Know about Himself?," a chapter in his Theory and the Predmodern Text (pp. 165-81). I say "resursively," because I intentionally return to a series of issues in my treatment of Gower's manuscript and printed text. I plan on posting an excerpt (or perhaps the entire thing) after the conference, but for now here are the three theses I'm using as organizational rubrics:

  1. Ontology is always already prior to semiosis.
  2. Morphologies of possession exist within technological fields of thought.
  3. A book's presentative schemes enact a biopolitics of affect and attachment.

Friday, April 3, 2009

AAR, Montreal -- Paper Accepted

Although I still have work to do in preparation for next week's glossing conference at CUNY, I did receive the good news a few days ago that my paper proposal for the next meeting of the American Academy of Religion in Montreal next fall was accepted. I submitted to a consultation that was new last year, "Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Premodern Christianity." This year they were particularly interested in projects that explored its key terms at the nexus of scriptural interpretation. For those not familiar with the AAR process, individuals must submit a 1000-word proposal along with a 150-word abstract. I've included below only the abstract, and will provide more details about my paper later. I have to have it completed by mid-September, since the consultation chairs have secured Harvard's Amy Hollywood as our respondent.

The Solitary Vices of Medieval Discernment
The biblical injunction to “test the Spirits” (1 John 4:1) gave hermeneutical warrant for church officials to codify affects of vigilance and skepticism into forms of institutional mistrust called the “discernment of spirits.” This paper offers a reconsideration of medieval discernment literature by arguing that it is isomorphic with those moral rhetorics surrounding masturbation. Operative in both discursive registers is a fear of unregulated solitude. Examining scholarship on discernment literature alongside the cultural history and analysis of masturbation, I re-read selected passages from the writings of Jean Gerson and Middle English Chastising of God’s Children. The regulatory aims of these texts index the erotic power of thought to captivate and redirect a believer’s (sometimes unwilling) consciousness. Compelling both the solitary visions of the aspiring mystic and the “solitary vice” of masturbation are forms and languages of erotic pleasure that official theology fears are actually forms of selfishness.