Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies - Keynote at the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, 2019

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ ( Decretals o f Gregory IX with  glossa ordinaria ), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source:  GIF IT UP 2016 . ( CC-BY-SA )  The creator, Black,  describes the gif : ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

Fig. 1: Untitled gif of three skeletons dancing, using detail of a bas-de-page MS scene of the Three Dead. Made for GIF IT UP 2016, by Erin Black, posted 18/10/16. Black text overlays gif, reading ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies’ (added by Spencer-Hall). Skeletons from the ‘Smithfield Decretals’ (Decretals of Gregory IX with glossa ordinaria), southern France (probably Toulouse), c. 1300, with illuminations added in England (London), c. 1340 (BL Royal 10 E IV, f. 259r). Source: GIF IT UP 2016. (CC-BY-SA)

The creator, Black, describes the gif: ‘This GIF celebrates both #PageFrights and the #SkeletonWar with three skeletons dancing on a manuscript page. The image is an illumination from the bottom of a page (aka a bas-de-page) of the Smithfield Decretals. It’s one of a series of bas-de-pages depicting the story of The Three Living and the Three Dead, in which three kings are confronted by three of their dead ancestors and warned to remember the dead, lest they take life for granted. […]’

On the 2nd of April in the year of our goddess(es) 2019, I felt the call. I had heard the call for a long time, years even. But I had not felt it, surging through the fibres of my being and my brain in a compulsive thrum. Until that portentous day, at 3 o’clock after my third cup of strong coffee. It was time. It was time I began my true calling, the journey for which I had prepared daily by scrolling through the internet and the Giphy gospels for hours on end. And so was born my first professional gif (Fig. 1), based on the fine work of Erin Black for GIF IT UP 2016, now burnished with my paper title. Not yet content, I toiled onwards, pouring sweat and blood into a dazzling relic, a timeless work of art: my first professional Blingee (Fig. 2).

The inspiration for the outpouring of my creative spirit was the Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, taking place 5-6 April 2019 at Kellogg College. The conference’s theme is deviance, and I have the profound privilege of giving a keynote there. In my talk, “Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality & Medievalist Methodologies”, I attending to the ways in which disability has been conceptualized as deviance, arguing for, in effect, a kind of defiant - weaponized - deviance as a form of critical cripistemology. I examine temporal deviance in particular: the ways in which crip lives take place in crip time(s), alongside the ways in which medievalist research can and does de-center “linear” (i.e. telelogical) history by blurring bounds between the past, the present, and the future. Temporal deviance becomes an embodied methodology, a means to re-instate the marginalized and silenced to the historical record, to forge crip-chronic communities across time.

With my focus on crip time and/as methodology, the keynote covers similar ground to recent other papers I’ve given, so see here if you’d like details of the forthcoming publications that form the basis of my keynote. I’ve embedded my slides below, which convey the thrust of my arguments. As much as I tried - and believe me, I tried - I couldn’t feasibly integrate the Blingee into my deck. But never fear, I have embedded it here - an orphaned artistic jewel - as a treasure for your eyes only. You’re welcome.

Fig. 2: A  Blingee  of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

Fig. 2: A Blingee of Fig. 1, with dazzling pink animated starbursts overlaying the image. In this version, the skeletons are static. Source: my deepest creative urges.

Hagiography, Media, and the Politics of Visibility - Keynote at the Gender and Medieval Studies Conference 2018

I have the distinct honour of giving a plenary paper at the 2018 Gender and Medieval Studies conference (GMS) (8-10 January 2018). This will be the first year that this long-running conference has included a plenary from an early-career researcher, and I am delighted/thrilled/terrified to have been invited for the inaugural slot. My paper, entitled 'Hagiography, Media, and the Politics of Visibility', presents key arguments from my first book, in particular the Introduction and Chapter 3. Handy reminder: see my earlier blogpost to find out how you can download a .pdf of the full Introduction for free, and to snag a voucher code for 20% off the listed price of my book (valid till 1 February 2018).

In my GMS talk, I first sketch the theoretical foundations for my consideration of hagiography as media, setting out my terms of engagement. Then, I discuss in depth the ways in which the politics of visibility are central in the creation, consumption, and lived experience of female identities. In particular, I bring the fifteenth-century English mystic Margery Kempe and twenty-first century celebrity icon Kim Kardashian West into dialogue, analysing the ways in which the pair attempt to self-produce 'acceptable' exceptional identities in their respective contexts. Finally, I discuss the role of visibility in the academy today - for early career researchers, and for medievalists more generally. Flicking through the slide deck below should give you a feel for the material. I look forward to seeing all those who can make it in Oxford!