New Academic Book Series: Premodern Transgressive Literatures with Medieval Institute Publications

Fig. 1: Front-page of the Financial Times (faked), dated 14/03/19. Headline reads “April Fool’s Day Cancelled Due to Current State of Reality“. Source:  Alex Kokcharov on Twitter .

Fig. 1: Front-page of the Financial Times (faked), dated 14/03/19. Headline reads “April Fool’s Day Cancelled Due to Current State of Reality“. Source: Alex Kokcharov on Twitter.

OK, so I realise posting basically anything on April 1st is a bit of a liability. This is not an April Fool’s Day trick, nor is it replete with Dad-jokey puns in the spirit of the (one-day) season. It’s rare that the Financial Times captures the spirit of my existential mood, but here we are: “April Fool’s Day Cancelled Due to Current State of Reality” (Fig. 1). Yes, it’s fake - but in current times, what’s nominally fake has the potential to be far more authentic than any elaborately staged “reality”. In case you hadn’t noticed, shit just got real, yo. Scratch that. Shit got real, is getting more real, and contemplation of the possible iteration of the realest - Brexit actually Brexiting, another 4 years of Trump in the USA, another hot minute of Tory devastation in the UK - is keeping me up at nights. Now more than ever, it’s time to do the work of building the world we want, we need, to live in.

The subject of this post, Premodern Transgressive Literatures is a very, very small drop in that hopeful bucket. It’s a book series conceived of as fundamentally political, intersectional and interdisciplinary, both in its ethos and practice. It showcases, and supports, scholars doing the important, challenging, messy work to change medieval studies from the inside out. This includes reinforcing the best parts of the Academy whilst simultaneously identifying and dismantling its worst infrastructure, ideological and otherwise. As Series Editor, I invite you to join our mission to re-shape academia, one transgressive publication at a time. Read on for the full run-down on the series, including the kinds of projects we are soliciting and how to get in touch to discuss publishing with us.

Series Abstract

Leiden, University Library, 583, printed work (16th century) with medieval fragments inside (12th century). Photo by  Erik Kwakkel . ( CC BY 4.0 )

Leiden, University Library, 583, printed work (16th century) with medieval fragments inside (12th century). Photo by Erik Kwakkel. (CC BY 4.0)

Premodern Transgressive Literatures takes a decisively political, intersectional, and interdisciplinary approach to medieval and early modern literature. The series supports scholarship which transgresses normative bounds along various axes. This includes the transgression of temporal boundaries which superficially separate the premodern era from our twenty-first century moment.

Premodern Transgressive Literatures takes a decisively political, intersectional, and interdisciplinary approach to medieval and early modern literature. The series supports scholarship which transgresses normative bounds along various axes. This includes the transgression of temporal boundaries which superficially separate the premodern era from our twenty-first century moment.

We aim to show, with insistent urgency, the ways in which the premodern can help us make sense of the modern, and the ways in which cutting-edge modern paradigms can help us better understand established, canonical premodern texts. This series is acutely aware of the role of the scholar in the production of history and the crucial importance of the context of scholarly work: the Academy, with its unique characteristics, both positive and negative. As such, Premodern Transgressive Literatures makes space for provocative discussion about the business of producing—and teaching—transgressive work in the neo-liberalized Academy.

Series Overview

Geographical Scope: Global, including but not limited to: Europe, the Mediterranean, Asia

Chronological Scope: Medieval and early modern world

Keywords: intersectionality, interdisciplinary, literature, culture, medieval, early modern, pedagogy

Editorial Board: Blake Gutt (University of Michigan), Carissa Harris (Temple University), Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University), Roberta Magnani (Swansea University), Elizabeth Robertson (University of Glasgow)

Authors: We welcome submissions from both established and early-career researchers.

Outputs: Monographs; collections of thematic essays; scholarly editions and translations with substantial introductions and apparatus.

Projects: We welcome projects in the series’ three principle strands: Transgressive Canon, Transgressive Texts and Approaches, and Transgressive Academy, as detailed below.

Series website: www.wmich.edu/medievalpublications/premodern-transgressive-literatures

Principle Strands of Scholarship

  1. Transgressive Canon

    Rethinking canonical, establishment authors and, where relevant, problematizing past approaches and assumptions. Projects in this strand deconstruct the canon from an “insider” position, one founded upon close attention to canonical texts and their authors. Volumes in this strand work to show both the richness of the material at hand, whilst also allowing for nontraditional and overlooked approaches with which to reconsider and reorient the canon itself.

We seek editors for the following volumes:

  • Transgressive Chaucer

  • Transgressive Gower

  • Transgressive Langland

  • Transgressive Arthur

  • Transgressive Tristan

  • Transgressive Marie de France

  • Transgressive Christine de Pizan

  • Transgressive Margery Kempe

  • Transgressive Readers

  • Transgressive Piety

NB. Transgressive Canon volumes require an overall Introduction (typically produced by the volume editor) summarizing, if briefly, the ways in which a given author, text, or key concept has been understood in scholarship historically. Volumes on a single canonical author adhere to a common skeletal structure, organized with 5 core sections as follows:

  • Author

  • Key Texts

  • Reader Reception

  • Manuscripts and Material Culture

  • Pedagogy (i.e., approaches to teach a given text or author).

2. Transgressive Texts and Approaches

Studies of subversive, understudied, and weird medieval texts are solicited here, drawing sustained attention to material which has otherwise been neglected, dismissed, or misunderstood. In parallel, this strand highlights innovations in methodological and theoretical approaches to premodern material, drawing out why such interventions are important and what they have to offer to today’s readers.

3. Transgressive Academy

Extended discussions of transgressive and progressive pedagogy and scholarship in the Academy, including—e.g., teaching practices to combat white supremacy, talking about sexual assault in the classroom, and innovative methods to inspire a new generation of scholars. We also embrace projects which speak openly about what it means to transgress the normative blueprint of a “typical academic”—i.e., those of us who do not look much like the “default” of a cis-het able-bodied white older man, and how that impacts our careers, our pedagogy, and our scholarship.

PTL Series Flyer.jpg

Transcript of David Lammy's Interview with Channel 4 News on the Politics of Grenfell Tower Fire

On 14th June, Grenfell Tower burned to the ground. Grenfell housed the poor, the vulnerable, the marginalised - in one of the richest boroughs in the UK, Kensington and Chelsea. Residents warned the Powers That Be about the fire risk, but their voices were suppressed, or flat-out ignored. 30 have been confirmed dead so far; 70 are missing; many survivors remain in hospital. The death toll will certainly rise. It is a tragedy. More than that: the Grenfell Tower blaze is a logical outcome of austerity and conservative politics, which eviscerated and eviscerates support systems for people who need them most, who literally depend on them. It is not hyperbole to say that the stakes are life and death for those who rely on social care, the social safety net in all its forms. Grenfell is emblematic of the complete disdain the rich - and many of the (conservative) political class - have for those who fall below that all-important middle-class line. 

I first heard David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham, speak at an anti-Brexit march. He impressed me with his passion and focus, his unflinching commitment to serving his constituents. As a result, I started following him on Twitter. And he's just given one of the most gut-wrenching, stark, insightful interviews I've seen in a long while to Channel 4 News (Twitter; website). He speaks movingly - and is himself visibly moved - about the politics of the Grenfell Tower fire, and austerity politics in general. I've embedded the relevant Channel 4 News tweet below, which has the video. But I wanted to ensure that the interview is accessible to all, so I've typed up the transcript of the interview below. Any mistakes are mine alone - and if you spot typos etc, please get in touch so I can rectify them. 

David Lammy: This is about the welfare state. For your middle-class viewers, this is about whether the welfare state is just schools and hospitals, or whether it’s about having a safety net. I get quite emotional as I say that. [DL visibly upset] We need to live in a society where we care for the poorest and the vulnerable. And that means housing, it means somewhere decent to live. It was a noble idea that we built and it’s falling apart around our eyes. That’s what it about.

And if it’s taken this tragedy to bring that reality home to people, who are lucky enough to live in very different circumstances then thank God. It’s about the welfare state.

Do we believe in a safety net or not? [DL chokes up, wipes eye]

Channel 4 News: Because what do you think this says about the state of some housing? Some state-run, council-owned housing?

DL: You can’t contract out everything to the private sector. The private sector do some wonderful things, but they have for-profit motives, they cut corners. If you haven’t got the officers to check on the enforcement of buildings, don’t expect it to be done. You know, are there fire extinguishers? I knock on doors all the time, all MPs did. We’ve all been up to those tower blocks, they exist right across the country. Where are the fire extinguishers on every corridor? You know, where are the hoses? Are the fire doors really working? Where are the sprinklers? If you want to build these buildings, then let them at least be as good as the luxury penthouse buildings that are also being built. But these buildings aren’t, is the question. So you either demolish them and house people in a different way or you absolutely refurbish them to the best of quality of that we can do.

C4N: Do you think this says anything about the value that is placed on the lives of people who cannot afford to buy their own property? To live in some of the nicer bits of London?

DL: This is a tale of two cities. This is what Dickens was writing about in the century before the last, and it’s still here in 2017. It’s the face of the poorest and the most vulnerable.

My friend [Khadija Saye] who lost her life was a talented artist, but she was a young black woman making her way in this country and she absolutely had no power or locus or agency. She had not yet achieved that in her life, she had done amazing things, gone to university, the best in her life. [DL chokes up with emotion] But she’s died with her mother on the 22nd floor of the building. And it breaks my heart that that’s happening in Britain in 2017. It breaks my heart.

CfP: "Nonhumans & Politics" - International Conference on Non-Anthropocentric Perspectives on Politics (Hannover, Germany; 22-23 January 2016)

With apologies for cross-posting! Please feel free to share this CfP with all relevant parties.

"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (v² ! g)" by Jef Safi. Via  Flickr

"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (v² ! g)" by Jef Safi. Via Flickr

In the last two decades non-anthropocentric theories – whether posthumanist, neo-materialist or transhumanist – have attracted growing attention from scholars in a wide range of fields. Despite their interdisciplinary output, the question of the relation between non- anthropocentric theories and the concept of politics has been to a large extent evaded. This is somewhat understandable considering that the concept of politics is a highly anthropocentric term that sits uneasily with non-anthropocentric ontologies.

The conference’s aim is to investigate the juncture of nonhumans and politics:

"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (z¹ / p)" by Jef Safi. Via  Flickr

"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (z¹ / p)" by Jef Safi. Via Flickr

  • What does it mean to talk about politics in respect to nonhumans?
  • Who/what is the ‘subject’ of posthumanism, of animal rights, of environmental politics, of technological advancement (particularly in case of Artificial Intelligence)?
  • If the path in thinking ‘nonhuman politics’ through ‘subject’ and thus through ‘political subject’ is counterproductive then what are the alternatives?
"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (z¹ / p)" by Jef Safi. Via  Flickr

"étude des 10-proportions de l'esprit humain . . (z¹ / p)" by Jef Safi. Via Flickr

One of the key interests of this conference is then to investigate if the notion of 'nonhuman politics’ – whether viewed from ecological, animal studies, neo-materialist, transhumanist or posthumanist perspective – is conceptually possible and what would this imply on a practical level:

  • What would the conditions of possibility of such ‘nonhuman politics’ be?
  • What theoretical requirements would need to be fulfilled in order to be able to propose such a concept and fully explore its potential?
  • Perhaps a certain amount of anthropocentrism is in this case unavoidable. And if that is the case then the question to be posed is to what extent are we willing to accept a limited form of anthropocentrism and basing on what grounds? 

This conference does not expect to come up with definitive answers to these questions but rather explore these issues in more detail.

That is also why the conference welcomes contributions from scholars working in various fields of non-anthropocentric theories that wish to engage with the juncture of politics and nonhumans: Ecology, Environmental Studies, Animal Studies, Transhumanism, Posthumanism, Neo-materialism, Philosophy of Technology, Cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence, Literary Theory, Literature, Visual and Performative Arts etc. It wishes to consider how ‘politics’ and ‘political subjects’ are conceptualized across different non-anthropocentric fields. The main purpose of this conference is then to bring together scholars interested in investigating the diverse ways of conceptualizing politics.

The conference will take place on 22–23 January 2016 at the Forschungsinstitut für Philosophie in Hannover, Germany.

Please send your proposals (of no more than 500 words) as well as a brief biographical note (100 words) to Dr. Iwona Janicka at iwona.janicka[at]cantab.net by 15th October 2015 with the subject line: Nonhumans and Politics_Abstract_Your Name. Notifications will be sent out by 1st November 2015. Papers should not exceed 20 minutes in length and should be held in English.