In the Middle has news of an interesting publishing venture from Eileen Joy and Karl Steel – REMEDIAEVAL, a New Minigraph Book Series. Here’s a couple of paragraphs, but you should really check out the whole post:
Currently, the Middle Ages serve as a sort of “hot” contact zone in a wide variety of cultural, social, and political scenes, events, media, and disciplines. From fantasies of origin to the desire to escape from the present into the past, and from social, political, racial, and sexual caricatures of the Other as “medieval” to historical reenactors and what some have termed a new resurgence of “living history” attractions (Bede’s World, Jorvik Viking Centre, Provins, etc.), the Middle Ages inhabits a space of intimate exteriority with the modern. It can be argued, further, especially with regard to the development of theory in various fields — philosophy, sociology, political science, literary studies, cultural studies, history of science, etc. — that the Middle Ages occupy a sort of “black hole” position that stretches from the fall of the Roman Empire all the way to 1700.
For example, most contemporary theory skips the Middle Ages and Renaissance altogether, often taking leaps from Kant or Hobbes to Plato, or from Heidegger to Heraclitus, or from Carl Schmitt to Cicero, and so on. And yet, there has been much work done within medieval studies to unsettle the philosophical narratives that imagine the Middle Ages as the abjected past of a modernity that exists only in the contemporary, capitalist West and that refer exclusively to a very small subset of classical and Enlightenment thinkers. Thus, in recent years, journals like postmedieval (an editorial alliance of medieval and early modern researchers with cultural theorists in various fields), scholars such as Kathleen Biddick, Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Aranye Fradenburg, Bruce Holsinger, and Steven Kruger (to name only a few), and a host of specialized conferences and symposia hosted by the BABEL Working Group, George Washington University’s Medieval and Early Modern Studies Institute, and the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (Europe: 1100-1800) have brought premodern subjects into vibrant contact with contemporary theory. In addition, both medieval and early modern studies have led the field in taking up some of the most exciting recent innovations in humanistic practice and thought, including new media studies, the digital humanities, new materialisms, eco-studies, the descriptive turn, post-humanisms, critical animal studies, the geological turn, and speculative realism.
This is very interesting, and spot on with its comment about the jumping from ancient to modern thinkers. My initial thinking with The Birth of Territory was that I wanted to avoid that, but the initial one chapter on the ‘Middle Ages’ became two, three and ended up – depending on dating – being five chapters and over half the book. My ongoing work on Foucault is taking me back to some of these debates. There is quite a bit on the early Church in two recent lecture courses that are coming out this year in English – Mal faire, dire vrai and, especially, Du gouvernement des vivants – and all the indications are there is a lot on the medieval in the forthcoming Théories et institutions pénales. And of course, Shakespeare is writing the cusp of early modernity, with many of his plays looking back to a medieval past, which I think is interesting in relation to the question of territory. Even some of Heidegger’s recent Gesamtausgabe volumes touch on medieval work – especially his reading of Aquinas. And while I learned an enormous amount from more traditional medievalists, the injection of contemporary theory into this work has opened up some really interesting avenues of research. So this series looks very interesting indeed.