babel conference CFP

Laurynn Lowe and I are interested in putting together a panel for the 1st Biennial Meeting of the BABEL Working Group, details here. babel is a sort-of sister organization to MEARCSTAPA, and I am sure many of you have already seen their excellent first publication, postmedieval.

The conference is:
after the end: medieval studies, the humanities, and the post-catastrophe 4-6 November 2010 University of Texas at Austin

Following Jeffery Jerome Cohen’s meditation on stones and Susan Signe Morrison’s call for a /fecopoet[h]ics/ in the inaugural edition of /Post/medieval/, this panel is an exploration the boundaries of the inanimate. How do we understand the inanimate objects that make up our world as (1) stones, bridging the gap between our frailty and their seeming eternity, as (2) waste products to be eliminated from consciousness, or finally as (3) tools, whose existence would seem predicated upon the use of man? In what ways does our relationship with things define our relationship with ourselves and others? How do we define the inanimate objects in our environment, and how does this definition in turn restrict or expand our understanding of the human? How might the brass horse in the “Squire’s Tale” or the Mechanical Turk be understood as bridging the boundary between the inanimate and animal studies or orientalists perspectives? How might Graham Harman’s Tool-being be understood in terms of the speaking objects in the Book of Exeter or the Dream of the Rood? If things are simply part of the architecture of our environment, invisible if functioning correctly, why then do tools come to have voices? If an object is only genuinely visible to us when broken, why does the fantasy of magical objects persist in romances and epics? Finally, how can these examples from medieval literature shed light on our present relationships with things?

As of now, this panel is open ideas. While it is possible, of course, to follow a traditional format in which 3 papers are presented, we could also take advantage of the freedom granted by the BABEL conference to host a selection of speakers who would read one the other panelists paper prior to the panel, and come prepared to discuss.