Theorizing Bodies and Minds (Seminar)

Harbour Centre 2250

Rachel Anderson (Grand Valley State University)
Marjorie Housley (University of Notre Dame)
Kristen Mills (University of Oslo)
Erin Sweany (Vassar College)

This seminar solicits the work of scholars who are studying early medieval bodies and embodiment, especially as legible through the theories and methodologies of the sciences and social sciences such as (but not limited to) Actor-Network Theory, New Materialisms, Medical Humanities, and Systems Theory. The questions that this seminar will seek to answer around scholarship, methodology, and perspective include: How do we value textual bodies, and do we place too much emphasis on the category of "literary" bodies, given the problems of that label the early medieval period? How can we employ extrahumanities methodologies in the humanities without overshadowing them? Does studying texts through embodiment and/or through social/science methodologies come with limitations that we as scholars need to acknowledge and account for? As scholars reading the bodies and wellness of early medieval individuals in hagiographies and medical texts, we ourselves rely on theories about and in the realms of biology, modern medicine, physics, and sociology (Bruno Latour, Annemarie Mol, Karen Barad, and Niklas Luhmann). But we are also wrestling with the place of those theories within scholarship on early medieval texts and alongside more familiar critical theories (Elaine Scarry, Michel Foucault, Judith Butler, et alia). Thus, this seminar will further seek to grapple with metaquestions about the validity and value of applying methodologies arising from modern science to premodern sources. How can an early medieval focus, in particular, expand the scope and applicability of these STEM-based methodologies, perhaps even beyond limitations imposed by their interlocutors? Should we care about drawing divisions between the humanities, sciences, and social sciences? Should we strive to erase the divisions that we come across, reinforce them, or perhaps bridge them?

Day 1

Marjorie Housley, “Remembering the Future: Grave and Affect in Medieval Literature”

Emma Styles-Swaim (Columbia University), “Anglo-Saxon Eye (Ear) and Mind: Experiencing Inscription in Exeter Book Riddles 48 and 59”

Una Creedon-Carey (University of Toronto), “Constructed Gender, Material Gender in Ælfric's ‘Life of St. Eugenia’”

Day 2

Nicholas Hoffman (Ohio State University), “Exhuming Queer Bodies: Methodology and Sexual Identity”

Joanne Findon (Trent University), “The Otherworld Body”

Day 3

Erin Sweany, “Cause We are Living in a Material World: Anglo-Saxon Medicine and Science Studies"

Sarah Baccianti (Queen’s University Belfast), “Saintly Bodies: Surgery and Religion in Early Scandinavia”