MLA 2016 CFP
OEN 45.3 (2014)
The 2015-1016 MLA will be held in Austin, Texas. We are accepting proposals for papers. Your proposal need not be more than a few sentences. The first three sessions are guranteed, and the fourth (The Danelaw) must be accepted after submission to the MLA. Unfortunately, time is short. All proposals are due by 15 March 2015. Send proposals to Steve Harris
Tools of the Trade
Unlike most fields in university English departments, Old English language and literature requires students to have significant linguistic training. Old English studies have long employed and developed such approaches as philology, paleography, codicology, and text editing. Like other fields in English departments, Old English also demands training in more theoretical methodologies, from critical theory to digital humanities. In our shared efforts to extend research and improve pedagogical practices, what do we consider the most important tools for students and scholars in Old English studies? Which specific skills are most needful to know? If the tools we build, use, and master will determine the shape of the field in the decades to come, then how can we help to provide a powerful framework to develop and advance the field and academic careers? We seek a broad range of viewpoints to spur a productive discussion about the training and tools an Anglo-Saxonist needs to flourish in today's colleges and universities.
Medieval studies in general, and Old English studies in particular, have benefited from the recent "material turn." Recent theories about materiality and materialism have refocused the critical and scholarly lens on previously overlooked aspects of literature, art, and culture from Anglo-Saxon England. In Anglo-Saxon studies, we rely in our research on abstractions like power, law, bliss, desire, and identity that are terribly important but are not directly, physically sensible. How do we conceive of the role of these abstractions in organizing material evidence? How are such immaterial things accessed, portrayed, and comprehended as we translate the material culture of the past into the present? Were these things conceived of in Anglo-Saxon England as physical realities or as nominal categories? What was their status as they were translated across languages, cultures, and media? The study of immaterial culture has much to reveal about Anglo-Saxon epistemologies. And Anglo-Saxon "immaterialisms" have the potential to historicize and condition our developing understanding of materiality.
We are all familiar with lines of argument that relate literary utopias to reading publics. Idealizations, after all, tell us something about an audience's social and political anxieties. Dystopias are revealing, as well. For instance, in Old English studies, homiletics investigates in part the role of apocalyptic imagery as it distills existential fear for moral persuasion. Avitus, a fifth-century poet, called it a "healing terror." Fear of the future can reveal to us characteristics of an Anglo-Saxon public. Sometimes that fear is grounded on a notion of recurrence. Whether promising good or ill, historical examples in Old English texts play on expectations of recurrence to move audiences. The past may come around again. In terms either of prognostication or recurrence, how did the portrayal of external threat construct an audience? Why did images of threat attract Anglo-Saxon readers? What anxieties did they allay or incite? What can we discover about Old English publics through such portrayals? Formations of threat in Anglo-Saxon literature reveal the hopes and fears of their readers, but also provide heuristic models for understanding the recurrent discourses of threat today.
The region which came to be known as the Danelaw was the site of numerous colonial campaigns and settlements: British, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Danish, Norman. These colonizations each left their traces in the landscape and language of the Danelaw, rewriting and being rewritten in the translatio imperii of early medieval Britain. Language, literature, art, architecture register the play of presences and absences of previous colonizations, and in so doing, they evince the linguistic, ethnic, and political erasure and synthesis of translatio studii. How do we distinguish the successive cultural or linguistic layers in this colonial palimpsest? How do the cultural artifacts of the Danes or Anglo-Saxons bear witness to these layers? What was the impact of these colonial layers on identity, history, and aesthetics?