New Materialism, Old English

Jacqueline Fay, University of Texas at Arlington

This lab will explore the potential for Anglo-Saxon studies of the material turn, or the wide-reaching recognition that matter has agency that interacts with, disrupts, engages and is engaged by the discursive and ideational realm of texts and representations. This shift to acknowledging that matter is neither unaccountable for because outside of discourse nor passively inscribed by discourse has deep implications for how we do our work as scholars. However, within Anglo-Saxon studies we are faced with particular challenges in integrating and responding to the material turn, because the turn itself is temporally located within broader theoretical trajectories that emplot their own histories of material interactions—and our period of study already has an assigned role within these histories. Can we limit ourselves as scholars simply to disagreeing with these histories? And if not, in what ways can we absorb a theoretical model developed largely in response to the chemically-laden, industrialized, capitalist contemporary world? What can we take away from this model that is useful for understanding Anglo-Saxon texts and lives, and how can we extract it without dissolving the integrity of the theory itself? And how do we talk back to, or get into, the material conversation more generally?

Participants will be asked to read, if they have not already done so, a common bibliography of theoretical works (participants’ input will be solicited here), and each participant will pre-circulate a 5-10 page double-spaced project summary or overview of a current project to the other participants at least two weeks in advance of the conference.  The lab itself will begin with each participant presenting a brief overview (5 minutes) of their project for the audience, with the remainder of the time dedicated to open discussion and workshopping.  In addition, participants will provide hard copies of 300 word abstracts or bullet-point summaries of their projects at the session so that audience members may follow along with the discussion.  Hard copies of the common bibliography will be available for the audience at the workshop also.

In order to apply for this lab, please provide a 300-500 word description of the project you intend to workshop, along with five items that you would like to add to the shared bibliography to by July 15th 2018.