Dark Chaucer: An Assortment
Brooklyn, NY: punctum books, 2012. 224 pages. ISBN-13: 978-0615701073. OPEN-ACCESS e-book and $15.00 [€13.00] in print.
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by the shadwe he took his wit (The Man of Law’s Tale, II.10)
Although widely beloved for its playfulness and comic sensibility, Chaucer’s poetry is also subtly shot through with dark moments that open into obscure and irresolvably haunting vistas, passages into which one might fall head-first and never reach the abyssal bottom, scenes and events where everything could possibly go horribly wrong or where everything that matters seems, if even momentarily, altogether and irretrievably lost. And then sometimes, things really do go wrong. Opting to dilate rather than cordon off this darkness, this volume assembles a variety of attempts to follow such moments into their folds of blackness and horror, to chart their endless sorrows and recursive gloom, and to take depth soundings in the darker recesses of the Chaucerian lakes in order to bring back palm- or bite-sized pieces (black jewels) of bitter Chaucer that could be shared with others . . . an “assortment,” if you will. Not that this collection finds only emptiness and non-meaning in these caves and lakes. You never know what you will discover in the dark.
Contents: Candace Barrington, “Dark Whiteness: Benjamin Brawley and Chaucer” – Brantley L. Bryant & Alia, “Saturn’s Darkness” – Ruth Evans, “A Dark Stain and a Non-Encounter” – Gaelan Gilbert, “Chaucerian Afterlives: Reception and Eschatology” – Leigh Harrison, “Black Gold: The Former (and Future) Age” – Nicola Masciandaro, “Half Dead: Parsing Cecelia” – J. Allan Mitchell, “In the Event of the Franklin’s Tale” – Travis Neel & Andrew Richmond, “Black as the Crow” – Hannah Priest, “Unravelling Constance” – Lisa Schamess, “L’O de V: A Palimpsest” – Myra Seaman, “Disconsolate Art” – Karl Steel, “Kill Me, Save Me, Let Me Go: Custance, Virginia, Emelye” – Elaine Treharne, “The Physician’s Tale as Hagioclasm” – Bob Valasek, “The Light has Lifted: Pandare Trickster” – Lisa Weston, “Suffer the Little Children, or, A Rumination on the Faith of Zombies” – Thomas White, “The Dark Is Light Enough: The Layout of the Tale of Sir Thopas.” This assortment of dark morsels also features a prose-poem Preface by Gary Shipley.
Myra Seaman teaches at the College of Charleston. She has published on Middle English romance, textual studies, gender studies, dream visions, medievalisms, and posthumanisms (medieval and modern). She co-edited the essay collection Cultural Studies of the Modern Middle Ages (2007). She is co-editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies and co-founder of the BABEL Working Group. She is currently working on an extended project that investigates affective literacy among the late medieval English gentry through an object-oriented ontological approach.
Eileen A. Joy teaches at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville and her main interests are in Old English literature, cultural studies, embodied affectivities, ethics, and the post/human. She is the founder and co-editor of postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies and the Lead Ingenitor of the BABEL Working Group. She is also the co-editor of The Postmodern Beowulf (West Virginia University Press, 2007) and Cultural Studies of the Modern Middle Ages (Palgrave, 2007).
Nicola Masciandaro teaches at Brooklyn College, is the author of The Voice of the Hammer: The Meaning of Work in Middle English Literature (Notre Dame, 2006), and is also founder and co-editor of Glossator: Practice and Theory of the Commentary. He has published widely on medieval philosophy, mysticism, individuation, geophilosophy, beheading, sorrow, spontaneity, and metal music, among other subjects.