Session Title

Reconsidering Form and the Literary (A Roundtable)

Sponsoring Organization(s)

Special Session

Organizer Name

Robert J. Meyer-Lee, Catherine Sanok

Organizer Affiliation

Indiana Univ.-South Bend, Univ. of Michigan-Ann Arbor

Presider Name

Robert J. Meyer-Lee

Paper Title 1

Remembering Chaucer's Lion

Presenter 1 Name

Arthur Bahr

Presenter 1 Affiliation

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Paper Title 2

Beyond Form: The Case of Medieval English Lyric

Presenter 2 Name

Ardis Butterfield

Presenter 2 Affiliation

Yale Univ.

Paper Title 3

The Make-Shift Form of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Presenter 3 Name

Alexandra Gillespie

Presenter 3 Affiliation

Univ. of Toronto

Paper Title 4

Informalism: Slang Theology in Middle English

Presenter 4 Name

Eleanor Johnson

Presenter 4 Affiliation

Columbia Univ.

Paper Title 5

Archaizing Genre? Reading Gawain in Its Manuscript Context

Presenter 5 Name

Kathryn Kerby-Fulton

Presenter 5 Affiliation

Univ. of Notre Dame

Paper Title 6

Form and Practice: What a French Grammar Teaches Us about English Lyric

Presenter 6 Name

Ingrid Nelson

Presenter 6 Affiliation

Amherst College

Paper Title 7

What's the Use? Forma, Usus, and the Workings of the Literary

Presenter 7 Name

Claire M. Waters

Presenter 7 Affiliation

Univ. of California-Davis

Start Date

15-5-2015 10:00 AM

Session Location

Bernhard 204

Description

This roundtable session seeks to rethink the axiomatic relationship form is often thought to have with the literary through the varied evidence presented by medieval textual traditions. Over the last decade or so, scholars of medieval literature have been at the forefront of the reassessment of the place of the aesthetic in the field of literary study, a place that had been demoted if not simply abandoned in much of the historicist and cultural studies work of the 1980s and 1990s. Like scholars of other periods, for medievalists the crucial category in this reassessment has been form: “To raise the specificity of literature and the uniqueness of the literary work,” Derek Attridge observed in 2004, “is to raise the issue of form”; and in the same year Maura Nolan turned medievalists’ attention to “the logic of form” which will “open up the possibility of seeing medieval art more clearly, of better understanding its distinctive ‘functionlessness’ and its relation to the present.”

In a period in which the humanities in general and literary study in particular remain on the defensive in regard to funding, student enrollments, and public perception, this “aesthetic turn” has laudably refocused the field’s energies on the distinctiveness of its object of study. Yet the near unanimity of this scholarship’s identification of form as the defining category of this distinctiveness (despite the diverse manners in which it has treated form) risks obscuring a fuller appreciation for what may constitute this distinctiveness. With this session, therefore, we seek to extend, complicate, critique, or indeed further defend the arguments for a literary defined especially in relationship to form.

Robert J. Meyer-Lee

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May 15th, 10:00 AM

Reconsidering Form and the Literary (A Roundtable)

Bernhard 204

This roundtable session seeks to rethink the axiomatic relationship form is often thought to have with the literary through the varied evidence presented by medieval textual traditions. Over the last decade or so, scholars of medieval literature have been at the forefront of the reassessment of the place of the aesthetic in the field of literary study, a place that had been demoted if not simply abandoned in much of the historicist and cultural studies work of the 1980s and 1990s. Like scholars of other periods, for medievalists the crucial category in this reassessment has been form: “To raise the specificity of literature and the uniqueness of the literary work,” Derek Attridge observed in 2004, “is to raise the issue of form”; and in the same year Maura Nolan turned medievalists’ attention to “the logic of form” which will “open up the possibility of seeing medieval art more clearly, of better understanding its distinctive ‘functionlessness’ and its relation to the present.”

In a period in which the humanities in general and literary study in particular remain on the defensive in regard to funding, student enrollments, and public perception, this “aesthetic turn” has laudably refocused the field’s energies on the distinctiveness of its object of study. Yet the near unanimity of this scholarship’s identification of form as the defining category of this distinctiveness (despite the diverse manners in which it has treated form) risks obscuring a fuller appreciation for what may constitute this distinctiveness. With this session, therefore, we seek to extend, complicate, critique, or indeed further defend the arguments for a literary defined especially in relationship to form.

Robert J. Meyer-Lee