• Eros, Event, and Non-faciality in Malory's "The Tale of Balyn and Balan"

    Eileen Joy (see profile)
    Historical theory and the philosophy of history, Medieval English Literature, Medieval Studies, Philosophy
    Arthurian romances, Phenomenology, Sociology
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Arthurian romance, Assemblage theory, Medieval studies, Social theory
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    This essay argues that literary narratives can serve as ideal sites through which to explore the emergence of time’s dissonant conjunctions and surprising forks, arising as they do from minds that are both transhistorical and rooted in particular times and places, and because literary texts are also objects that, as Jonathan Gil Harris has argued, are inherently polychronic and untimely, looking forward and backward and sideward simultaneously and always “out of joint” with their own “times”—more pleated accordion, or palimpsest, than smooth singularity. The specific case study is drawn from Malory’s 15th-century "Morte darthur," viewed as an exemplary site for excavating the traces of a nascently (or proto-)modern human individual who is certainly bound and contained within local and national networks of chivalric tradition and centralized, sovereign authority, but who is also thrust, through "aventure," into the “compulsive and obligatory self-determination” of a certain alienating pastmodernity. In this sense, the medieval knight of Malory’s Arthurian “discography” is untimely in just the way Harris describes the handkerchief in Shakespeare’s "Othello": heterodox time is all “crumpled up” in him. This essay invents the term “pastmodernity” to evoke a special temporal zone in the so-called “medieval” past in which modernity arrives, as it were, in fits and starts ahead of itself, just as “postmodernity” names a variety of temporalities and world “conditions,” whereby modernity is seen as a becoming-something-else while still remaining in “undead” traction with older social, cultural, political, psychic, and like formations. The present moment, in any time, is therefore partly the sum of certain movements of what Cary Howie calls “traherence,” in which nothing really “gets free of what it ostensibly emerges from” and every Now is simultaneously a “not yet” and a “then.”
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    Last Updated:
    5 years ago


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