• Through a Glass, Darkly: Medieval Cultural Studies at the End of History

    Eileen Joy (see profile)
    Anglo-Saxon / Old English, Cultural Studies, Historical theory and the philosophy of history, Medieval English Literature, Medieval Studies
    Historiography, Critical theory, Intellectual life, History, Medievalism, World politics
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Critical historiography, Intellectual history, Medieval studies, Political history
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    In a talk he gave in 1995 at a conference at Georgetown University, "Cultural Frictions: Medieval Cultural Studies in Post-Modern Contexts," Paul Strohm asserted that "postmodernism is preoccupied with history, endlessly obsessed with history, and with the nature of the claims the past exerts upon us; it might almost be called a way of thinking about history and representation, provoked and endlessly refreshed by its refusal to allow final understanding." Moreover, "Postmodern theory has always needed us—that is, needed the past—in the sense that it has never not had designs upon us." Strohm further noted the way postmodernism fundamentally restores "the variegation, the fully contradictory variety of the historical surface"—which it does, however, by insisting on a "medieval organicism which secretly nourishes the illicit relation between most postmodern culture analysis and the idea of the social 'totality or whole.'" Strohm urged medievalists to give back to the postmodernists "their honesty. . .by refusing to allow them to employ the Middle Ages as a kind of Jurassic Park where they stow an ideal of totality which they disavow for their own periods but still need, as an absent guarantor of the homologizing critical procedures they want to employ." Because they know something about the complexities and messy heterogeneities of the Middle Ages, and because they possess certain anxious concerns about current affairs, the authors of this volume of essays have some hope for the formulation and practice of a medieval cultural studies where the Middle Ages can disturb and disrupt the present's sense of itself as wholly modern, and where Fukuyama's age of post-histoire will not become the site of the "perpetual caretaking of the [static] museum of human history," but instead will be the place of history's irruption as the still–to–come enclosed in the what–has–not–yet–been–thought about the past and the present.
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    5 years ago


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