Volume 3, Issue 1: Becoming-Media

Editors: Jen Boyle, Coastal Carolina University, USA and Martin K. Foys, Drew University

Grappling both with the “post” and the medhyo or “middle/medium” of post-medieval, this issue turns on a series of questions and explorations of the notion of “becoming-media” within and in conversation with medieval and early modern contexts. Becoming-media refers in one sense to our dependence on the recursive circuitry and tangle of technologies, bodies, narratives, spaces, and mediating technics, across historical periods and across literary, scientific, philosophical, and theological modes of expression. Recent theoretical turns in “new media” studies have raised questions about the limits of embodiment, the remediation and interfacing of the human/machine nexus, and the reconstitution of spatial and temporal modalities with the emergence of a digital culture. Yet, the casting of new media studies as itself “new” raises troubling questions. To what extent is mediation ever “new”? Indeed, as the medhyo at the center of “medieval” would suggest, mediation appears as an always incomplete “middling” and “meddling” – always becoming, to itself and something other than itself; a troubling, meddling, unstable go-between. This second sense of becoming-media extends questions about the mediating artifact within its historical context to include issues of embodied and historical temporality; periodization as “meddling”; the feedback loop of technics-consciousness; the glance, glimpse, and touch of the mediated image as political and aesthetic affect; and the unstable registers of the trans/hyper-mediation of multiple past-present-futures.

The articles in this issue were reviewed via an open “crowd review”, which is now permanently archived.

Issue 3.1 (Spring 2012)


Volume 3, Issue 2: Open Topic with Essay Cluster

This issue features a cluster of essays on Disability and the Social Body.

Editor: Julie Singer (Washington Univ. in Saint Louis)

The essays in this cluster consider the roles illness and disability play in the constructions of social identity across the premodern world, from Anglo-Saxon England to thirteenth-century western Europe, fifteenth-century Cairo, and early modern Britain. In raising particular questions of health, madness, (de)form(ation), healing, and community from multiple disciplinary viewpoints - religious and cultural history, literary theory and analysis, musicology - these essays' innovative methodologies also document and illustrate the emergence of a contemporary scholarly community: Medieval Disability Studies.

Issue 3.2 (Summer 2012)


Volume 3, Issue 3: Cognitive Alterities/Neuromedievalism

Co-Editors: Jane Chance (Rice University/The Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston) and Antony D. Passaro (Center for Clinical Neurosciences, University of Texas Medical Center-Houston)

Recent postmodern work in psychoanalytic cognitive theory and cultural studies has opened windows into how early literatures processed and manifested concepts of subjectivity and the personal, on the one hand, and cultural difference (sexual, gender, racial, class, national), on the other. To explore different forms of medieval cognitive alterity, including cultural differences from the modern, this issue on neuromedievalism draws on literary theory and neuroscientific medical research into biology, psychology, linguistics, and philosophy to shed light on the instantiation of cognitive process in medieval and early modern language and literature. In medieval alphabets as well as in literary, philosophical, and religious narratives, according to neuroscience we can identify culturally diverse cognitive analogues along with some similarities in the representations of the processes of an "emotional" brain—the firing of its mirror neurons and its concomitant plasticity. Such activity is replicated in the texts under consideration by means of visual coding and dream-vision allegory, affective mysticism, empathetic arousal through dramatic performance, and meditative manual exercises.

Issue 3.3 (Fall 2012)


Volume 3, Issue 4: The Intimate Senses

Co-Editors: Holly Dugan (George Washington Univ.) and Lara Farina (West Virginia University)

The paradigm of the five senses has long organized the Western body. The five-sense schema differentiates one sensation from another, connects each sense category with meaning, and orders the senses in terms of importance and value. For medieval and early modern theorists of sensation, vision was the most noble of the five senses, followed closely by hearing. These two sensory ways of knowing topped most pre-modern sensory hierarchies because of the ways in which vision and hearing represented the lofty potential of the soul to transcend bodily form, whereas the “lower” and more corporeal senses of smell, taste, and touch emphasized the body’s material connection to its environment and to other people and things

Though such theories of sensation were undoubtedly influential, they were often undermined in social practice; sensation was often described in synaesthetic terms, confounding and rearranging clear-cut sensory divisions and hierarchies. The “lower” senses often provided a unique and valuable way of representing proximate and intimate relationships between bodies and environments. Sometimes considered as a triad in medieval and early modern culture, these intimate senses offer distinct challenges for the way we experience the past and communicate that experience to others. As recent work in anthropology, sociology, and disability studies demonstrates, the classic schema of the five well-ordered senses is as much a learned discourse as it is a description of anatomical fact. Even the anatomical fact of sensation is being rethought by current medical research on neuroplasticity.

Inspired by this work, this issue of postmedieval calls for a fuller history of the pre-modern sensing body and begins such an examination by focusing on the proximate and intimate relationships between taste, touch, and smell in a variety of medieval and early modern cultural locations, including dramatic performance, urban geography, pilgrimage, architecture, comic literature, and early print culture. Laura D. Gelfand (Art History, Univ. of Akron) discusses the relative lack of concern for "visual truth" in medieval reproductions of the Holy Sepulchre, arguing for a pligrimage aesthetic based on haptic, olfactory, and gustatory imitation. Hristomir Stanev (English, Univ. of Chicago) investigates the relation of smell and urban consciousness, as he considers representations of olfaction in the Jacobean plays The Puritan and Westward Ho. Comparing medieval and modern olfactory stereotypes, Mark M. Smith (History, Univ. of South Carolina) considers whether aspects of smell can be trans-historically transgressive. Julie Singer (French, Washington Univ. in Saint Louis) discusses the disabling of the normative sensing body in late medieval farce, wherein the traditional hierarchy of the senses is undermined. And Patricia Cahill (English, Emory Univ.) examines the gendering and sexualization of tactility and skin in the early modern drama The Changeling.

The issue also features a book review essay by Clare Lees (English, King’s College London) and five shorter responses to the main essays. Our respondents offer diverse perspectives from outside the fields of medieval and early modern studies: David Howes (Anthropology, Concordia Univ.), Mark Paterson (Geography, Univ. of Exeter), Georgina Kleege (English/Creative Writing, Univ. of California, Berkeley), Jonathan Cole (Medicine/Neuroscience, Poole Hospital and Univ. of Southampton), and Kanta Kochhar-Lindgren (Performance Studies, Univ. of Washington Bothell). Their goal, collectively, is to connect and extend the scholarly conversation about the sensory worlds of the past to new approaches in other disciplines and fields.