Volume 4, Issue 1: Ecomaterialism

Editors: Jeffrey J. Cohen (George Washington Univ.) and Lowell Duckert (George Washington Univ.)

This special issue of postmedieval will take up Jane Bennett's challenge in the last chapter of her book Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things to rethink environment and landscape from an actor-network point of view. Focusing upon the meeting of ecocriticisim with other modes of theoretical and critical inquiry, ecomaterialism creates a forum where the materiality of the world obtains the complicated agency and lack of catastrophe that environmental criticism too often does not grant. We focus upon the living elements earth, air, water, fire, and their medial instantiations: cloud, road, glacier, abyss. Rather than a traditional ecocritical mode that traces the interface of human with landscape, we are interested in reconceiving ecomaterial spaces and objects as a web of co-constituitive and hybrid actants.

Editor's Introduction

  • “Howl,” Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (George Washington University) and Lowell Duckert (West Virginia University)


  • “Earth,” Alfred K. Siewers (Bucknell University)
  • “Road,” Valerie Allen (John Jay College, CUNY)
  • “A Poetics of Nothing: Air in the Early Modern Imagination,” Steve Mentz (St. John's University (New York))
  • “Cloud/land – An Onto-story,” Julian Yates (University of Delaware)
  • “Water Love,” Sharon O'Dair (University of Alabama)
  • “Glacier,” Lowell Duckert (West Virginia University)
  • “Fire,” Jeffrey Cohen (George Washington University) and Stephanie Trigg (University of Melbourne)
  • “Abyss: Everything is Food,” Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, City University of New York)

Response Essay

  • “The Elements”, Jane Bennett (Johns Hopkins University)

Book Review Essay

  • “Medieval Ecocriticism”, Vin Nardizzi (University of British Columbia)

publication: March 2013


Volume 4, Issue 2: Medieval Mobilities

Co-Editors: Laurie Finke (Kenyon College), Martin Shichtman (Eastern Michigan Univ.), and Kathleen Coyne Kelly (Northeastern University)

This special issue of postmedieval will feature collaborative work that tracks the flows of ideas, words, people, goods, money, books, art objects, and artifacts across national boundaries. The essays in this volume follow trails, routes, and trajectories into conceptual territories usually mapped by geographical “middles” - spaces in between places. Our aim is to explore movement across and between medieval cultures generally understood as distinct and internally homogeneous in order to reveal the hybridity and fluidity produced by cultural interaction through commercial traffic, migration, nomadism, intermarriage, imperialism, and diaspora. Two border crossings are central to this issue. First, we want to shift the focus within medieval studies from the uniqueness or distinctiveness of the national cultures that have defined medieval studies, thus encouraging scholarship that elucidates the mobility of cultures and the exchanges between them, ultimately decentering Europe as the locus of the “middle ages.” The volume connects Europe to other areas of the world; essays explore far-flung geographies from Bergthorsknoll in Iceland to Cairo to Caffa, and move throughout the Mediterranean and along trade routes that linked Europe to the east. Second, these essays traffic between disciplines, fields, and areas of expertise in medieval studies. Essays explore literatures in English, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Arabic, and Hebrew, as well as art history, archaeology, and epidemiology. Through the dialogues begun in this issue, we want to establish a place “in the middle” where scholars with different expertise can come together and create a common space and language for thinking more globally about routes that connect rather than borders that separate and define—and in so doing, perhaps rethink their own expertise.


  • “Flea and ANT: Mapping the Mobility of the Plague, 1330s-1350s,” Kathleen Coyne Kelly (Northeastern University)
  • “Speaking in Tongues: Medieval Xenoglossia and Mobile Linguistic Networks,” Jonathan Hsy (George Washington University)
  • “Have Dante Will Travel: On the Limitations of Personal Mobility,” Daniel Hartnett (Kenyon College)
  • Der guote Gêrhart: the Power of Mobility in the Medieval Mediterranean,” William Crooke (East Tennessee State University)
  • “Virtual Mobility: Dreamscape and Landscape in a Late Medieval Allegory,” Anne Harris (DePauw University)
  • “Ruins in Motion: The Genizah Romance Harağāt,” Heather Bamford (Texas State University-San Marcos)
  • “Places and Mobilities in the Viking Age North Atlantic,” Douglas J. Bolender (Field Museum of Natural History) and Oscar Aldred (Newcastle University)


  • John Urry (University of Lancaster)

Book Review Essay

  • Kathleen Biddick (Temple University)

publication: June 2013


Volume 4, Issue 3: FAULT

Co-Editors: Nicola Masciandaro (Brooklyn College, CUNY) and Anna Klosowska (Miami Univ. of Ohio)

Description: FAULT: It is yours, the one to blame, for everything. FAULT: Tellurian fissure, index of the means of mountains, earthquakes, islands. FAULT: Deep opening, essential accident, the only way for lovers to whisper: “The wall their houses shared had one thin crack, which was formed when they were built and then was left; in all these years, no one had seen that cleft; but lovers will discover everything: you were the first to find it, and you made that cleft a passageway which speech could take” (Ovid, Metamorphoses). FAULT: Lack, defect, shortcoming, mistake, error. FAULT: Exactly where you are at.

Take these sentences as invitation and incitement for post-medievalist work that willfully shares, practically and theoretically, in the significance of fault. The purpose of FAULT is to rigorously practice fault as the way of purpose, as the inevitable space of method. FAULT = to take things too far, to follow and seduce error rather than evade it, to fall hard for something, to creatively stray in the “sylvan wandering that allows itself to become lost enough to find what cannot be deliberately traced,” to pursue and persist in the identity of strength and weakness (“for when I am weak, then I am strong. I have been a fool!” 2 Corinthians 12:10), to corrupt, deform, perforate, decay, infect, disease, and totally lead to wonderful decline a text or other form of debris from the past, to colonize a little crumb into a vast continent, to studiously enjoy the fact that life is already over and you have/are lost, to do what you must do, what you will do anyway, but now to do it openly and fully, to a fault. This is not frivolity, but serious folly. Only the desperate, the perversely imaginative, and the fatally flawed should attempt the crossing.

publication: September 2013


Volume 4, Issue 4: Premodern Flesh

Co-Editors: Holly Crocker (Univ. of South Carolina) and Kathryn Schwarz (Vanderbilt Univ.)

Essays in this special issue provide theoretical and material accounts of flesh in the premodern world. We consider flesh's relation to desire, affect, or sin, as well as flesh's ability to grow, decay, or age. By moving away from the bounded body as a locus of discrete analysis, we hope to raise questions about flesh's sensory, social, and sexual mobility. Premodern uses of flesh, as an idea, as a thing, or as some hybrid thereof, will be the focus of the issue.

Contributors include:

  • Frances Elizabeth Dolan (University of California, Davis)
  • Carla Freccero (University of California, Santa Cruz)
  • Jonathan Goldberg (Emory University)
  • Jonathan Gil Harris (George Washington University)
  • Laurie Shannon (Northwestern University)
  • Cynthia Turner Camp (University of Georgia)
  • Jay Zysk (University of New Hampshire)
  • Book Review Essay: Glenn Burger (Queens College, CUNY)

publication: December 2013