Thursday, March 25, 2010

Robert Mills @ Medieval Club

Twentieth Annual Rossell Hope Robbins Lecture
April 9, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. (followed by reception)
Room 4406 (English Program Lounge)
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue

Robert Mills
Department of English
King’s College London

Respondent: Carolyn Dinshaw, New York University

“Vézelay, Counterpleasure, and the Sex lives of Monks: Experiences in Translation”

ABSTRACT:  Loosely inspired by Virginia Burrus’s analysis of the erotics of ancient hagiography, this excursion into twelfth-century religious sculpture engages with what might be termed the ‘counterpleasures’ of monastic enclosure. What looks on the surface to be a site of repression and regulation also potentially facilitates the displacement of pleasure into the spiritual realm – a substitution or translatio that contributes not so much to desire’s elimination as to its intensification. Using the church of Vézelay as a case study, the paper confronts this countererotic impulse as it shapes the famous sequence of nave capitals (several of which explicitly address sexual themes)
; considers the role played by translation – cultural and metaphorical – in mediating these encounters with the pleasures and dangers of sex; and directs attention, in so doing, to the multiple and sometimes conflicted meanings available to monastic viewers.

Robert Mills teaches in the English Department at King’s College London, where he is also currently director of the Queer@King’s research centre. Working across both medieval literature and visual culture, Mills combines research in these fields with an interest in representations of gender and sexuality, pain and pleasure, desire and affect in the period. He is the author of Suspended Animation: Pain, Pleasure and Punishment in Medieval Culture (2005), and co-editor of The Monstrous Middle Ages (2003) and Troubled Vision (2004); he is currently completing a book called Seeing Sodom in the Middle Ages: Experiences in Translation.

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