The Pagan, the Medieval, and Us
Sarah Salih, King's College London
The Twenty-Second Annual Rossell Hope Robbins Lecture
Friday, May 4
The Graduate Center of City University of New York
365 Fifth AvenueEnglish Department Lounge, Room 4406
Late medieval writers were fascinated by the idea of the pagan; both ancestor and stranger, the pagan was an infinitely flexible figure and the subject of various thought-experiments. Imagining paganity enabled examination of questions of history, memory and time. Paganity in Lydgate’s Troy Book is analysed as a flawed system of memorialising, centred on the live and dead, glorious and horrible preserved body of the hero Hector. Hagiography, meanwhile, tells the story of how the world that pagans built came to be appropriated for Christian use by the deployment of the live yet dead bodies of the saints. Yet paganity is never quite over; traces of the pagan persist in the Christian world. The pagan is to be found in the future as well as the past; indeed, the pagan may even be identified with our own post-Christian present-day.