Friday, March 28, 2008

Upcoming Event: Maria Rosa Menocal

"Remembering Medieval Spain in the Twenty-First Century"
Maria Rosa Menocal
Yale University

Friday, April 4, 2008, 7:30 PM
CUNY Graduate Center (365 Fifth Ave. @ 34th St.),
Room 4406.
Reception, with wine and cheese, follows.

Maria Rosa Menocal is Sterling Professor of Humanities in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Yale University and Director of the Whitney Humanities Center. She is the author of The Arabic Role in Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage (1987); Writing in Dante's Cult of Truth: From Borges to Boccaccio (1991); Shards of Love: Exile and the Origins of the Lyric (1994); and The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Christians, and Jews Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain (2002).

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Nutus Divinus, or, Everything Depends on Seeing Each Other

I am teaching The Life of Christina of Markyate tomorrow and this passage catches my eye as incredibly relevant to much that was said at the friendship panel:

"The virgin of God lay prostrate in the old man's chapel, with her face turned to the ground. The man of God stepped over her with his face averted in order not to see her. But as he passed by he looked over his shoulder to see how modestly the handmaid of Christ had composed herself for prayer, as this was one of the things whic he thought those who pray ought to observe. Yet she, at the same instant, glanced upwards to appraise the bearing and deportment of the old man, for in these she considered that some trace of his great holiness was apparent. And so they saw each other, not by design and yet not by chance, but, as afterwards became clear, by the divine will [divino nuto]. For if they had not had a glimpse of each other, neither would have presumed to live with the other in the confined space of that cell: they would not have dwelt together : they would not have been stimulated by such heavenly desire, nor would they have attained such a lofty place in heaven. The fire, namely, which had been kindled by the spirit of God and burned in each one of them cast its sparks into their hearts by the grace of that mutual glance [gratia mutue visionis]: and so made one in heart and soul in chastity and charity in Christ, they were not afraid to dwell together under the same roof" (ed. and tr. Talbot, 101-3, my italics).

Cf. a passage Eileen cited here: "Claustrophilia . . . names the love that lights up a body, building, or book, from within, acknowledging what is discrete and irreconcilable in the beloved as the effect of one's own appropriative, organizing gaze. Relinquishing that desire for appropriation, one sees each former object in light of another, and thus beyond the logic of objectification: a light, hermeneutic and mnemonic, always refracted, always coming from elsewhere" (Howie, Claustrophilia, 151-52).

Claustrophiliac friendship, the love of/in enclosure, is ocular, a mutual dwelling housed in the projection of the eye's, our eyes', containment of the world.

In Memory of Elaine Block

Elaine Block passed away on Friday. Judith Bronfman has kindly sent along this notice:

"I know that many of our Saints' group and the Medieval Club knew Elaine Block, who passed away last night. The funeral service will be private, but a memorial service is being planned for later in the spring.

For those who didn't know her, Elaine was an amazing woman, who probably knew every misericord and choir stall in Western Europe (and had photographed all of them). Her projected five-volume Corpus of Misericords, published by Brepols, was underway; two volumes (France and Iberia) were out and a third was in its final proofing stage. With Frederic Billiet, she had just published the Lexicon (also Brepols), a dictionary of the terms for misericords and choir stalls, regularizing usage among languages.

If anyone wishes to make a donation in her memory, checks should be made out to Misericordia International and mailed to Randall Block, 45 Lafayette Road, Newton, MA 02462. The funds may be used to help with the Misericordia International colloquium scheduled for June in France.

Thank you for helping to communicate this sad news to those who knew and loved Elaine."

Here is a link to the Misericordia International website.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Friendship, Continued

Eileen, Franco, Yoshihisa, thanks again for a very enjoyable conversation last night. As a response, some prose: "To live in intimacy with a stranger, not in order to draw him closer, or to make him known, but rather to keep him strange, remote: unapparent -- so unapparent that his name contains him entirely. And, even in discomfort, to be nothing else, day after day, than the ever open place, the unwaning light in which that one being, that thing, remains forever exposed and sealed off" (Agamben, The Idea of Prose, 61). And a poem.