Friday, October 20, 2017

Medieval Fictionality
Oct 20 2017
7:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center
365 5th Ave (btw 34th and 35th Streets) 
in the English Studies Conference Room (4406)

Inquiry into “medieval fictionality” foregrounds the limits of two dominant approaches to studying fictionality today – that of a “universalist” camp, which understands fiction to be almost co-extensive with the human, and, contrarily, that of a “modernist” camp, which yokes fiction’s emergence to the rise of the novel. This talk argues that fiction cannot be bound to the semantics of the realist novel, even as I insist on the historical precision that such periodizing arguments often marshal. I show that the historiography of fiction remains caught in the grand rĂ©cit of the secularization thesis, and against this I argue for the needfulness, and difficulty, of a comparative study of fiction. One way that medievalists might contribute to such study is through the corpus of “medieval literary theory” – but, though I attend to this body of thought, my own approach is different. Medieval practices of fiction-writing, especially in the vernacular, often developed at a remove from their theorization. Building on the claims of Nicolette Zeeman’s 2007 essay “Imaginative Theory,” I explore how medieval texts themselves disposed their metaphysical, epistemic, institutional, and formal resources to cut distinctions between different modes of reference, to fashion distinctive and immanent fictionalities.