I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, October 02, 2009

When Tom Comes to Town

As he starts winging his way to Melbourne, here's a notice about a talk my writing collaborator, Tom Prendergast, will give next Wednesday. All are welcome!!

School of Culture and Communication Seminar
Tom Prendergast

"Violating the Sanctuary: Westminster Abbey and
the Inhabitation of the Middle Ages"

In this talk I will examine how the medieval idea of “chartered sanctuary” was connected to the sacral idea of the inviolable body of the Abbey. I argue that, in fact, it was a violation of this space that led to its delineation and sanctification. In 1378 an English squire, Robert Hauley, was murdered before the high altar. This violation of the sanctuary (a national drama that included John of Gaunt, John Wyclif and Richard II) not only led to the closure of the Abbey for four months and the suspension of Parliament (which then met in the Chapter House), but mapped out a national space for England’s cultural productions. For Hauley’s corpse, reverently buried in what would be Poets’ Corner (the South Transept), became a sign of the inviolability and extralegal status of the Abbey. Connected with, and yet separate from more traditional notions of the saintly body, Hauley’s dead body becomes productive of a kind of secular reverence that anticipates the corporeal aesthetics of Poets’ Corner. My talk, then, will uncover the ways in which Poets’ Corner itself becomes not just a burial site, but a kind of sacred space that enables the process of literary “canonization.” Further, I argue that this largely post-medieval poetic graveyard in the “national Valhalla” of England (Westminster Abbey) continues to be haunted by its own violent history, and that it is this violent history that enables us to “inhabit” the prehistory of Poets' Corner.

Thomas Prendergast is Associate Professor of English and Chair of Comparative Literature at the College of Wooster. He is the author of Chaucer's Dead Body: From Corpse to Corpus and the co-editor of Rewriting Chaucer: Culture, Authority, and the Idea of the Authentic Text, 1400-1602. He is currently working on book entitled England's National Plot: the Secret History of Poets' Corner.

Wednesday October 7, 4.30-6.00 pm. Dennis Driscoll Theatre, Doug McDonnell Building. (NB it is third floor of the building between the ERC Library and the Alice Hoy Building)

Drinks at University House afterwards

This seminar is free of charge and open to all staff, postgraduate and undergraduate students and members of the public.

I'm currently washing the sheets and about to clean up the spare bedroom, while making various plans for eating-out and playing tennis. I have also printed out what we have already put together of our book. We have about 50,000 words in five chapters of a draft manuscript now, and a suggested submission date of February. Not quite sure how I came to be at a similar stage of completion of two books at the same time, but there it is. Actually, Tom's book on Poets' Corner is only a little more advanced: we may end up publishing three books between the two of us rather close together. Talk about flooding the market.


Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Say hello to Tom for me. He and I had a jolly drink together this summer at a wine bar near the Folger. He must be great fun to collaborate with.

Rick Godden said...

Hi Stephanie, Tom's talk (and project) looks great. Of course, I've been a bit obsessed with the medieval dead for a while now.