The 2018 New Chaucer Society Congress: Day 2

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Reception at Art Gallery of Ontario; co-sponsored by Medievalists of Color.

I began the second day of the Congress by joining a group of Global Chaucerians for breakfast at a nearby coffee shop.  Jonathan and I have found informal gatherings like this are helpful for colleagues attending the NCS Congress for the first time.

For Session 3, I attended my first lightening panel: “Chaucer and Transgender Studies” moderated by Ruth Evans.  The six short papers were fascinating and provocative.

  • Leanne MacDonald (University of Notre Dame) “Challenging Normative Notions of Transidentity in Medieval Studies”
  • Wan-Chuan Kao (Washington & Lee University) “Trans*domesticity”
  • Michelle Sauer (University of North Dakota) “Reading the ‘Glitch’: Trans-, Technology, and Gender in Medieval Texts”
  • M. W. Bychowski (Case Western Reserve University) “Transgender Ethics: The Wife of Bath’s Trans Feminism”
  • Miranda Hajduk (Seton Hall University) “’My Sturdy Hardynesse’: The Wife of Bath’s Antifeminist Satire as Trans Narrative”
  • Cai Henderson (Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto) “Christine de Pizan’s ‘droite condicion’: Authorial Construction and Resonant Reading in Transgender Text”

Because the presenters were limited to 5-7 minutes, the heart of the panel was the ensuing conversations among themselves and with the audience, as we explored transgender topics, including the ways Chaucer’s characters inhabited multiple, simultaneous identities; the transphobic elements of The Miller’s Tale; transmission glitches revealing resistance to hegemonic norms; and the nature of transgender ethics. The lightening format, a new format for NCS, proved an excellent structure for presenting ideas and generating conversation.

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Plenary Roundtable: Race and Inclusion: Facing Chaucer Studies, Past and Future Evans, Barrington, Bale, Kao, Dinshaw, & Sévère

Next up, the program featured a plenary panel on Race and Inclusion: Facing Chaucer Studies, Past and Future.  The five speakers were Anthony Bale (Birkbeck, University of London), Candace Barrington (Central Connecticut State University), Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University), Wan-Chuan Kao (Washington and Lee University), and Richard Sévère (Valparaiso University). The invitations to participate on the panel were issued nearly year ago, and the subsequent months proved the program committee’s wisdom in forming the plenary round-table addressing questions of race, whiteness, and inclusion in the field of Chaucer studies.

The program committee requested that our short presentations consider “more broadly the historical past of our field as well as our ethics of engagement in the present, and to look forward to what needs to happen next.”  We were also asked to consider the international dimension of our society and “to offer a past-future presentation on whatever facet of Chaucer” we would like to address.

  • Anthony Bale “Whose Prioress?”
  • Candace Barrington “The Feral in Chaucer Studies
  • Carolyn Dinshaw “Facing Incarceration”
  • Wan-Chuan Kao “White Attunement”
  • Richard Sévère “Teaching Chaucer While Black: Strategies for Pedagogically Inclusive Classrooms and Curricula”

As Ruth Evans mentioned in her opening remarks, the session title alludes to the title of Carolyn Dinshaw’s 2000 NCS Biennial Lecture in London, “Pale Faces: Race, Religion and Affect in Chaucer’s Texts and Their Readers.” Another major point of reference was Geraldine Heng’s The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (Cambridge University Press 2018).  Accordingly, speakers were asked to touch on one or more these topics:

  1. Scholarship in the field of race and Chaucer specifically, which can include Orientalism and antisemitism, etc.
  2. Scholarship about Chaucer and medievalism as it relates to race
  3. Strategies for pedagogy when it comes to racially inclusive classrooms, etc.
  4. Race and mentorship in Chaucer studies
  5. The role of NCS as public face for Chaucer studies in these contexts
  6. Methods for decolonizing Chaucer Studies

While the five of us each approached the task differently, we all ended by focusing on our individual and institutional responsibilities to ensure that, despite our mistakes as scholars and teachers, we make the study of the literary past open to everyone. The panel generated useful conversations that should extend well beyond the limits of the Congress.

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OACCT Contributor Picnic.

At lunchtime, many contributors to the Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales gathered for a picnic lunch on the lawn outside Victoria College. For the first time since Brantley Bryant broached the idea to a group of scholars in 2015, the large group assembled, with some of us meeting each other for the first time.

Because I am very interested in the sorts of texts we provide students and scholars throughout the world, I attended the two afternoon sessions organized by Elizabeth Scala: Is There a Text for This Class? Editing Chaucer Now I & II.  There are many proposed solutions to our current predicament, and I’m eager to see if any address the needs of undergraduate students (like mine) who are eager to engage with early literatures but have no plans for graduate study.

After those two sessions, I met Ruen-Chuan Ma, an early-career medievalist at Utah Valley University. We were introduced through the NCS mentorship program organized by Tom Hahn (Rochester University), Shazia Jagot (University of Surrey), and Sierra Lomuto (Macalester College).  As we talked, we walked leisurely to the Art Gallery of Ontario for a reception co-hosted by Medievalist of Color and featuring a display of art objects—Ethiopian religious paintings and European boxwood beads—accompanied by a beautiful, contextualizing pamphlet (written by Meseret Oldjira [Princeton University] and Seeta Chaganti [University of California, Davis]).  Attendees were provided “thought questions,” and I’m going to close Day 2’s posting with them.

  1. If you are a senior scholar, what can you do to help grad students and less-established scholars of color feel welcome in a field that has historically alienated people of color? (Note that NCS has a wonderful mentorship program that will serve this end really well.)
  2. If you are a journal or book editor, what do you think about the diversity of the authors your publication or list represents? What can you do to improve that diversity?
  3. For everyone: how can we create networks together that will be truly inclusive?
AGO Reception
Reception at Art Gallery of Ontario.
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The 2018 New Chaucer Society Congress: Day 1

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Clamorous and happy break between sessions. Victoria College. Photo by Chris Jones.

To say the past two years have been tough for medievalists and medieval studies is to risk unsympathetic oversimplification.  Within the home turf of our colleges and universities, we have found our courses more and more marginalized.  Beyond the walls of higher education, we have seen our field and our texts misappropriated in horrifying ways. The siege from both sides has been exhausting.

The New Chaucer Society’s 2018 Congress provided a much-needed antidote to past injustices and an invigorating inoculation against forthcoming wrongs.  By embodying the Society’s principles on public discourse and civility, the congress organizers and participants created a restorative and regenerative space that allowed everyone to be seen and valued.

The more inclusive, more global turn in Chaucer Studies was evident from the moment  Toronto was announced as the New Chaucer Society’s 2018 Congress venue. The program committee (co-chairs Bobby Meyer-Lee and Claire Waters, plus Louise D’Arcens, Jonathan Hsy, Elliot Kendall, and Sebastian Sobecki) worked to develop innovative formats, design innovative sessions, and incorporate perspectives from scholars both new and established. At the same time, congress organizer, Alex Gillespie of the University of Toronto, and congress host, Will Robins of Victoria University, sought ways to bring Toronto’s legendary medieval resources and burgeoning global community together for new purposes.

The Congress’s first morning set the tone by beginning with a traditional smudging ceremony conducted by Elders Grafton Antone and Eilene Antone (both from the Oneida of the Thames First Nation and on the University of Toronto faculty). Conducted in the indigenous language, the ceremony cleansed the gathering of the difficulties encountered getting to the congress and prepared everyone to have a good mind. The ceremony was followed by Carter Revard (a Native American and Chaucer scholar) reading his own poetry, which incorporates aspects of indigenous, modern American, and Middle English culture and languages. Ardis Butterfield’s Presidential Address, “The Dream of Language,” asked her audience to consider the continuum of linguistic registers that color our understanding of how Latin and medieval vernaculars co-existed and changed. Once we recognize the inadequacy of identifying any semantic or syntactic unit as belonging to one language or the other, we see utterances as ‘translingual.’ Bringing words and formations across languages becomes so natural that it occurs without any awareness the change has happened.

When the first sessions started that afternoon, they included six topic threads: Chaucer Abroad, Forming Knowledge, History Now, Language Contacts, Making the Text, and Middle English Literature at Scale. Designated by the program committee, the threads highlighted the more inclusive, global nature of medieval studies.  Because I primarily followed the Chaucer Abroad thread, I encountered several Global Chaucers, new and old, highlighted below.

  • The first session, Who Owns Chaucer Now? (organized by Jonathan Hsy and Louise D’Arcens, and moderated by Louise), featured two fascinating papers.
    • Elizabeth Watkins (Loyola Univeresity, New Orleans) introduced us to a forthcoming translation in Bikol, a language with 4 million speakers in the central Philippines. Part of Ateneo da Naga University’s ongoing process to demonstrate Bikol’s legitimacy as a literary language, the verse translation illustrates the continuity of religious culture that is more apparent in the Philippines than in Europe.
    • Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo (University of Iceland) previewed the forthcoming productions of her Nigerian Pidgin play The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey O! In addition to describing the parallels between the cultures of late-medieval England and contemporary Nigeria, her talk included a short, excerpted performance that illustrated how she was able to focus on the human factor and to show how human behavior doesn’t change across time or space.
  • In the second session, I joined Ingrid Nelson and Shazia Jagot on the Chaucer “And”: Methods of Interdisciplinarity panel organized by Michelle Karnes and moderated by Julie Orlemanski, a part of the Forming Knowledge thread.
    • Ingrid Nelson (Amherst College) used her paper “Thinking (with) Media” to place pressure on the presentist tendencies of media studies, which mistakenly equates media with a limited number of technologies.
    • Shazia Jagot (University of Surrey) persuasively argued in her paper, “Chaucer and Arabic,” that we can move beyond the usual source studies to discover Arabic as a deeply embedded cultural force in Chaucer’s work.
    • My paper, “To Interdisciplinarity and Beyond,” considers what Global Chaucers can tell us about the limits of critique; it can be found here.

The first day ended with three special events, each affirming NCS’s commitment to being an open and inclusive scholarly organization.

  • Members Parliament. In addition to learning that the Society’s financial and membership numbers remain strong, we heard from in-coming executive director, Tom Goodman (University of Miami).
  • Research Expo. The 2014 Congress’s experimental poster session has now become a very successful aspect of the congress. During the initial viewing at the Hart House Great Hall reception, the presenters were available to discuss their work and answer questions.  After the reception, the exhibit moved to the main gathering area in Victoria College.
  • LGBTQIA+ Get Together. This informal gathering at the Glad Day Bookshop, the oldest North American bookstore specializing in queer literature, provided an opportunity for all LGBTQIA+ and allies to mingle and relax.

By the end of the first day, the Smudging Ceremony seems to have achieved its goal.

Global Chaucers Roundtable at NCS 2016 in London

London_2-1371043833Global Chaucers is sponsoring another roundtable at the next New Chaucer Society Congress. Titled “Translating Global Chaucers,” the roundtable will continues the Global Chaucers conversation begun at the 2014 Congress. The focus will be on translations of Chaucerian texts into languages other than standard Present Day English. Participants include translators, scholars, and teachers outside the Anglophone inner circle (UK, US, Canada, Australia, and NZ). Their presentations consider the ways translations

  • reflect the particular linguistic, cultural, or social context in which they appeared;
  • reveal understandings of Chaucer’s texts unavailable to an Anglophone reader; and
  • take advantage of verse or prose forms (or other stylistic conventions) available in the receiving literary culture but not in English.

The five participants are

  • Stephanie Downes, University of Melbourne, Australia, “Vilains mots! Nineteenth-Century French Translations of The Canterbury Tales”
  • Marcin Ciura, Independent Translator, “In the Margins of the Polish Parlement of Foules”
  • Züleyha Çetiner-Ōktem, Ege University, “Reinventing Chaucer’s Sir Thopas from a Turkish Perspective”
  • Denise Ming-yueh Wang, National Chung Cheng University, Taiwan, “When Global Chaucers Go Local: Reading Chaucer in Taiwan”
  • José Francisco Botelho, Independent Translator, “Contos da Cantuária: Chaucer in Brazil”

We’re super excited about the international panel, with its mix of translators and scholars!

Pseudo-Glot Chaucer: Call for Translations

by Candace Barrington

2014-04-13 03.45.51We had so much fun with the Polyglot Reading of The Miller’s Tale at the New Chaucer Society Congress 2014 in Reykjavik that we thought we might try it again at NCS 2016 in London, but with a twist: the languages will be constructed languages such as Barsoomian, Dothraki, Elvish, Esperanto, Klingon, Na’vi, Tho Fan, Valyrian,and Vulcan.

Ideally, we will have the translation completed well before July 2016, and it will be shared on the website.

If you’d like to try your hand at translating a Chaucerian passage into one of these (or any other) constructed language, please contact either Candace Barrington (BarringtonC at ccsu dot edu) or Jonathan Hsy (JHsy at gwu dot edu) for more information.  Currently, we are considering this passage–the opening lines of The Parliament of Fowls–and we’d ask you to translate two or three lines of it:

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,

Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,

The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne:

Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge

Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge

So sore, iwis, that whan I on hym thynke

Nat wot I wel wher that I fete or synke.

For al be that I knowe nat Love in dede,

Ne wot how that he quiteth folk here hyre,

Yit happeth me ful ofte in bokes reede

Of his myrakles and his crewel yre.

There rede I wel he wol be lord and syre;

I dar nat seyn, his strokes been so sore,

But ‘God save swich a lord!’–I can na moore.

By usage–what for lust and what for lore–

On bokes rede I ofte, as I yow tolde.

But wherfore that I speke al this? Nat yoore

Agaon it happede me for to beholde 

Upon a bok, was write with lettres olde,

And therupon, a certeyn thing to lerne,

The longday ful faste I redde and yerne.

For out of olde feldes, as men seyth,

Cometh al this newe corn from yer to yere,

And out of olde bokes, in good feyth,

Cometh al this newe science that men lere.

But now to purpose as of this mater:

To rede forth hit gan me so delite

That al that day me thoughte but a lyte.

(Parlement of Foules 1-28)

 Update: Languages and lines claimed for pseudo-glot translations

1-3          Quenya (Lindsay Bensenhaver)

4-7         Toki Pona (Michael A Johnson)

8-11        Python (Matt Schneider)

12-14     Esperanto (Chris Piuma)

15-17a   Elvish (Mary Kate Hurley)

22-25    Deseret Alphabet (Tim English)

 

The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O! in Reykjavik!

2014-07-16 21.35.51by Candace Barrington

Chaucerians at the NCS Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland, were treated to a multi-media production of Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey-O! on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at the Tjarnarbíó across from City Hall. (At left, Jonathan Hsy, Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo, and Candace Barrington,)

The production begins with a live performance of Overo-Tarimo’s dramatic adaptation of The General Prologue set in Nigeria and draws on African folk traditions of storytelling intermingled with music, drums, and gossip. Once the storytelling framework is established, the production moves to a filmed adaptation of The Millers Tale.  Overo-Tarimo had planned to use live actors in this segment–just as she had in her production at Edinburgh’s 2012 Fringe Festival. Because, however, key Nigerian actors were unable to secure visas, she shot a pilot film of the play in Nigeria.

Overo-Tarimo’s adaptation of The Miller’s Tale incorporates many explicit Nigerian elements. As she explains,

“Nigeria as a nation is made up of many tribes and I try to reflect this reality in the various characters. For example, Abusolon’s character is from the North of Nigeria who has moved to Ibadan in the West of Nigeria to start a new life. As a refugee, he is particularly sensitive because of the massacre experience of his family and village in the North where traumatic killings have taken place and still happening.  Hence, security is one of the most challenging issues for the country with the rise of Boko Haram and other terrorists groups. His dream is to eventually move abroad to the UK or US, where he believes all his problems will be solved. In t he meantime, he falls in love with Alice, who taunts and rejects his love and adds to his torment. Nikori is from the same Urhobo tribe as the carpenter; hence, he enjoys partial treatment and is implicitly trusted by the carpenter. … “Julie you too like money” is a stereotypical reference to Julie’s [a servant in Carpenter John’s household] Igbo tribe, who are known to be industrious, and Alice’s love of dressing and partying is reference to her Yoruba tribe’s uwambe ‘good time’ associations. Rabiu [another servant] is from Akwa Ibom, a tribe known for their domestic hard work and loyalty.”

The songs of Abusolon/Absolon are based on Nigerian styles. The dialogue is conducted in a mixture of Nigerian Pidgin English and the Queen’s English, thereby establishing social divisions and enlivening the comedy.  Nikori/Nicholas, the university student who seduces Alice/Alisoun, uses a form of black magic, a cultic practice associated in Nigeria with some universities. Throughout, the bane of Nigerian urban life–the blackout–weaves its way through the tale, ultimately providing the context for the misdirected kiss and Abusolon’s retribution.

The cast in both the live and the filmed portions reflect the production’s international flavor. Hailing from Nigeria, Britain, and Iceland, they made Overo-Tarimo’s The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey O! a global Chaucer.

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(At left, Candace and Jonathan with the cast from the live production.)

Polyglot Reading of The Miller’s Tale

10523345_10202678190939844_3058271171990410868_nby Candace Barrington

The Polyglot Reading of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale turned out to be my favorite NCS event. Held at the University of Iceland’s Stúdentakjallarinn, it brought together 14 Chaucerians reading in 14 modern languages (plus a bit of Middle English introducing the tale), providing the audience with a lively multilingual interpretation of Chaucer’s tale.  The line numbers, languages, and readers are

  • 3170-3186, Middle English, Candace Barrington
  • 3187-3232, Emily Steiner
  • 3233-3270, Mandarin, Jonathan Hsy
  • 3271-3338, Danish, Ebbe Klitgård
  • 3339-3396, Turkish, Nazmi Ağil
  • 3397-3447, Japanese, Koichi Kano
  • 3448-3500, Russian, Liza Strakhov
  • 3501-3554, Polish & German, Sebastian Sobecki
  • 3555-3610, Spanish, Alberto Lázaro
  • 3611-3670, French, Juliette Dor
  • 3671-3726, Korean, Donghill Lee
  • 3727-3782, Icelandic, Sif Rikhardsdottir
  • 3783-3839, Czech, Alfred Thomas
  • 3840-3854, Italian, David Wallace

To listen to the reading, go to http://youtu.be/RxNy0M0lXBo . The audio recorder was not as expert as the readers, so please be patient with the quality!  Also know that you’re missing a real treat by not being able to see the readers in action.

Watch this website for a script of the reading in all 14 languages!

A special thanks to Sif Rikharksdottir for arranging all the logistics.  Without her help and guidance, the reading could not have happened.

Finally, MANY THANKS to our readers who stepped out of their comfort zone for the reading.  I hope the audience’s enthusiastic response more than compensated for their bravery!

 

Update on Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s production of The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O.

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by Candace Barrington
Because Ms Overo-Tarimo was unable to obtain necessary visas for her actors, there will not be a live performance of her acclaimed adaptation of The Miller’s Tale. Instead, Chaucerians will be treated to an exclusive showing of her film version of the play on Wednesday, 16 July, at 7:00, immediately after the Reception hosted by the mayor. The screening will take place at Tjartnabio, a theatre building opposite City Hall (the site of the reception).
Seating is limited to 160, so I advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are available online or at the door for ISK 2500 apiece.
To learn more about The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O and its fascinating origins and its storied production history, please see my earlier blog posting.